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BY SHERRY ROSS
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Saturday, July 14th 2007, 4:00 AM


Any other sports team might have been leery of naming a new head coach on Friday the 13th. But when you're the Devils, and neither of your last two coaching choices lasted out the season, you have to figure, hey, how much worse could it get?

Defying superstition and defiant of the perception that the Devils have lost their reputation as a serious Stanley Cup challenger after losing several prominent free agents, Brent Sutter appeared eager to tackle his first NHL coaching job when he was introduced at a press conference in Newark yesterday afternoon. Only a few blocks from where the team's new home, the Prudential Center, grinds towards its anticipated late-October completion, Sutter said the Devils were "the right fit," after having spurned previous coaching offers, including one from the Devils in 2005.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said that Sutter was not only his first choice, but that "Brent was the only choice" for the head coaching job, which became vacant when Lamoriello fired Claude Julien with only three games remaining in the regular season, despite the team's first-place status in the Atlantic Division.

Sutter, who already has mastered the Devils' art of speaking at length without actually saying much, said Julien's firing and previous itchy-trigger-finger moves by Lamoriello "never crossed my mind. It was totally irrelevant."

Sutter was diligent as an NHL player and demanding as a coach at the junior level, but not all coaches successfully make the transition from teaching teenagers with NHL stars in their eyes to motivating adults with NHL dollars in their wallets.

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