Devils fire coach Julien; Lamoriello back behind bench

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker)—Claude Julien found out that no coach is safe under New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello. Not even one with a 100-point season.

The Devils (47-24-8), who are in first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference with 102 points, fired Julien on Tuesday with just three games left in the regular season.

It was a stunning but not unprecedented move by Lamoriello, whose overall track record as a GM is generally unquestioned.

“I understand people from the outside questioning this, but I have to go on the information I have and what I feel is the right thing to do for this team,” Lamoriello said.

But Lamoriello failed to give any specifics on what caused him to make the move.

“I just didn’t feel we were playing with the confidence we needed to go forward, despite what our record is, and that’s all I’ll say about that,” said Lamoriello, who will move from the front office to the bench for the second time in as many seasons.

After Larry Robinson resigned as coach in December 2005, Lamoriello took over as interim coach and guided the Devils to a 32-14-4 record and an Atlantic Division title.

The Devils closed the season with an 11-game winning streak and swept the New York Rangers in the opening round of the playoffs before losing in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes.

Lamoriello tabbed Julien as coach last June. He had the club playing its normally effective defensive style as New Jersey ranks first in the East with 195 goals allowed.

The Devils have won four of their last five games and are coming off a 3-1 victory over Boston on Sunday.

But Lamoriello believed a change was needed. He felt the same way late in the 1999-00 season when he fired coach Robbie Ftorek and promoted Robinson, a move that triggered a march to the franchise’s second Stanley Cup.

New Jersey hosts Ottawa on Tuesday before closing the regular season with contests against Philadelphia on Thursday and the New York Islanders on Sunday. The Devils are assured of home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.

Lamoriello is in his 20th year as the Devils’ general manager and built the foundation of the teams that won three Stanley Cups from 1995-2003.

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Updated Monday, Apr 2, 2007