Morning Skate - Feb. 3
Lemaire doesn't see Devils in spoiler role, hopes to work with Urbom
They have gone 7-1-1 to open the second half, yet still sit 15th in the conference, two points behind the Islanders heading into tonight's game at Madison Square Garden.
"We’ve been playing pretty good, we’re still in last place," Jacques Lemaire said. "When you look at it, it’s like you never get out of there. And if one day we get out, ‘Oh we’re a point ahead.’ And the next day, the other team will win and then you’ll lose, and you’re back where you were."
A win over the Rangers, and the Devils would tie the Islanders with 39 points but move into 14th place with more wins in the same number of games.
The Islanders moved ahead of the Devils with a 5-1 win at Prudential Center in Lemaire's first game after relieving John MacLean on Dec. 23. The Devils dropped seven of their first eight under Lemaire, but have been closing the gap since.
"It’s seems like we’ve been doing fairly good, probably among the good teams lately," Lemaire said. "Last 10 games as an example, we’re up there. And you know what? We’re still in last place. We don’t move. So that’s why, the only thing I can focus on, and want the players to focus on, is try to play as good as they can."
The coach was asked this morning about the Devils embracing the unfamiliar role of spoiler. New Jersey, which has qualified for 13 straight postseasons, was 20 points out of the final playoff spot entering Thursday's games.
Even though the Devils can beat playoff hopefuls to impact seeding, that's not something crosses Lemaire's mind.
"I don’t look at it like that, at all," he said. "We’re in a position where we have to get the team back where the team should be, as a team that will play every night and you’ll look one night and say, ‘Hey, this team’s playing well, they’re playing good. They’re improving.’ This is what we want to be every night. What we do with that, we don’t really care about the rest of it. We want to play good and where it’s going to bring us, it’ll just bring us good things. That’s it. Nothing else."
Brodeur gets the start
After resting yesterday, Martin Brodeur took part in today's optional morning skate and will face the Rangers tonight.
"I feel good, I just wanted to take a day of rest," Brodeur said. "I was a little sore, I feel good today and I'm ready to go."
He added: "I just wanted to make sure I was well-rested for this game."
The Devils are winless in three meetings with the Rangers this season. Brodeur was in net for two of those, most recently a 3-1 loss at the Rock on Dec. 29 in which he made 23 saves.
He's hoping for a strong performance on Broadway. But it's more than likely that he won't have to drop the gloves as Penguins' goaltender Brent Johnson did with the Islanders' Rick DiPietro Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
Brodeur did watch the highlight, though. The fight began – and ended – with Johnson landing one big left.
"It's been a while since you've seen goalies go at it," Brodeur said. "It's pretty unusual to see that."
Fayne ready; Tedenby hopes to play
Defenseman Mark Fayne (ill) missed Tuesday's game, but said he's ready to go if needed tonight.
"I feel completely normal again," he said.
Another player looking to return to the lineup is Mattias Tedenby, who was scratched Tuesday.
"Of course you want to play all the games to help the team," Tedenby said. "There's nothing I can do to control [it]. When I'm not playing, I try to push the team to win and when I'm playing I'll try to play the way the team wants me to play and try to help that way."
They're two of the lineup decisions Lemaire will have to make.
"I don’t know yet," said the coach. "We’ll decide that this afternoon."
Urbom still up
Alexander Urbom was recalled Tuesday under emergency conditions, but did not play in the Ottawa game and is not expected to play tonight. Still, Lemaire hopes to work more with the 19 year old, who has been Albany's top scoring defenseman with 14 points (1g-13a) in 40 games.
"I'd like to," Lemaire said. "But Lou's [Lamoriello] going to control all that. I just told him that I'd like to work with him. Now, it doesn't end up being the right time because of the three [games] in [four nights].
The team's grueling schedule over the next week squeezes six games into nine nights.
"What is not good for him right now is we don't have a lot of practices," Lemaire said. "We've got these three [games] in four [nights]. Three in four, you have to give optionals like this morning, so some of the guys, they can rest. The older guys, they want [rest], the younger guys, they need to. What're you going to do in practice? The best time for him will be when we get four days. Then we'll start to work on things and do some more scrimmage-type of practice, and then you can work with the kid and really see what he can do."
Urbom, a third-round pick in 2009, has looked good to Lemaire in practice, but there's more to his development than that.
"Passing the puck like we did today, he looks great," Lemaire said. "I've seen great practice players. He's got to learn the other stuff, which he will."