The New Jersey Devils hit the road yesterday and headed to the NHL’s newest arena to face the New York Islanders. It was the Devils’ first game since Saturday and the Islanders’ first game since Jan. 1, 2022. Head coach Lindy Ruff’s team played another competitive game, but for the third time this calendar year, did not get anything to show for it. Here are three takeaways from the Devils’ 3-2 loss to the Islanders.
Yegor Sharangovich Picks up Right Where He Left Off
Last night was Sharangovich’s first game since being placed on COVID protocol on Jan. 4, and he did not skip a beat scoring the first goal of the night 9:43 into the first period. Since Dec. 19, he has six points (4G, 2A). The coaching staff needs the 6-foot-2 forward to keep his current pace.
“We’re counting on him,” coach Ruff said after the game. “For a team that looks for scoring in different places, we know what he brought up last year. He’s starting to bring that same value. He’s skating well. He’s on the puck. He’s winning battles. His all-around game has been solid. I think he’s getting rewarded for playing well in every zone.”
Last season Sharangovich finished 10th in Calder Trophy voting after notching 30 points in 54 games. He earned an assist in the Devils’ home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks but ultimately struggled the first few months this season. He had seven points in his first 20 games and served as a healthy scratch. Since being reunited with Jack Hughes, he is on a four-game goal streak and does not appear to be slowing down.
Jon Gillies Kept the Devils in the Game
Last night Gillies started his second game for New Jersey since being acquired from the St. Louis Blues. The Devils could not have asked for a better performance as he stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced. He was excellent from the start of the game facing two quick shots in the first 30 seconds of play. New Jersey color analyst Ken Daneyko talked about Gillies glove all night and, like the coaching staff, was happy with the 27-year-old’s performance.
“I thought Jon played really well for us, “coach Ruff said. “Gave us a real solid game.”
The 6-foot-6 netminder came close to saving the puck on the Islanders’ first goal but had no chance on their second as it was redirected in front of him. The game-winning goal was scored by Mathew Barzal, who was left open in the slot in the last five minutes of the game. His consistent play in the crease kept the Devils in the game until the very end and gave them a chance to earn two points.
Another Valiant Effort From New Jersey
The Devils did get some reinforcements back in Sharangovich, Pavel Zacha, Andreas Johnsson, and Nathan Bastian. The addition of those four made a difference as Bastian was the other goal scorer for New Jersey last night. The 6-foot-4 forward scored on the power play and is now tied for the team lead with two goals on the man advantage.
New Jersey has lost three consecutive road games by one or two goals. Each time their opponent scored the game decider with five minutes left in the game. Fans can not say the effort is not there as the team has continued to play a competitive game regardless of who is on the ice. They come close, but as the old saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
One player New Jersey desperately needs to return is Damon Severson, who was averaging 23 minutes of ice time per game. As Danekyo said last night during the broadcast, the Manitoba native has been one of the Devils’ best defensemen this season, and his presence is missed. He was placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol on Jan. 9, and hopefully, he will be back in the lineup for the Devils next game on Jan. 19.
The Devils will not suit up for a game for another five days. This allows time for additional players to get back into the lineup and get more practice time in. Their next opponent will be the Arizona Coyotes, who have a league-low 19 points. It will be the perfect opportunity to get back on track and win two points for the first time since Jan. 6.
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Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.