Devils jacked to face old coach

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Hockey players admittedly become a little more jacked up to face their old team.

Just as many have some extra oomph when meeting a former teammate.

But do players have some extra zip facing a former coach?

That’s what the New Jersey Devils are staring at when they meet Brent Sutter and the

Calgary Flames Friday night.

“I’m sure he’s going to get his team wound up to play us. It’s the nature of things,” said goalie Martin Brodeur after Thursday’s practice at the Saddle-

dome.

“I’m sure he’ll have his credit card or some money on the board for the boys.”

For the first time in his coaching career, Sutter will face a former team.

He didn’t address the media after Thursday’s practice, although he’s often explained his reason for walking away from the final season of a three-year contract with the Devils last summer because it became too hard being so far away from his family.

Brodeur said the players understood Sutter’s feelings, although there have been players who voiced

displeasure with his decision to take the helm of the Calgary Flames shortly after.

“To see him go was pretty weird the way it happened. It’s pretty rare. Usually, you get fired. You don’t walk out,” Brodeur said with a laugh.

“We adjusted real well

with it.

“We’re not in his shoes, so it’s hard to judge or be a judge of what he did.

“We understand as hockey players being away from your family is not easy to cope with.”

But there was no surprise, since rumours abounded from Christmastime onward Sutter was considering a resignation.

“We were getting prepared for it just from people talking about it,” Brodeur said.

“Really, nothing surprises me. I’ve been through so many coaches here. I’m probably the wrong guy to ask if it was strange. I’ve had guys leave with three games left, fired in the middle of the season. I’ve been through a lot.

“But that was a new one.”

The Devils set a franchise record with 51 wins last season and haven’t missed a beat this year with a 38-21-3 record.

“He helped a lot of guys in this locker-room. Younger guys became impact players when he was the head coach of our team,” Brodeur said.

The poster boy for that development is Zach Parise, who

collected 45 goals and 94 points last season in a breakout campaign.

“He let me play. He taught me about playing on both sides of the puck, but sometimes, you have to let players play and he did that for me. He was helpful and let me go and play. That was something I needed,” said Parise, who has 28 goals and 63 points this season.

“Last year, he turned our reputation around where we became more of an aggressive team and more offensive.

“We didn’t score his first year, but we had a good team the second year and he let us play more. We had really talented forwards and we played more puck control.

“It seemed the first year, we were just dumping it out, dumping it in, chasing the puck around. Then we played more puck possession, and that’s why we scored more goals.”


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