The New Jersey Devils play their second of back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night at 7:00 PM ET. It’s their second consecutive road game in Canada after a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday. The Devils scored the first goal of the game but could not get anything else past Sens goalie Matt Murray. New Jersey will try to quickly regroup in preparation for their game at Centre Bell versus a struggling Canadiens team. Here are the storylines ahead of tonight’s game.
2 Storylines: Montreal Canadiens (8-29-7)
More Injuries to Key Players
Even before the 2021-22 season, the Canadiens suffered major injuries to key players. David Savard, who signed with the team in the offseason, sustained a right ankle injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 29. The defenseman will be out for up to eight weeks recuperating.
Starting goaltender Carey Price is still rehabbing from a torn meniscus and is out indefinitely – he also spent time in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program – while backup Jake Allen suffered a lower-body injury on Jan. 12 against the Boston Bruins. Their absence has opened up an opportunity for more playing time for young netminders Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau, who has earned more time as the backup.
First Game in Nine Days
During the All-Star break, most players had an opportunity to get away from the game and rest before starting a tight schedule in the second half. Cole Caufield spent time in his home state, but he and Joel Armia were placed in COVID protocol on Jan. 18 and spent time in Dallas before traveling to Wisconsin. They were not permitted to cross the Canadian border until Jan. 28.
“We really didn’t have many places to go or many options. I knew that we could skate there, get on the ice and get some workouts in. For me, it was kind of a no-brainer. I had to ask Joel if he wanted to come, and he said yes. We had a good couple of days there, so it was fun. It was good just to refresh. I got to see the family a little bit, too. It was nice” (from ‘Canadiens Notebook: Cole Caufield refreshed after a trip to Wisconsin,’ Montreal Gazette, 2/8/22).
The Canadiens will continue their eight-game homestand against the Devils, though they have not played since a 6-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 30. They have just two road games in February and will try to take advantage of a schedule that has them mostly playing at the Centre Bell. After the Devils, the Canadiens have consecutive home games against the Washington Capitals (Feb. 10), Blue Jackets (Feb. 12), Buffalo Sabres (Feb. 13), and St. Louis Blues (Feb. 17).
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (15-26-7)
Hughes’ All-Star Setback
Jack Hughes was placed in COVID-19 protocol on Feb. 6 after participating in the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Nevada, last weekend. He scored two goals in the first game against the Pacific Division and again in the victory over the Central Division. The 20-year-old became the youngest Devil to score in an All-Star Game.
He admitted it was strange playing with Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders’ Adam Pelech: “It’s definitely weird for sure. Those are guys who we are big rivals with, but I know Kreids really well from the past and obviously, Pelly has been a really good player in the league for a while. It was good. It was a lot of fun out there tonight” (from ‘Metropolitan rivals come together to dominate NHL All-Star Game,’ New York Post, 2/5/22).
Devils Lose 4-1 to Senators at Canadian Tire Centre
Without Hughes in the lineup, the Devils scored only one goal. Senators defenseman Nick Holden credited Murray’s performance for his team’s 15th victory of 2021-22: “I think he’s the reason we won that game. The first two periods, I don’t think we played very good. We gave them a lot of opportunities, but (Murray) was there to shut the door to make sure we had the lead and kept it” (from ‘Slumping Devils fall to Senators for seventh straight loss,’ New York Post, 2/7/22).
Devils head coach Lindy Ruff commented on New Jersey’s performance saying, “(We) got off to a great start, scored on a power-play goal, didn’t give up a lot for 40 minutes. But we left some chances out there, and I’ve said this before, we have to score more than one goal.”
The Devils managed 33 shots on goal but still lost their 10th of the last 11 games. Captain Nico Hischier voiced his frustrations after their latest defeat: “Nobody wants to be where we are. It’s on us. Nobody is going to do it for us. If you’re not going to dig in, it’s not going to get better. These little things we talk about before the games we don’t execute. These cost us goals, and we just have to be harder in front of the net. We had good chances to score goals, but we (didn’t) score these dirty goals… we have to be better, it’s simply not good enough.”
Both teams will be looking to end a losing streak when the Devils meet the Canadiens tonight – the Canadiens have lost six in a row, the Devils have lost seven But New Jersey will have to find a way to generate scoring opportunities without their best offensive player in Hughes.