John MacLean

Devils coach John MacLean chews shorthanded team out in practice

The life of a head coach in the NHL isn’t all cliche answers to a reporter’s questions and looking dapper in a suit behind the bench. Sometimes cracking a few heads in practice is part of the job, just that that part of the job doesn’t always happen three games into the season. Welcome to the life of Devils coach John MacLean who went off on his shorthanded team in practice today and then ended things earlier than expected in an effort to keep the Devils focused after starting the season winless. Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice shares this note from practice.

Devils coach John MacLean halted the team’s morning skate today at HSBC Arena and ripped into his players for being listless and sloppy during one of the drills.

MacLean stopped the drill, called the players over to him at center ice and then began yelling with several profanities mixed in. Then, he made them restart the drill they had been doing. MacLean apparently spotted one player shaking his head after he yelled at the team because I heard him say, “Don’t shake your head.”

“I thought it was a little too laissez faire for a team that hasn’t won a game yet,” MacLean explained afterward.

Harsh and accurate from MacLean, but is it right of him to be as hard on the team when they’re playing without the right number of players for a full lineup? Perhaps. Everyone on the ice for the Devils is top player and if you’re not getting optimum performance out of all those guys, then that’s a huge issue.

Starting the season out poorly when expectations are sky high doesn’t leave anyone feeling good and being a head coach in New Jersey means that whether or not things are going well, your job is on the line. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t been afraid to pull the plug on a coach at any time if he feels it’s not working out.

That’s not to say that MacLean is in any imminent danger, that’d be crazy, it’s just a commentary on the way the Devils do things. That said, the pressure in New Jersey is sky high, especially with how much the spotlight got turned onto the team thanks to the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes and subsequent contract ordeal. If the Devils come out on fire tonight against Buffalo, you’ll know that MacLean’s gruff handling of things today got through to them.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.