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Devils focus on positives of unique coaching trio

by Jon Lane / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Game 1 under the New Jersey Devils' coaching triumvirate is in the books, and it yielded similar results to the previous 36 games played under former coach Peter DeBoer.

One day after firing DeBoer, Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello unveiled his three-man operation Saturday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Adam Oates and Scott Stevens were added to the coaching staff to work behind the bench with Lamoriello, who is in a supervisory role for an undetermined about of time.

Although the tune was familiar, a 3-1 loss that dropped the Devils (12-18-7) to second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and 11 points out of the second wild-card spot, the vibe on the bench was positive.

"First of all, it was interesting watching and listening and seeing what was transpiring," Lamoriello said. "I thought it was extremely positive. The bench was extremely alive. We never got overly frustrated at any given time."

Lamoriello coached his first game since Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators. He oversaw a Devils team that played hard but was victimized by defensive-zone breakdowns and a Travis Zajac turnover that led to Derek Stepan's shorthanded goal at 18:14 of the first period.

"I didn't find [coaching] any different than it was before," Lamoriello said. "It's certainly a different perspective as far as the plays that you see; you see a lot more there, there's no question there. Up top, you see things that the coaches on the bench can't see. And also on the bench, you see things that can't be seen upstairs. So it was extremely positive to get to know the players in a different way, which was the whole objective as far as some of the thoughts we have.

"I thought [the interaction] was excellent in my opinion. But the only thing that counts is winning, so how good can it be?"

The result left the Devils with three wins in their past 17 games (3-9-5). Entering the game 28th in NHL scoring at 2.1 goals per game, New Jersey failed to score more than one goal for the 11th time in its past 21 games.

"As I said, we're taking this a game at a time," Lamoriello said. "You have to feel good ... and that's the important thing; you have to start to feel good about what you're doing and feeling good about each other. Winning breeds success and success breeds winning, so you just have to keep at it."

Under Lamoriello, the Devils have made 13 coaching changes in the past 15 seasons, more than any team in the NHL, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He stepped behind the bench for the third time as GM, this time in what he called a unique situation.

Oates, 68-47-17 in two seasons as Washington Capitals coach and an assistant under DeBoer for the 2011-12 Devils who reached the Stanley Cup Final, ran the offense and power play. Each new coach spoke between periods, with Oates addressing the offense and Stevens, an assistant under DeBoer who resigned before the start of this season, the defense.

"He was really calm," Eric Gelinas said of Stevens. "He doesn't want you to think too much. He doesn't want you to panic if you make a mistake. You make a mistake and try to correct it. I think he brings patience and a lot of calm down there.

"I think everyone worked hard. We were helping each other, we were talking to each other, we were positive. I think that's the main key here."

The Devils will practice Sunday before playing the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Monday.

"Nobody is going to say anything bad about Pete because he's an outstanding coach, but that's part of the business," center Scott Gomez said. "That's one thing about it, this group hasn't been negative. No one has been getting on each other. We've been a team and we're going to get out of this. It has to happen now."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL

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