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Coach's Notes: 10.5.10

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils
MacLean makes his NHL regular-season coaching debut on Friday.
Head coach John MacLean spoke to the media today with Opening Night just around the corner. The Devils host Dallas to open the 2010-11 regular season this Friday at Prudential Center.

New Jersey trimmed four from its training camp roster on Monday, sending forwards Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby; defenseman Matt Corrente; and goaltender Mike McKenna to Albany (AHL). Defenseman Rob Davison cleared waivers today and was also assigned to Albany.

The Devils have until Wednesday at 3 p.m. to get below the NHL's salary cap.

What excites you most about the new year?
MacLean: I think we have some good lines out there. With the lines and the speed that we have, I think we’re going to be able to do some damage. This is the first time they’ve been together, 20 guys on the ice, too. There was great enthusiasm. The guys were fired up about it and we’re all getting anxious to get going.

Do you anticipate you’ll have 11 forwards for your first game?
We’ll see. We’ll see how that shakes out. We have 21 guys here right now. We’ll we see how that all shakes out.

How much will it help to have Ilya Kovalchuk here from the beginning?
I think he’s comfortable in his environment. You can see guys are comfortable with him. Starting from day one, he’s worked hard in the exhibition games and in training camp. I think he’s looking to get going and get off to a great start.

What’ve you learned about him?
He’s a great person, a great teammate. You see that in him. Sometimes you appreciate the skill level that he has, watching him in practice. It’s the same thing when you watch the great players in practice, whether you’ve coached them or played with them. In practice you see how talented they really are. Along with his work ethic, that’s why he’s successful.

Is 11 forwards, seven defensemen ideal or is 12 forwards and six defensemen ideal?
The ideal is what we’re going to have ready to play. The ideal is guys that are going to be ready to play. Either way we go, we’ll be ready. I think we have enough good lines to handle any situation. If we decide to go that way, we have guys that don’t mind getting extra ice out there, so we’ll be fine.

As Opening Night gets closer, how excited do you get?
I’m excited about it, anxious. You’re ready to go. But it’s all a controlled emotion. You have to keep everything in check. It’s going to be an exciting night for myself and for the team. We’re looking to get off to a good start and have some success.

How important is it to get off to a good start considering the schedule in the first six weeks of the season?
We’ve got a lot of games coming up here so we’re going to have to be ready from the get-go. Once we get into it, we’re into it. It’s going to come quick, and they’re going to come fast, the games. We’re going to have to be ready and prepared, and I think we are. 

If you have 20 guys to start the season, is that like playing without a safety net?
No, because I only need 20 for that night. We’ll deal with each game on a game-by-game basis. I’ll have 20 each game – if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is. I’ll be ready, the players will be ready.

Have you gone out of your way as a head coach to make them feel comfortable or a little bit relaxed? 'Fun' was the word being used (by players).
We know what our job at hand is. We’re all professionals here. I think we have a good coaching staff with Adam [Oates], Chris [Terreri], Larry [Robinson], myself and Jacques Caron here. We’re here, call it fun, call it whatever you want, but we get done what we need to get done in practice. I thought today’s practice was a great practice, guys were ready, they were focused and they were playing hard. That’s what we expect day in, day out, and that’s what we’ll be looking for all year.

Was it your job to lessen the tension a little bit?
That’s my personality. I come here, I’m excited about practice, ready to go. My job is to put these guys in the best possible position to succeed. That’s my personality and it is what it is.

What did you see in defensemen Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina that said these guys are ready to play in the NHL?
They’re both young guys. I thought Taormina moved the puck very well and I think Urbom has a great upside. He moves the puck well, he’s big, he’s mobile, he’s over 6-2. A big guy like that that can skate well, they’re both very coachable. They’re going to make mistakes, we know that. But they’re also going to learn from them and get that experience, so we’re excited they’re around.

How do you fast-track two young defensemen like that to get them ready?
It’s not a fast-track. This game raises up to the next level and there’s going to be some times where they may be in situations they haven’t been in before. They may handle them, they may not handle them. But you have to also have patience, and you have to teach them. Myself along with Larry, we’ll hopefully be able to help that along.

Do you see them both playing Friday night?
We’ll see. We’ll see what the lineup is on Friday.

But you’re comfortable with two rookies in your top six defensemen?
Whoever I put in on Friday I’m comfortable with, and they’ll get an opportunity to play.

You have three games in three-and-a-half days. Do you have a goalie plan? Will one goalie play all three games?
We’ll see. I have a plan. I’m confident right now Marty is going to play Friday night.

Do you like five forwards on the power play?
I’m not afraid of using five forwards on the power play.

Some coaches are afraid of using four.
I’m not afraid if I decide to go that way. That’s why we practice it, just to see. We practice different options. I’m not afraid. If I decide to use it, I’ll use it.

Do you like the flexibility, you have at least three forwards who have played the point and have a lot of experience?
It’s good. It’s not easy on them back there, because they’re all naturally wanting to be offensive. It’s a little bit different. They’ve all had different times there. That’s why we practice it, we’ll see. If we do decide to go that way, I’m comfortable doing it.

Even in the second half of the power play, you’ll stick with the four during the regular season, four forwards?
We’ll see how the game goes, how it’s working. Everybody’s responsible and they’ll know their responsibilities when they go out there and they’ll know where to go. If you put them out there, you’ll have to trust that they’re going to do what’s right and give them the confidence to do it.

The Swedish kids [Josefson and Tedenby], did you think they wouldn’t be hurt by going to see what the AHL’s like?
I think there’s a huge upside to those two kids. It’s never going to hurt them to go down there and get some experience. We’ll see how long it is before they get back here; If they do well down there.

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