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New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus has faith in new coach Jacques Lemaire // The Star-Ledger
Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus believes things will improve under new coach Jacques Lemaire.
It will not be a laid-back, country club kind of atmosphere for the Devils this season under new coach Jacques Lemaire.
Already, after just one full-squad day of training camp, Lemaire let it be known he isn't happy with the effort from some players.
Nevertheless, Dainius Zubrus believes things will be better under Lemaire than they were under former coach Brent Sutter. The veteran forward hopes he will get a chance to be the team's second-line center, particularly while Patrik Elias recovers from offseason hip/groin surgery.
"For whatever reason, with Brent I never felt like I had a permanent role," Zubrus said Sunday at the Prudential Center. "There was always a hole to fill. I was a guy who was moved around quite a bit.
"It's frustrating when you don't feel you have a regular spot. But we kept winning, so I never complained. I'm not a guy to complain when the team is winning."
Still, he feels Lemaire will be an improvement.
"I think so. From what I've heard about Jacques, guys who played for him all speak very highly of him," Zubrus said. "Even from the first practice I love him."
Zubrus suggested that the Devils' inability to get past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs during Sutter's two seasons was a coaching problem.
"I think, in a way, our structure the last couple of years was doing the same thing day in and day out. In a playoff series you have to adjust a lot," Zubrus explained. "Teams make very productive adjustments and I don't know if we made enough of them. When that time came, we didn't play our best.
"We played well in January and February. When it really counted, we didn't."
Lemaire said he will likely look at Zubrus as a second-line center, at least while Elias is unavailable.
"He has to play center. Who else?" the coach asked. "He sticks out. Better than the other guys."
That suits Zubrus, who scored 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) in 82 games last season.
"I want to play center," Zubrus said. "I want to play a lot. I haven't talked to the coach. In five of the last six seasons I've played mostly right wing, but I like center better. I want more responsibility and a spot I know will be mine."
Zubrus was among those in the first practice session Sunday.
"I thought the first session was really good. Much better than the second," Lemaire said. "It could be the time with the afternoon session. I don't know. Not that the guys weren't working. They just weren't as sharp. The guys I was more happy about were the regulars."
Rookies, he said, need to improve in a hurry.
"They have to understand they don't have one month to make the team and show what they can do," Lemaire warned. "They might have two days. If they get two days."
The Devils play their first preseason game Wednesday against the Rangers.