newjerseydevils.com – One of six brothers to have made it to the National Hockey League, Brent Sutter faced off against family countless times during his 19 seasons as a player.
But the Devils' head coach will experience a personal first tonight, when New Jersey travels to Carolina tonight to battle the Hurricanes (7 p.m., MSG Plus, WFAN 660 AM). Brent will be on the bench opposite his son, Brandon, who is a forward for the Hurricanes.
"I'm not downplaying it, but I want [Brandon] to be focused on what he has to do," Sutter said following Monday's practice at the AmeriHealth Pavilion. "He's living his dream, and I lived the same thing doing what he's doing right now. As a dad, I want to see him have success and do well. I just happen now to be coaching against the team he's playing for and an organization that he's proud to be part of."
It is the first meeting of the season between the two clubs, who have both been hot of late. The Devils have won four of their last five games, including Sunday's 4-3 overtime decision over the Ottawa Senators, while the Hurricanes have taken three straight.
"We could have done a better job (on the power play), no question. It's something we'll continue to work on," Rolston said. "Ultimately, the last two goals were power-play goals, so you have to feel good about that. Not our best game, but we'll take the two points."
After tonight, the Devils (23-12-3) will play three more times against the Hurricanes, who drafted Brandon Sutter with their first pick, 11th overall, in the 2007 Entry Draft. New Jersey is 8-1-1 in its last 10 overall meetings with Carolina (20-15-5), and has gone 9-2-1 at Carolina since the start of the 2001-02 season.
"It's a unique situation, I understand that and so does he," Brent said of coaching against Brandon, who has a goal and five assists in 32 games. "It's definitely weird, it's strange. I'm not so sure how much I like it, but it is what it is."
The NHL has long been a family affair for the Sutters. Brent won two Stanley Cups alongside brother Duane during the New York Islanders' dynasty, while Ron (1,093 games), Rich (874), Brian (779) and Darryl (406) all enjoyed distinguished NHL careers.
Brent coached Brandon for three seasons with Red Deer of the WHL, and a second wave of Sutters could be just around the corner. Brett, the eighth Sutter to see NHL action, scored a goal during a recent call-up with Calgary, where his father Darryl serves as general manager.
"When you're coaching you're focusing on your own team and what you need to do," Sutter said. "That focus won't be any different, and I don't want it to be any different for him when he's playing."
The Hurricanes rallied in their previous game, coming back from an early two-goal deficit for a 3-2 win Saturday at Tampa Bay. Carolina scored all three of its goals in a 11:35 span bridging the first and second periods.
Cam Ward helped the Hurricanes hold on from there, continuing his recent strong play. Since returning from a groin injury on Dec. 13, Ward is 7-2-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average, and his GAA during the three-game win streak is 1.33.
Ward hasn't experienced much success against the Devils with a 2-4-1 record and a 3.13 GAA. However, he was very sharp in the teams' last meeting, a 2-1 overtime victory Feb. 26 at the RBC Center.
Ward will have to deal with a red-hot Zach Parise, who is among the league leaders with 22 goals and 46 points.
Parise has four goals and two assists in the last five games while Langenbrunner and Brian Gionta each have six points over the past five contests.
New Jersey's Scott Clemmensen has never started against the Hurricanes but has made two appearances, allowing four goals on 24 shots.
Clemmensen's focus should be on Carolina's Eric Staal, who has 10 goals and 15 points in the last 13 games.