NEWARK, N.J. -- When it comes to adjusting to life with a new and demanding coach, Zach Parise could offer some insight to the visiting Maple Leafs.
But with Brent Sutter in his second year at the helm of the New Jersey Devils, Parise and his teammates are more comfortable with such rigid marching orders and have the results to show for it.
"I think the player-coach relationship in the first year ... you spend the first little while getting a sense for the guy," Parise said yesterday as the Devils had a third consecutive off-day before facing Toronto tonight at the Prudential Center.
"It's a little more comfortable around the dressing room," Parise said. "Everyone knows him a lot better and we know what to expect. He's a demanding guy and expects us to win every night, but that's what we should expect of ourselves."
Prior to dropping a pair of weekend games to Philadelphia, the Devils were red-hot with a 5-1 record out of the gate. Now in his fourth season, the Minnesota native and son of former NHLer J.P. Parise is a big part of the success. The former first-round pick (17th overall) is off to a roaring start of his own with a team-high five goals and six assists in eight games.
While the Leafs have a ways to go to become a serious threat in the Eastern Conference, Parise knows that with Ron Wilson at the helm, there will be no free passes for opponents.
"They had a good win against Ottawa so there's no way you can take them for granted," said Parise, who has scored in each of the past four games.
"They've got a lot of young, hungry guys who are going to play hard and get in your face every night. You've got to expect that."
If the Leafs' mildly surprising record to date didn't do it, some of Wilson's moves certainly got the attention in dressing rooms around the league. Parise, who works out in the off-season with Jason Blake, took notice when the veteran was benched last week in Boston.
"I was really surprised to see him scratched, a lot of guys were," Parise said.
"But (Wilson) is the type of coach that guys know they have to work hard for."
Though the Devils are rested and the Leafs played last night, Toronto may arguably be catching the hosts in a soft spot tonight. Off- season acquisitions Bobby Holik (broken pinkie) and Brian Rolston (ankle sprain) were both put on injured reserve yesterday while captain Jamie Langenbrunner is doubtful with a lower body injury.
To replace them, Sutter called up forwards Nicklas Bergfors and Toronto native Matt Halischuk from their AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass.
"You're putting younger kids in, but they're good players," Sutter said. "We've lost two games in a row and we've got some guys banged up, so it's a good time to see what they can do."