There was a brand new bench boss at The Rock Friday morning. Eight-year-old Abdeil Collazo joined John Hynes as Devils coach. Collazo is this year's Hockey Fights Cancer "Coach for the Day," and he had players working hard.
Collazo helped Hynes draw up drills and make lineup changes as the Devils prepared to host the Canucks.
It was a busy morning for Collazo, who blew the coach's whistle to start practice. The team gathered around to listen to instructions - he even gave the coaches some tips on how to coach.
"It's was fun!" Collazo said. "He [Hynes] tells me when to blow the whistle, and I blow the whistle as loud as I can."
Hynes was happy to have a new assistant, who even took some questions in the post-practice media briefing.
"He's been great," Hynes said. "It's a great experience for him to come in. The players have really enjoyed it. He blows the whistle really well, so I've got some pointers on that. He drew up a nice play for the guys tonight. It's been awesome."
Collazo also had a chance to meet his favorite player. Miles Wood took some extra time to say hello and chat with Collazo on the bench before practice wrapped up.
To make the day even more special, Collazo was treated to Jimmy Hayes' stick, which was adjusted by the equipment staff to just the right size for Collazo to pass the puck back and forth with a friend who joined him in the locker room.
As part of Hockey Fights Cancer ceremonies, the Devils will warm up in lavender jerseys that will have a #BoyleStrong patch on the arm. The initiative is in support of teammate Brian Boyle, who is fighting chronic myeloid leukemia. The team came up with the idea of the patch and approached Boyle, who was touched.
"I try and remind myself, if you can help the cause then it's worth it," Boyle said. "The organization has been unbelievable to me and this is a nice touch. I appreciate them doing it."
Boyle will take the ceremonial faceoff tonight and his family will be present. His wife Lauren and son Declan will help drop the puck.
"I am very excited," Boyle said. "All good things. I just, hopefully, can keep it together. They've been through so much too. It's nice. So hopefully my son drops the puck and doesn't try to run away with it."
As for tonight's game against the Canucks, Stefan Noesen will draw back in to the lineup, while Jimmy Hayes will sit out as a healthy scratch. Noesen will play on the fourth line with Brian Gibbons and Blake Coleman. Cory Schneider will get the start in net.
Marcus Johansson also joined his teammates on the ice for the end of morning skate Friday. It's another step in his recovery from a concussion sustained against the Canucks on Nov 1. Johansson hasn't played since.