With Sutter in town, Devils seek streak
MacLean's club is hoping to build off Monday’s 5-0 win over Washington to capture back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
“We came off a big win against Washington, but really our record hasn’t been that good,” said the Devils' head coach. “We haven’t won two in a row, here. We need to come out with the same effort and the same mindset to get a win here tonight.”
New Jersey (6-13-2) got off to its own rough start but has shown signs of life with spirited efforts at Toronto and St. Louis before Monday’s triumph snapped a three-game skid.
It’s a game between two teams still trying to find a rhythm.
“Desperation is the key word here,” Brian Rolston said. “We certainly don’t want to dig ourselves any bigger hole. The Flames have had their struggles too, but it’s going to be tough hockey game. I’ve played a lot of games against the Flames being in Minnesota. You know what kind of game they’re going to bring and it’s going to be a tough one.”
The team’s inability to take that second straight win had Rolston baffled. The Devils were shut out 3-0 in the game following each of their last two victories.
“It has been a struggle for sure,” Rolston said. “The thing is, it’s a tough question. I haven’t been around it too much. Confidence is a funny thing. As skilled as we are here, you get a couple of losses and then all of a sudden, you get a couple of injuries and it piles on top of you and that pressure keeps building and building. You just have to go out and play your game. I think maybe last game could give us a little confidence moving forward so when we play as strong a team as Washington and play the way we did against them.”
Tonight’s the only meeting between the teams this season, and marks the return of Brent Sutter, who coached the Devils for two seasons from 2007-09. Sutter departed after New Jersey’s first-round exit to Carolina. The Hurricanes scored twice in the final 80 seconds of regulation to steal a 4-3 decision in Game 7.
Sutter said Wednesday that life as a head coach left him with little time to ponder his first trip to the Garden State since joining the Flames. Sutter guided the Devils to a franchise-record 51 wins in ‘08-09 for a career mark of 97-56-11.
“Obviously, there’s great memories here, I’m not going to stand here and deny that,” Sutter said. “I had two years of being part of this franchise, which I’m very proud of. You get focused in on your game and on your team.
“You can’t dwell on stuff, other things going around. To be honest, I never even gave it a thought until yesterday when we were driving here. I guess, things become familiar to you when you’re coming in from the city to here. When you’re in the coaching world, it’s your own world a lot. You’re so concerned about the group that you have, and your mindset, that’s where it is all the time.”
Sutter’s decision to leave New Jersey was driven by his need to be closer to home and to his family. Returning to his native Alberta has given him back what he felt he was missing while stationed on the other side of the continent.
“It was great here for myself and working for the Devils organization, but it affected others around me,” he explained. “At the end of the day there’s things and there is life that’s bigger than the game of hockey. That’s why I chose to do what I did.”
From Calgary, Sutter can be more involved in the operations of the WHL’s Rebels in nearby Red Deer.
“People don’t realize that that major junior franchise that I own is, when I purchased that team, everything that I had playing the game went down on that team,” he said. “And if that team didn’t have success, Brent Sutter would be in a lot of trouble right now. You put a lot of time to build it up the way it is, and I do have good people that oversee it, but you still need to be somewhat hands-on, and that’s part of it.”
MacLean served under Sutter as an assistant and still holds fond memories of the experience.
“For me personally, they were two great years,” MacLean said. “I learned a lot under Brent. I became friendly with him and it was a great experience for me.”
Hedberg to start
Johan Hedberg will make his second straight start after his 30-save shutout performance vs. Washington. He’d like to be the one to backstop the team to its first winning streak of 2010-11.
“We need to build the momentum we created last game,” Hedberg said. “Obviously, we’re in need of a lot of wins. Keep doing the little things right, and work as hard as we can and the good things will happen.”
Is tonight especially important given that the Devils just produced their most dominating effort of the season?
“I think you can say that about every game with the situation we’re in,” Hedberg said. “Every game is crucial for us. We need to put a string of games together where we’re getting points and winning. It’s a big game for us again, nothing different from any night. We want to come out and work as hard as we can to win the game.”
Kovalchuk looking to douse Flames
Ilya Kovalchuk might only have four goals this season, but he has owned the Flames over his career. He has seven goals, three assists for 10 points in eight games against Calgary, and scored a goal in the Devils’ loss at the Saddledome on March 5.
Said Kovalchuk: “I need one right now, too, so hopefully I’m going to score tonight."