Today marks the New Jersey Devils’ first game of their Western Canada road trip. The Vancouver Canucks are a familiar opponent as the teams faced off at Prudential Center 15 days ago. Jack Hughes will be looking to make it four straight victories over older brother Quinn as his team beat the Canucks by an impressive score of 7-2 on Feb. 28. The younger Hughes has three points in three games against Vancouver and will look to add to that total on Tuesday.
History tells us that head coach Lindy Ruff’s team has performed well against the Canucks, winning their past 12 contests; the Devils’ last loss was on Nov. 25, 2014, when Bo Horvat was a rookie. Damon Severson is the only Devil that remains on the team from that game. After his team’s most recent loss, Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned the Devils’ speed and his team’s inability to adjust to it.
2 Storylines: Vancouver Canucks (29-24-7)
Slow Starts Becoming a Concern for the Canucks
Vancouver is entering tonight’s contest three points out of a wild-card spot and on a two-game losing streak. According to Tankathon, they have one of the easiest schedules to close out the season, but it does not change the fact that they are desperate.
Related: Canucks Add Intriguing Skill With the Signing of Arshdeep Bains
One of the biggest problems the team has faced is their slow starts. As my colleague, Matthew Zator, pointed out in his latest article, since 2017, the team has been outscored 334-280 in the first period. In their last meeting with the Devils, New Jersey scored three unanswered goals in the first 20 minutes of action. A slow start coupled with New Jersey’s speedy game could be a difficult challenge for the Cancuks.
Pettersson is Day-to-Day
The Devils are not the only team with a key member out with a day-to-day injury. Elias Pettersson missed the Canucks’ last game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday due to an upper-body injury. The organization did not announce when or how the injury occurred, and he could be a game-time decision, much like Nico Hischier was.
In October, Pettersson signed a three-year contract with the Canucks and has 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 59 games this season. Before being pulled from the lineup on Sunday, the young forward was on a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists). He dealt with a wrist injury in March of 2021, and recently, some reported on Twitter that he was seen flexing/rubbing that wrist on the bench when the Canucks played the Washington Capitals.
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (22-32-5)
Will Hischier Return to the Lineup?
Hischier has missed the last three games due to a lower-body issue, but it appears he could return to the lineup tonight. Yesterday, he joined his team for practice and was skating on a line with Pavel Zacha and Jimmy Vesey. While the Devils’ captain said he felt good, and it’s doable to play today, no decision has been made as the coaching staff will wait until tonight to make their decision.
“It was good to have him back in a regular jersey,” Ruff said. “We’ll see how tomorrow goes. Practicing today gives him a chance to play.”
The 6-foot-1 center is on a four-game point streak, scoring two goals and three assists, and 38 points in 50 games this season, which has him on pace for a career year. Hischier is a complete two-way player who leads all forwards with 36 blocked shots and has a faceoff win percentage of 53.5, second to Michael McLeod. Fans can only hope he makes his return and can keep his point streak alive against the Canucks.
Devils Look to Improve Road Record
New Jersey’s road record is 8-18-2, and it’s an area that Ruff would like to improve on. The Devils have only won four road games since the beginning of January, and their play away from Prudential Center has been a concern for most of the season. The Canucks and Edmonton Oilers will be desperate for points as they look to solidify their spot in the playoffs. On the other hand, New Jersey will face the Calgary Flames, who are at the top of the Pacific Division and the eighth-best team in the league.
“Overall, this trip, we are looking to win road hockey games. Our road record is not that great,” said Ruff. “We have an opportunity to close out the year with the team we have, to put some road wins in. We know when we go on the road, you have to score some goals, play inside some tight games, and it is an opportunity for us to put some wins on the boards. We will need our offense to take advantage of the situations that are presented to us if we get good opportunities, and we know when we are in tight games, we need to play well away from the puck.”
Players to Watch
New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes
Hughes has five points in his last four games and 44 points in 39 games this season, which is on pace for 92 points over an 82-game season, according to the Devils’ website. What’s even more impressive is that he has not taken a penalty this season. He leads all forwards in ice time, averaging 19:24 per game. All eyes will be on Hughes to see if he can extend his point streak against the Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks: Quinn Hughes
The Vancouver defenseman has been quiet against the Devils, but don’t let that fool you. He enters tonight’s matchup with 48 points in 56 games, which is better than Pettersson, Horvat, and Brock Boeser. He has seven points in his last five games, and his 48 points have him ranked 8th in points among NHL defensemen. Will tonight be the night he finally beats his younger brother?