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Florida Panthers name Gallant as coach

(Reuters) - Former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant has been named the new coach of the Florida Panthers, the National Hockey League team said on Saturday.

Gallant, for the past two years an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens, replaced interim coach Peter Horacek, who took over the Panthers after Kevin Dineen was fired in November.

"He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement.

"Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team."

Gallant, 50, coached the Blue Jackets for parts of three seasons between 2004 and 2007, compiling a 56-76-4-6 record. He missed the playoffs in his only full season.

A former player with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, he has also been an assistant with the Blue Jackets and New York Islanders.

Gallant spent three seasons as coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where current Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau was one of his top players.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)