Lemaire leads first morning skate
|Lemaire said Wednesday the Devils must regain their confidence.|
It was only a morning skate to prep for tonight’s home meeting with Toronto. But with the two days off for the Christmas break, Lemaire ratcheted up the intensity to get his group ready for action.
“It’s nice to be able to work with them a little bit,” Lemaire said. “I think this is what we need: practices. We need this so they really understand what we’re trying to achieve, and what we want, how the game should be played.”
Lemaire returned Wednesday and watched his group fall into last place overall with a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders. He talked after the game about the Devils’ slumping spirits and the importance of coming out and just winning a game.
The Devils (9-23-2) are calling Lemaire's arrival a chance for a clean slate. They have dropped four in a row and nine of their last 10.
“Little more in your face pre-game skate than normal, but I think all of us know what kind of practices he runs,” said captain Jamie Langenbrunner. “A lot of game situations that are going to allow you to get right into a game feel. Especially after having a couple days off, I think he wanted to get that going here this morning.”
There’s no quick solution with 48 games to go, but a victory would be a step in the right direction.
It starts with confidence.
“With the lack of confidence, we deviated from how we should play,” Lemaire said. “You lose confidence, then you don’t work as hard. You don’t backcheck as hard, you don’t stop in your zone. You don’t do the little things you should do when things are going well.”
Lemaire agreed with the suggestion that the team might have thought it was too talented to struggle the way it has. Their top line to begin the year boasted a two-time 50-goal scorer in Ilya Kovalchuk and a 40-goal scorer in Zach Parise.
“That’s exactly what I thought,” he said. “Maybe a little overconfident at the start of the season. Because you look at the team, the roster, and this is a good team.”
This isn’t the first clean-up duty behind the bench for Lemaire, who got his first NHL coaching experience after replacing Montreal’s Bob Berry in 1983-84. In the final 17 games, Lemaire guided the Canadiens to a 7-10-0 mark, then an appearance in the conference final.
“It’s not a lot different than going to another team and starting with another club, first day,” he said. “Not a lot different, not when the team is like this right now. You have to start all over again because of the confidence. You look at the guys with how they play and you can tell. They come back (to the bench), their heads are down.
“They go into the corners not to get the puck, really. Or they feel they won’t get it.”
Lemaire’s goal is to get the Devils playing more competitively.
“This is another reason why practices are important,” he said. “You get in the practice, you make them work, and then they work in games. Now everyone, their mind is somewhere else, in a way: on defeat, on mistakes, not playing well. Now you have to build it up so we get stronger mentally and we can play the game for 60 minutes, being positive and work.”
The homestand continues Wednesday against the Rangers and Friday against Atlanta. The Devils won’t get their first full practice under Lemaire 3.0 until Monday.
“They got a new voice,” he said. “They don’t have the practices, but they got a new voice. It has to help, because you’re coming in, you have to be positive. In a way, I have to be positive because I haven’t been with them, even though I’ve watched them. So it’s easier for me than for Johnny MacLean to be positive at this point after you lose so many games.
“I’m going to get mad, too. I would. Maybe it’s coming soon.”