Not since John MacLean was a rookie, 27 years ago, have the NJ Devils started the season as poorly as they have this year (1-4-1). Now, as a rookie Head Coach, it is up to him to fix it.
After playing their six opening games in nine days, the team finally had a four-day break in the schedule, giving the coaching staff three days of tough practice to retool for their game tonight in Montreal.
Brian Rolston underwent surgery last Thursday for a sports hernia and Mark Fraser has had a pin inserted in his broken right hand. Both have been placed on the IR list and will be out four to six weeks. Anton Volchenkov, suffering a stiff neck from a hard puck to the visor is still sidelined.
Alexander Urbom, the 19-yr-old rearguard from Sweden, has been assigned to Albany, along with Pierre Letourneau-Leblond.
MacLean ran three high-paced practices this week, breaking down the team’s performances in all three zones, as well as working on the power play.
New lines have been formed in an attempt to increase the team scoring. In the first six games they have disappointed offensively, being outscored 21-10.
Patrik Elias-Jacob Josefson-Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus
Rod Pelley-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner
Adam Mair-Tim Sestito-David Clarkson
Recalled from Albany, rookie defenseman Olivier Magnan-Grenier, a native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, will make his first NHL start tonight paired with Andy Greene. His excitement at making his big-league bow at the Bell Center in his home province was evident in his remarks. “It’s like two dreams come true. I have always wanted to play against Montreal at home, so it’s great timing.”
Marty Brodeur, native Montrealer, thrives on playing the Canadiens in their home rink and will get the nod between the pipes tonight. His record against his hometown team: 38-16-5 with a 1.78 goals against average.
Several veterans on the team told reporters this week that a more cohesive sixty-minute-per-game effort is needed if the team is to pull out of this early slump. Brodeur thought that, as a result of all the new faces on the team, the more experienced guys have to lead in a group effort to pull together on the ice and in the dressing room, to lead by example. Jason Arnott feels the players have to speak up, reach out and communicate.
Coach MacLean is looking for a more spirited effort.
Ex-Devil Brian Gionta is now captain of the Canadiens. “It’s a great honor for him,” Brodeur said. “People embrace his kind of work ethic.”
The Devils work ethic will be needed tonight to stop the bleeding. They know they can’t afford to get much further behind.