The New Jersey Devils have 14 regular season games left before the playoffs begin, can you believe it? The club has earned 95 points, and their 44 wins after 68 games played from the start of a season are the second most in franchise history (45 wins 2008-09 season).
New Jersey is still eyeing first place in the Metropolitan Division as they are one point back on the Carolina Hurricanes, who suffered a massive blow by losing Andrei Svechnikov for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Right now, it is all about balance as the Devils continue to prioritize rest as the playoffs draw near.
A Tough Schedule
The Devils are playing 16 games in the month of March, which marks the most contests that the team plays in a single month this season. Their opponents include seven teams, who are locked into playoff position and a three-game mini-series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Related: 4 Takeaways Devils’ 4-3 Shootout Loss to the Lightning
Latest News & Highlights
On Feb. 21, head coach Lindy Ruff addressed the media and said, “we have to treat rest as a weapon. …we have to be smart about when we practice. Even more importantly we have to make sure that the minds are ready and if you’re constantly at the rink, that takes a toll too.”
Practices have been scarce for Ruff’s squad since late February. Timo Meier has only participated in two practices since joining the team, while Curtis Lazar experienced his first earlier this week when the team took the ice for 25 minutes at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House.
Lazar has appeared in 24 postseason games throughout his career and understands how important rest at this point of the year is as the regular season winds down.
“This time of year practice is short and sweet, but it is valuable,” he said. “Some guys like to take that full day (of rest) and other guys want to get out there and do a little bit of something. I’m of the mindset that less is more this time of year, but you kind of go day-by-day and listen to your body. … you use the rest as you can.”
Foote Joins Team in Florida
On March 17, the organization announced they recalled forward Nolan Foote from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League. The 22-year-old was previously with the Devils during their California road trip, where he suited up for three games versus the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. He averaged a little under seven minutes of ice time and in his last outing played a mere 3:08 (five shifts).
Through 49 games Foote has 30 points (18 goals, 12 assists) with the Comets. The Denver, Colorado native has three points in his last two games. A few weeks ago, Ben Birnell of the Daily Sentinel talked to Comets General Manager/New Jersey Assistant General Manager Dan MacKinnon, who had this to say about Foote’s development.
“We’ve been happy with Nolan Foote from a maturity standpoint in his game and a commitment to playing a style of game that will keep him in the NHL one day full-time. He’s embraced being a heavier presence on the wing. He’s been in traffic more. He’s been a little more physical, causing turnovers. All that great stuff that can translate to a middle-6 or bottom-6 role on the wing in the NHL rather than trying to define your game as just a straight shooter. … I just think Nolan has adapted to the feedback and advice that coaches have given him and done it on a pretty consistent basis.” (from ‘Utica Comets GM MacKinnon: There’s excitement with prospects’, Daily Sentinel, 02/22/23)
Quick Hits & What You Need To Know
- Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood is progressing. His return is expected to be sooner rather than later, and on March 14 joined his team on the ice for a morning skate. Ruff said there is no set timetable, and as far as what decisions will be made when Blackwood is ready to return to action, New Jersey’s head coach simply said, “we’ll cross that bridge we get there.”
- Miles Wood suffered an undisclosed injury in the third period of the team’s March 14 contest versus the Lightning. Ruff has not provided an official update on the forward and at this time it is unclear if the Buffalo, NY native traveled to Florida with the team.
- Depth forward Nathan Bastian has been held out of the lineup for the past two games. Ruff explained that the 6-foot-4 winger is banged up and is listed as day-to-day (upper-body). Lazar has taken Bastian’s spot on the fourth line, and in the past two contests, he’s been credited with two blocks and seven hits.
The Devils will be back in action on March 18 as they face the Florida Panthers, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and put up nine goals against the Montreal Canadiens on March 16. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for all the latest surrounding the Devils.