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Devils assistant general manager joins coaching staff

Fitzgerald on board at Hynes' request for winless New Jersey; Hischier won't play against Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils, the only NHL team without a win this season (0-4-2), moved assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald to the coaching staff as an assistant starting with practice Wednesday.

Fitzgerald was asked by Devils coach John Hynes to become an assistant and will work the game against the New York Rangers at Prudential Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV). 

"He was an excellent face-off guy, he's played over 1,100 NHL games and he's invested," Hynes said. "He has a lot of belief in the players that are here, knows who they are and knows our situation. I think to have him, with his eyes and input on certain things when your team is in a rut, is good. It's finding solutions, finding ways where we can all get better. I think he's going to be a good asset."

Fitzgerald will be a sounding board for players and coaches. He previously was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09 and on the bench when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup that season. He joined the Devils in 2015.

"[Fitzgerald] has done it before but it's about the team, John and him trying to do what's best to get the most out of themselves, our staff and certainly our players," Devils general manager Ray Shero said. "We're six games in and need to be better."

The Devils have lost their first six games for the first time since starting 0-4-3 in 2013-14.

"I think our staff has some tweaks that we would like to make to help play faster," Fitzgerald said. "I think the players are not off the hook at all. There's a lot of effort, but less is more. When something goes wrong, the domino effect sees pucks going in (our) net, so we'll try to eliminate those errors and simplify things. A lot of times it starts in the offensive zone."

Expectations were high after the Devils selected center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and acquired defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators on June 22. New Jersey also signed right wing Wayne Simmonds (one year, $5 million) on July 1, and acquired left wing Nikita Gusev in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29.

"I really want the team to give me a vote of confidence that I picked the right [darn] team, so that's what I want to see, and I know they're capable of it," Shero said. "It's really about guys finding roles and being more accountable in terms of trusting each other on the ice. These are simple things to say but it's not that difficult. There's no system that's going to help you win games when, late in periods, you have four times to clear the puck and you cannot get it out, your veteran players cannot get it out, or they just turn it over, or they think it's a great idea to try to and beat a guy at their own blue line. 

"That's not any coaches' game book and it's not their game book either, and they're better than this and they know it." 

The Devils are 0-for-18 on the power play and 31st on the penalty kill (12-for-21). They're tied for 28th with 2.17 goals per game and 30th in goals-against average (4.50).

"It's a long season, but unless you address this, it could be a longer season and that's not what we signed up for and not what our fans deserve," Shero said.

Forward Taylor Hall has five points (one goal, four assists). He missed the final 47 games of last season after having arthroscopic surgery in February to remove fragments from his left knee.

"I'm just trying to help our team win," Hall said. "I don't think I'm playing my greatest right now and don't think there's probably anyone in this room who can say that they're at the level they want to be and I'm no different. So that's really my focus."

The Devils will be without Nico Hischier on Thursday because of an upper-body injury. The center did not practice after was injured during the first period of a 6-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday. He did not return to the game after taking one shot on goal in 5:22 of ice time.

Defenseman Andy Greene (upper body) will miss his fourth consecutive game.

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