The New Jersey Devils haven’t enjoyed the glimpse of what life can be like without both Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes — their top two point scorers from last season — in their lineup.
But if all goes according to plan, Tuesday night will be the last time the Devils have to worry about playing without both of their stars.
The undermanned Devils are slated to begin a brief road trip when they visit the Winnipeg Jets in the first game this season between the teams.
The Devils have been off since Friday, when they fell 4-2 to the visiting Washington Capitals. The Jets, in the midst of a five-game homestand, had their three-game winning streak snapped Saturday with a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.
The defeat Saturday was the second straight for the Devils and their third in four games (1-3-0) since Nov. 3, when Hughes suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 3:55 in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Devils coach Lindy Ruff said Monday that Hughes won’t travel to Winnipeg but could join the team for Thursday’s game at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A return isn’t as imminent for Hischier, who suffered an upper-body injury in a 5-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 27. He won’t join the Devils on the road trip.
The Devils won their first two games without Hischier and outscored the Minnesota Wild 9-6 in the back-to-back set from Oct. 29-Nov. 2. But New Jersey has been outscored 16-10 in the past four games and gave up six unanswered goals in a three-period span bridging its past two losses to the Colorado Avalanche and the Capitals.
“It’s not easy losing our two best players,” Devils center Tyler Toffoli said after practice Monday. “It’s an opportunity for guys to step up and step into a bigger role. I think at times we’ve done a good job as a group and we’ve played hard and found ways to stay in games. But at the same time, losing the skill of those two guys, we have to work a little bit harder.”
The Jets made things a little harder on themselves Saturday when they allowed the Central Division-leading Stars to score all three of their goals during a 10-minute span in the second period. Matt Duchene had what ended up being the game-winner, a power-play tally at the 11:57 mark of the second.
Winnipeg finished 0-for-3 on the power play Saturday. During their three-game winning streak, the Jets were 4-for-10 on the power play while limiting the Arizona Coyotes, Blues and Nashville Predators to one goal in nine power-play opportunities.
“They’re a veteran group that kind of waited for you to make a mistake — whether we made it on the penalty kill or the power play or even the one five-on-five (goal),” said Jets associate coach Scott Arniel, who is filling in as head coach while Rick Bowness is on a leave of absence after his wife, Judy, suffered a seizure. “So, it’s a lesson to be learned.”
–Field Level Media
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