Improving Devils Face Wild
(AP) — New Jersey has lost four of five since Jacques Lemaire returned to the bench, yet the veteran coach is starting to see some improvement.
A visit from the Minnesota Wild could be what the Devils need to record their first win of 2011.
Lemaire hopes to see more progress from the Devils as they try to remain undefeated at home against the Wild on Tuesday night.
A day after beating Atlanta 3-1 for the 65-year-old Lemaire’s first win in his third stint as the team’s coach, New Jersey (10-26-2) fell 6-3 at Carolina on New Year’s Day for its 12th loss in 14 games.
Despite the setback, the Devils scored at least three goals in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 10-12.
“We’re starting to climb now, but that’s why we need everyone to chip in to get out of it,” Lemaire told the Devils’ official website. “We need to be sharp in practice so we can bring that to games. It’s a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff.”
Lemaire, who replaced fired rookie coach John MacLean on Dec. 23, hopes for a more complete effort from the Devils as they try for a fifth straight win over Minnesota, which he coached from 2000-09.
Though the Devils’ 68 goals are the fewest in the NHL, they have totaled 16 during their winning streak over Wild and are 4-0-0 with a tie against them in New Jersey.
Patrik Elias scored his eighth goal and added an assist at Carolina, and has scored all four of his goals against the Wild in four home contests. He had three assists in a 5-3 win at Minnesota on Jan. 2, 2010.
While Lemaire hopes the Devils’ continue to produce in the offensive zone, he’s hoping backup goaltender Johan Hedberg can provide some stability at the other end of the ice Tuesday.
Hedberg, who stopped 28 shots at Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, made 15 saves after Martin Brodeur allowed three goals on seven shots against the Hurricanes.
“I went with Marty (in Carolina), didn’t win,” Lemaire said. “Come back with (Hedberg) and we’ll see after.”
Hedberg is 4-1-0 with three ties and a 2.00 GAA against Minnesota.
Though the Wild (18-15-5) are winless in New Jersey, they’ve won two of three after beating Phoenix 6-5 in overtime on Sunday.
Andrew Brunette had two goals with an assist and Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied the game with 26 seconds left, then assisted on Cam Barker’s winner.
“That’s a big win, it’s a great comeback,” Bouchard said after the Wild improved to 14-2-2 when scoring at least three goals. “We have to learn about certain things we did and be a little bit better when we have the lead, but we’ll look at the positives too.”
Mikko Koivu had four assists Sunday and has three with one goal in four games versus New Jersey.
After Jose Theodore made 39 saves against the Coyotes, starter Niklas Backstrom could be back in net. Backstrom is 0-2-1 with a 3.86 GAA against the Devils.
Updated January 3, 2011
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