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Stevens eager to get started as assistant with Wild

Hall of Fame defenseman returns to coaching after one season as NHL Network analyst

by Dan Myers / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For the past quarter-century, Scott Stevens has made his home in New Jersey, first as a Hall of Fame defenseman with the New Jersey Devils, then as a coach with his former team and finally as a television analyst for NHL Network.

But Stevens is leaving the Garden State for the State of Hockey next season to become an assistant under Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.

"Obviously it's a big change, but it's a really exciting time," said Stevens, who arrived in Minnesota with his wife, Donna, on Saturday. "The people here have been so nice and friendly. It's been a nice, warm welcome. We've really enjoyed our days here. It's really starting to feel like home."

Stevens, 52, was introduced with fellow assistant John Anderson on Tuesday. Along with Boudreau, who was named the fourth full-time coach in Wild history last month, the three make up a new-look coaching staff that will try to get Minnesota past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Stevens spent parts of three seasons as an assistant coach with the Devils before taking over as co-head coach with Adam Oates during the 2014-15 season. He wasn't retained following that season and spent the past year honing his skills as an analyst for NHL Network, which is based in Secaucus, N.J.

But coaching was still the first love for Stevens, who won the Stanley Cup three times as a player with the Devils from 1991-2004. Stevens also played for the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues in a career that began in 1982 and spanned 22 NHL seasons.

"I enjoy being behind the bench, I enjoy teaching," Stevens said. "That's the reason why I'm here, and I like what the Wild have to offer. There's a lot of good parts, from management to ownership, right to players on the ice."

Stevens said he wasn't expecting a call from Minnesota; he had no prior experience with Boudreau and never suited up for him as a player. But not long after Boudreau was hired on May 9, he reached out to Stevens and asked if he was still interested in coaching.

"I was working at the [NHL] Network, and that was a great opportunity for me. But I still had that passion (to coach)," Stevens said. "I met with Bruce and we had a great conversation. He's a genuine person. It was like we knew each other forever. The first five minutes, it was very comfortable. We had a great dialogue about the game and how we play the game and what we like. It was a lot of fun and it made the decision pretty easy. I hope to learn a lot from Bruce."

In Minnesota, Stevens will be charged with helping to improve a penalty kill that went from No. 1 in the NHL in 2014-15 to 27th in 2015-16.

Ryan Suter, who will turn 32 during the season, highlights a group of defenseman that also includes Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin.

"I look forward to working with Ryan. He's a top-10 [defenseman] in this League [and] plays big minutes," Stevens said. "I'm sure he feels, as a defenseman, you get better every year. I know I played a long time and I learned the most in my 13th year as a pro. You never stop learning.

"He wants to keep getting better, and he wants to win a championship. That's his first priority."

Young defensemen Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly, Christian Folin and Gustav Olofsson are among players who could compete for a roster spot with the Wild during training camp. Stevens is anxious to begin working with them come September.

"I'm excited to work with the core group here, and I know Bruce is," Stevens said. "We have a lot of good pieces here."

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