Devils face Flames, former coach Sutter
DEVILS (38-21-3) at FLAMES (30-24-9)
New Jersey 4-5-1; Calgary 4-4-2
This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between these teams. In their most recent matchup, on March 10, 2009 in New Jersey, the Devils won 3-2 behind 35 saves from Martin Brodeur
and a third-period goal by Zach Parise
Brent Sutter got his start as an NHL coach with the Devils the past two seasons. He resigned following their ouster by Carolina in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, citing a desire to be closer to home. Sutter got that wish and was able to remain in the League's coaching fraternity by accepting a job offer from brother Darryl, the GM in Calgary. He faces his former team for the first time.
For the most part, New Jersey's first game out of the Olympic break was a step in the right direction. Ilya Kovalchuk
had a goal and an assist and Travis Zajac's
goal early in the third gave the Devils a 4-0 lead on the road against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. But New Jersey's propensity for giving up goals in bunches prior to the break reared its ugly head again, as San Jose scored three in a 2:46 span before the Devils hung on for a 4-3 victory. It didn't seem to bother coach Jacques Lemaire a lot.
"A week from now, we'll just say we won in San Jose," Lemaire said. "We won't say that they were coming back; that it was tough at the time. We got two points. It's like the Olympics. They won't say a year from now, 'Oh, they won in overtime.' We won it. That's it. Thank you."
Sutter didn't have to worry much about making the playoffs during his two seasons in New Jersey, as the Devils finished with the fourth seed in 2008 and won the Atlantic Division to garner the third seed last season. It's been a tougher go in Calgary, with the Flames currently one point out of eighth in the Western Conference. They were blanked 4-0 on home ice by Minnesota in their first post-Olympic game on Wednesday.
"If we don't learn from our mistakes, that's something that's very foolish," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We've talked about things, what we need to do better and the obvious thing is giving up very good scoring chances on odd-man rushes like last night on that two-on-ones and three-on-twos. Minnesota capitalized and we can't have that, at all. It doesn't matter if there's 19 games left in the season or not. You can't make those mistakes and end up winning hockey games."
Zajac tied his career high with his 20th goal of the season Tuesday and extended his points streak to five games. Zajac has six goals and seven assists in the Devils' last 10 games. Parise has three goals and three assists during a four-game points streak.
New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin
remains out with an arm injury. … Calgary forward Craig Conroy is sidelined with a knee injury.
Veteran defenseman Martin Skoula
, acquired by the Devils at the trade deadline from the Penguins in exchange for a draft pick, has three goals and eight points in 33 games this season. Skoula, a Stanley Cup winner with the Avalanche in 2001, has 44 goals and 193 points in 757 career games with the Avs, Ducks, Stars, Wild and Penguins.
There were some hard feelings in New Jersey after Sutter resigned and then accepted the Calgary position. But Sutter had the blessing of Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and told the Newark Star-Ledger earlier this week he wouldn't have gone anywhere else to coach.
"I was going to leave either way. I was going back to Red Deer no matter what. I wasn't staying," Sutter said. "I made that very clear. It had nothing to do with anything else. I could not continue to hurt other people around me. It was too hard on everybody.
"And Lou gave the Calgary Flames
permission to talk to me. It's an hour and 15 minutes down the road. To be quite honest, if it didn't materialize or work out here, I wasn't going to coach. I wasn't going anywhere else to coach because I knew where I needed to be."