Commentary

DeBoer puts stamp on first practice

The first-year Devils coach establishes his up-tempo style on Day 1 of training camp

Updated: September 17, 2011, 7:45 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- There was a common theme among New Jersey Devils players when asked their initial impressions of new coach Pete DeBoer during the first day of training camp.

"Not a lot of standing around," Zach Parise said.

As one of the players skating with the first group on the ice at the team's practice facility Saturday morning, Parise was among the first initiated into DeBoer's distinct coaching style.

"The drills were pretty high-paced" Parise said. "A lot of guys moving throughout the drills and not a lot of rest in between, so your heart rate was up pretty much the whole time."

The high-energy, up-tempo practice was a good indication of the way DeBoer wants the Devils to play. Each group also went through a video session after skating to get a better idea of the system that will be installed.

The defensive responsibilities won't change much. But the team will rely on an aggressive forecheck -- similar to former coach Brent Sutter's initial approach -- and more time spent in the offensive zone.

"We want to put a little more pressure on the puck and try and create some more offense, put a little more emphasis on the offensive zone, but not at the risk of our defensive game, which is the identity of our club," DeBoer said.

Veteran Patrick Elias said the system change is a welcome one.

"You gotta like it," the 35-year-old Elias said. "He wants to be aggressive.

"In the past, we may have been too passive positioning-wise. He wants to change that."

Despite an incredible turnaround in the second half of the season, the Devils' first-half disaster was too much to surmount. For the first time since 1995-96, the team missed the playoffs.

Now they're itching to get back.

A main area of emphasis?

"For sure he wants us to score more goals," said sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, who led the team last season with 31 goals. "That's clear."

The Devils struggled in that regard, ranking dead last in goals with 171, or an average of 2.08 goals per game.

Said DeBoer: "You look at the stats and, as a staff, we'd be crazy not to emphasize getting more pucks to the net and trying to score some more goals."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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