The New Jersey Devils, coming off a home victory on Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, were looking to get another win against the same team on their home ice. Before last night’s game, the Devils had to put more roster members in COVID health and safety protocols. The Devils found themselves down by multiple goals early in the first period, which turned out to be the difference in a close game. Here are three takeaways from the Devils’ 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets.
Devils Put More Players in COVID Protocol
The Devils were already without Yegor Sharangovich, Pavel Zacha, and Andreas Johnsson, all in health and safety protocols. On top of that, the team placed the injured Dougie Hamilton and Mason Geertsen in COVID protocol on Friday in addition to Nathan Bastian and Jesper Bratt yesterday. The Devils found themselves recalling several players from the taxi squad to fill in spots in their lineup.
A.J. Greer, Nolan Foote, Marian Studenic and Colton White were all playing last night against the Blue Jackets. Due to the team having a shortage of available players to play the wing positions, Dawson Mercer moved from center to right-wing on the top line with Jack Hughes and Tomas Tatar. Jimmy Vesey, who had been playing on the bottom six, was on the second line with Nico Hischier and Janne Kuokkanen.
Vesey had a goal and an assist for the Devils last night, who were looking for players to step up with the absences of key offensive players in Sharangovich, Johnsson, and Bratt. The loss of several forwards being in COVID protocol appeared to be too much for the young franchise to overcome. However, trailing early by multiple goals did not benefit the Devils, either.
Devils Unable to Take the Lead in Loss
The Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 lead just over four minutes into the first period last night. The Blue Jackets did not want to lose a second time in a home-and-home against the Devils, a team they are competing with in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils were able to tie the game 2-2 and 3-3, but could not grab the lead on the road.
Joonas Korpisalo made some key saves to help secure the victory for the Blue Jackets. Hughes made a great pass to Hischier, who had an open net, but the Blue Jackets goaltender was able to make an unbelievable glove save to keep the game tied at three at the end of the second period. The Devils had a frustrating night in terms of getting chances but could not put the puck in the back of the net to take the lead.
Blackwood Starts Again, Hughes’ Point Streak Snapped
Mackenzie Blackwood made his sixth consecutive start in net for the Devils on Saturday against the Blue Jackets. The 25-year-old has picked up the slack without the team having an experienced backup after Jonathan Bernier had season-ending surgery on his right hip previously on Jan. 3. The Devils are scheduled to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday before playing two games in six days.
Scheduled road games against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 15 and Jan. 17, respectively, have been postponed due to COVID-19. Current backup Akira Schmid may get the start against the New York Islanders on Jan. 13, given that the team is in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Jon Gillies is the other backup netminder for the Devils, who made the last start for Blackwood on Dec. 19 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hughes has been one of the best players in the NHL since his return from a dislocated shoulder. He has nine goals and 11 assists in 19 games played this season and is getting better with each game he plays in. He had his 12-point streak over five games snapped in Saturday’s loss but had multiple chances to continue his point streak.
The Devils have a difficult game on Monday against the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center. The young franchise will need to continue without Bratt and others in COVID protocol but may get Sharangovich and Zacha in the lineup in time for the game. The Devils will have another lull in their schedule coming up this week and will need to avoid getting rusty with a break in their schedule.