A nearly decade-long partnership between John Hynes and Alain Nasreddine ended in unceremonious fashion Dec. 3, when the New Jersey Devils fired Hynes as head coach and elevated Nasreddine, his assistant, to the position.
Who could have imagined it would take Hynes and Nasreddine just 58 days to meet up again, this time on opposite ends of the ice?
An unlikely reunion will take place Thursday night, when Nasreddine’s Devils host the Nashville Predators and their recently named head coach — Hynes — in an interconference matchup in Newark, N.J.
The Devils were off Wednesday after returning from the All-Star break Tuesday night with a 4-3 shootout win over the host Ottawa Senators. The Predators will be looking to sweep a back-to-back road set after edging the Washington Capitals, 5-4, on Wednesday night.
Hynes will be hoping his first impression of the new decade Prudential Center is better than the last one he endured as the Devils’ head coach.
In his penultimate game as head coach on Nov. 30, the Devils allowed two short-handed goals in a span of fewer than three minutes in the third period of a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers.
Two days later, the Devils traveled to upstate New York and absorbed a 7-1 rout at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. Ray Shero fired Hynes the next afternoon, hours before New Jersey hosted the Vegas Golden Knights.
Shero, Hynes and Nasreddine had worked together since 2010, when Shero, then the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, hired Hynes and Nasreddine to serve as the head coach and assistant coach with the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate. And Shero hired the men for the same positions upon being named the Devils’ general manager following the 2014-15 season.
Shero was fired Jan. 20 — 13 days after Hynes was hired to replace the recently dismissed Peter Laviolette as the Predators’ head coach. Hynes said Wednesday he had no hard feelings towards his former boss.
“I worked with Ray for 11 years and it’s just part of the business, unfortunately,” Hynes told The Bergen Record prior to Wednesday’s game. “I’ve talked to him since he was relieved of his duties, and we’re all good.”
Both Hynes and Nasreddine said their relationship hasn’t been impacted by the midseason switch in roles. The two got together for lunch in New Jersey during the All-Star break and regularly talk on the phone and trade text messages.
“It was great to get in touch with him, share some thoughts,” Nasreddine told NJ Advanced Media on Wednesday. “He offered all the help that he could offer. I’m extremely grateful and obviously it goes both ways.”
Nasreddine, who is 9-11-3 as the Devils’ interim head coach, said he hopes to approach Thursday night’s matchup “as just another game.” But Hynes, who is 4-4-0 since taking over the Predators, acknowledged feeling a bit of unease heading back to New Jersey.
“I’ve never experienced that,” Hynes said. “I haven’t been back there since everything went down.
“I’m not sure what to expect.”
–Field Level Media