"It's like a reunion every time we play Jersey," DeBoer smiled.
Before taking over as Panthers coach in the summer of 2008, DeBoer spent seven seasons grooming plenty of future talent as the head man of the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League. Current Devils' forwards David Clarkson and Matt Halischuk and defenseman Mark Fraser were all mentored by DeBoer at one point in Kitchener.
Now, add Patrick Davis to that list. He is scheduled to play his second NHL game and first this season Wednesday night.
Davis, who played two seasons for DeBoer in Kitchener, was recalled from the AHL Lowell Devils Tuesday.
"It's pretty exciting," Davis said. "I haven't seen (DeBoer) in a while and I really respect him as a coach and as a person. He's a great guy and he helped me a lot in my development. I can't say enough about him and how he helped me. I hope I get to say 'Hi' to him."
The Devils are looking to stop their first four-game losing streak of the season. In addition to Davis, New Jersey also recalled Nick Palmieri, who'll be making his NHL debut against the Panthers. The Devils are missing three key forwards -- Patrik Elias (concussion), Clarkson (fractured right leg) and Dainius Zubrus (broken kneecap). Elias suffered a concussion Saturday after taking a legal, open-ice hit, in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
"I'm having a career year down (in Lowell) -- everyone is doing well really," Davis said. "(Lowell coach) John MacLean is doing a great job. He told me to just take a step back and let the game come to you; just simplify, and it has become a little easier, I'm not rushing things and I'm playing with energy at the right times."
Davis was second in scoring in Lowell with 28 points (12 goals) in 44 games. Palmieri was fourth with 26 points (15 goals) in 41 contests.
"It is exciting and it's nice being back here," said Davis, who appeared in one game last season. "I think I'll be a little more comfortable this year knowing what it was like last year. (Coach Jacques Lemaire) told me I had a great training camp and he just wanted me to bring that energy into my game. Play it simple and play hard."
DeBoer knew it was just a matter of time before Davis got his chance.
"It's nice to see those kids playing in the NHL because they're all good, honest, hard-working kids," DeBoer said. "New Jersey does a really good job with their young people in giving them opportunity. Pat's (Davis) taken a little bit longer than some of the other guys to get here, but he's here nonetheless and that's a great accomplishment from where he came from."
Lemaire, who admitted disappointment with his team's overall practice Wednesday, is just looking for those young players to sustain a high energy level.
"I'm looking for a little life, a little intensity," Lemaire said. "I don't know them a lot, but I've seen them at camp. Davis is a good skater and Palmieri is good with the puck, so we'll see. When you have a chance to play, you have to be ready to play and if you're not playing as expected, you have to expect somebody to take your turn."
PRE-GAME NOTES: Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (29-14-1, 2.20 GAA, .921 save percentage) will be making his 27th straight start and 34th straight appearance for Lemaire. … Tomas Vokoun (16-14-8, 2.50 GAA, .927 save percentage) will be making his 10th straight start for the Panthers. DeBoer also confirmed that center Stephen Weiss, who sat out Monday's 1-0 victory over Atlanta with a lower body injury, will return to the lineup.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com