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Blackhawks GM Bowman gives Quenneville pal Kitchen the ax

Mike Kitchen (left) was on Joel Quenneville's coaching staff for two Stanley Cups, in 2013 and 2015. (Sun-Times File Photo)

Mike Kitchen played alongside Joel Quenneville in Colorado and New Jersey. He coached alongside Quenneville in St. Louis. He won two Stanley Cups alongside Quenne-ville with the Blackhawks. He’s one of Quenneville’s closest friends and confidantes in hockey.

And Stan Bowman fired him Monday.

In the wake a four-game sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators, Bowman said changes were coming. Kitchen, an assistant coach with the Hawks since the summer of 2010, was the first in what appears to be a clear message to Quenneville.

Kitchen’s duties focused largely on the defense and the penalty kill, which was middling most of the season but finished 24th in the league after a disastrous start.

“We believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward,” Bowman said in a release that did not include a comment from Quenneville. “Mike had an -impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Bowman said Saturday that Quenneville will be back next season and that they “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.” Kevin Dineen and goaltending coach -Jimmy Waite remain on the staff.

Quenneville has made changes to his staff before. He fired assistant and Bowman ally Mike Haviland after the 2012 season after a power struggle with Bowman following a nine-game losing streak in January and February. During that struggle, Bowman assigned director of player development Barry Smith to join the Hawks during practices against Quenneville’s wishes.

But a source said the decision to fire Kitchen was not Quenneville’s, nor was it made with his advice or consent. Kitchen spent 14 years as an assistant coach with Toronto and St. Louis, working on Quenne-ville’s staff with the Blues for six seasons before replacing him for parts of three seasons as the Blues’ coach. He then spent three years as an assistant with Florida before rejoining Quenneville after the Hawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup run.

Asked on Saturday if he was planning to make any changes to his staff, Quenneville said, “Not right now.”

Based on the frustration in Bowman’s voice in the season wrap-up news conference Saturday, more changes could be on the way.

“I’m going to take a look at all things,” Bowman said. “I can promise you I will be better. Top to bottom, we need more. This is unacceptable to be where we are today. There will be change moving forward. Change comes in many different ways.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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