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John MacLean spent last season as head coach of New Jersey's AHL affiliate in Lowell ((Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) )

John MacLean was named the new coach of the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, replacing the retired Jacques Lemaire.

A perennial candidate to lead the team he once played for, MacLean was to be introduced at an afternoon news conference.

"John MacLean is an astute hockey individual who has spent the past eight years preparing to be an NHL head coach," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He knows our personnel from the veterans through our prospects, having worked with them as a coach during that time."

MacLean, 45, spent last season coaching the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Lowell, Mass., and led the team to its only playoff appearance in four seasons. He was a Devils' assistant coach for seven years before taking over in Lowell.

During that time, MacLean was a candidate for the head coaching job on three occasions but lost out to, in order, Claude Julien (2006), Brent Sutter (2007) and Lemaire (2009). 

"It's a little bit surreal, almost like draft day all overagain, being a rookie head coach," MacLean said after being introduced by the team. "I couldn't think of a better place to have my first head coaching job."

Lemaire retired a few days after the Devils were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

MacLean played for 19 years, 14 with the Devils. He is New Jersey's leading goal-scorer with 347. He also played for San Jose, the Rangers and Dallas. 

While an assistant, MacLean occasionally took on some head coaching responsibilities. He ran most of the team's practices in the second half of the 2005-06 season after Larry Robinson resigned abruptly in December, and did the same in 2007 when Julien was fired and replaced by general manager Lou Lamoriello with three games left in the regular season.

One of MacLean's immediate challenges will be to reverse the Devils' recent playoff fortunes. Since winning their third Stanley Cup in a nine-year span in 2003, the Devils have not made it past the second round in the playoffs.

"In this organization, even when we weren't very good, we always worked hard," he said. "If we can establish that night in andnight out, with the talent level we have here, we'll be a successful team."

Robinson, who has since returned to the Devils bench as an assistant, will be retained to assist MacLean along with another assistant to be named, Lamoriello said. He also said Jamie Langenbrunner will remain as team captain.