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Julien fired as Devils coach; Lamoriello takes over @NHL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Claude Julien found out there is no job security with the New Jersey Devils when general manager Lou Lamoriello feels there is something wrong.

Despite having the Devils in first place in the Atlantic Division with a week to go in the regular season, Julien was fired as their coach on Monday because Lamoriello felt the three-time Stanley Cup champions weren't ready to start the playoffs next week.

"You have to make whatever you feel is the right decision," Lamoriello said in announcing that he would take over behind the bench for the second straight year, starting on Tuesday against Ottawa. "If you think this is a decision I wanted to make or liked to make, you are kidding yourself.

"It's certainly not an easy decision, nor am I comfortable I have to do it," Lamoriello added. "But I have a responsibility to owners, to the fans and I have a responsibility to the players, and in saying that we have a commitment to winning."

Julien, who was informed of his dismissal on Monday morning by Lamoriello, was not immediately available for comment.

Team spokesman Jeff Altstadter said that Julien did not want to comment Monday.

The stunning move came a day after the Devils beat Boston for their fourth win in five games. It gave Julien a 47-24-8 record in his first season in New Jersey. The 102 points is tied for the second most in the Eastern Conference.

Lamoriello refused to say how long that he has been considering the move, noting that Julien did nothing off the ice to get fired. It was more about the Devils having a chance to win the Stanley Cup, he said.

"I don't think we're at a point of being ready both mentally and (physically) to play the way that is necessary going into the playoffs," Lamoriello said outside an empty Devils locker room at the Continental Airlines Arena. "I am not saying that is going to change. But I think there has to be better focus going forward."

Lamoriello would not say specifically what he disliked about the way the Devils were playing. The team has struggled scoring, and it slumped recently, winning seven of 15 games with forwards Brian Gionta, John Madden and Elias sidelined by groin injuries.

A practice scheduled for Monday was called off after Lamoriello discussed the move with the team.

"Our job is to listen to what has been said and why the decision was made," Devils captain Patrik Elias said. "Management said it gives us the best chance to accomplish what we want to accomplish and that is to win the (Stanley) Cup."

Monday's firing isn't the first time Lamoriello has made a late-season coaching move. He fired Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the 1999-2000 season and Larry Robinson led the team to its second Stanley Cup title.

Lamoriello didn't consider that change in replacing Julien, the Devils seventh coach since 2000, which includes two stints by Robinson.

"You don't think of those things," Lamoriello said. "Nothing makes it any easier, believe me. The day anything like this becomes easy, or when it's trading a player or when you have make these decisions and it becomes easy, that's the day you look for a different position."

Lamoriello also coached last season, replacing Robinson on Dec. 19, 2005, and leading New Jersey to the playoffs last season.

Julien was handicapped by roster problems because the Devils have been up against the NHL salary cap all season. Injuries have forced the former Montreal Canadiens coach to play several minor league players.

"You don't always judge by wins and losses as far as where you are at," said Lamoriello, who built three Stanley Cup winning teams in New Jersey the previous 11 seasons. "The way we put ourselves in this organization, you have to look at the big picture. To say that 102 points today isn't an excellent accomplishment, it's extremely positive. But I have to look at a lot of factors."

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