Devils right wing David Clarkson said he ran into his former junior coach, Pete DeBoer, when he was leaving Prudential Center on Wednesday. DeBoer, who coached Clarkson for three seasons in Kitchener, is now the head coach of the Florida Panthers and his team practiced at The Rock on Wednesday in preparation for tonight's game against the Devils.
Clarkson said his trade from Belleville to Kitchener early in the 2002-03 season saved his career,
"Probably the reason I'm here today is because of him," Clarkson said of DeBoer. "I got traded from playing one shift a game in Belleville and I was going to go play Tier II and Pete guided me the right way."
Clarkson noted that it was ironic that DeBoer's assistant coach with the Panthers, Jim Hulton, was the coach in Belleville that traded him to Kitchener.
"I had (17 goals) my first year (in Kitchener) and (DeBoer) just gave me the confidence that he believed in me. Even the off-ice things that happened to me, he was there for me when my grandparents passed away. He was somebody that I would always go to for advice. I looked up to him. What he did with me was unbelievable."
Clarkson said he can see the similarities between DeBoer and Devils coach Brent Sutter.
"I'd say they're very a like," Clarkson said. "There's a lot of things different too, but when I came here I knew they were kind of the same because (DeBoer) and Brent are good buddies. Him and Brent are really close."
Clarkson said DeBoer also got the Carolina Hurricanes to invite him to his first NHL training camp when he was 18 and no one thought he would play in the league.
"Nobody was giving me a tryout and Pete made a phonecall for me and got me a tryout with Carolina," he said. "I couldn't get a tryout. I was 18 years old and people didn't think I was tough enough and Pete got me a tryout. So, he's always pushed for me. I'd go through a wall for him. It's similar here with (Sutter). I would do anything he asked of me.
"During the season and tonight there's going to be no friends, but away from the rink I really look up to him and hope to be like that one day, if I were to coach, to be that type of coach."
Sutter said going through this season so far with the rash of injuries the Devils have endured has been a challenge for the entire team, including him.
"Believe me, I critique myself after games over and go through them," he said. "I lie in bed at night and go through them if there was anything I could have done better or where could we have done things a little differently to allow your team a better chance. You go through that on a hourly basis.
"But, as a coach, you work with what you've go and every day whether it's practice or games you try to get the maximum out of each individual and sometimes it's in ways you don't like it, but at the end of the day you have to do what's right for the whole team."