There’s been a lot going on in the world of the New Jersey Devils lately when it comes to injuries. The team announced several updates yesterday to players dealing with ailments, including Dougie Hamilton and Nico Hischier. Let’s dive into the latest Devils news and rumors as they look to bounce back from a 5-3 loss to the Bruins with a home-and-home against the Columbus Blue Jackets to close out the week out.
Hischier, Hamilton Injured
Though the Devils came away with a 4-3 overtime win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon, they left the game wounded with injuries to Hamilton and Hischier. Both missed yesterday’s game against the Bruins, but Hischier is expected to miss much less time than Hamilton.
Let’s start with Hamilton, who took a puck to the face against the Capitals. He left that game early in the first period and did not return. After returning to New Jersey, the team announced he suffered a broken jaw and would undergo surgery today to repair it. They placed him on injured reserved retroactive to Jan. 2, and he’ll likely miss a fair bit of time, though a firm timeline won’t be out until after his surgery.
Losing Hamilton is a blow for the Devils. He’s been their top offensive defenseman this season with 20 points in 30 games and was largely playing top-pair minutes. They may be able to survive without him, given how well Jonas Siegenthaler and Damon Severson have been playing. But losing their best offensive defenseman certainly won’t help.
As for Hischier, there was concern when the team announced he wouldn’t play against the Bruins yesterday. But late in the third period, Devils play-by-play announcer Steve Cangialosi reported Hischier should return to the team today and could be good to go against the Blue Jackets tomorrow. Hischier had seven points in his previous five games before missing yesterday’s contest. Getting him back that quickly would be a significant lift for a team that’s already dealing with plenty of injuries and some COVID issues.
Bernier Out for the Season
The Devils also announced yesterday that goaltender Jonathan Bernier would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his right hip. He had played in 10 games, totaling a .902 save percentage (SV%), but had not played since Dec. 3 against the Winnipeg Jets.
Bernier looked strong out of the gate, but he missed some time early in the season with the same nagging hip issue. Obviously things got worse, and surgery was the only option left. That’s another tough hand dealt to the Devils, who have had goalie problems not just this season but for many years. It’s even more crucial considering Mackenzie Blackwood has struggled mightily in 2021-22, as he has an .895 SV%, which is well below league average.
Blackwood said in his post-game press conference last night that he’s still dealing with pain in his heel from offseason surgery. That’s likely affecting his play, but they still need him to be better. He doesn’t need to be an elite goalie posting a .920 SV% this season, but something around league average would be a big help. The Devils are not getting that right now, and they’re going to need it with Bernier done for 2021-22. If Blackwood is not 100 percent, which seems to be the case, then Jon Gillies needs to start a game here and there just to give Blackwood a night off to rest so he can get healthy.
Sharangovich, Zacha Enter COVID Protocols
As if the Devils needed more bad news yesterday, two of their top-nine forwards in Pavel Zacha and Yegor Sharangovich entered COVID protocols. But the good news is that both players are asymptomatic, per Devils reporter Amanda Stein. Assuming both players test negative, they’d be allowed to return to the Devils in five days under the league’s new COVID protocols
Zacha has five points in his last 19 games, so the few days off could serve him well, especially since he’s asymptomatic. The hope is he can find a groove once he returns to the lineup, even if it’s just in a middle-six role, because they need him to score more than he has lately.
As for Sharangovich, he was playing his best hockey of the season on a line with Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. He had four points in three games and 12 shots on goal since last Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres, his first game with Hughes and Bratt. In Sharangovich’s previous 10 games, he had three points and 14 shots on goal. There’s something to be said about playing on a line with the team’s two best players in Hughes and Bratt. It clearly sparked him, and it’d be a surprise if the team didn’t return to that unit once Sharangovich clears protocols.
The Devils may be shorthanded right now, but they’re still playing competitive hockey. They could have very much won last night’s game against the Bruins, so there’s no reason to get discouraged. Hischier could be back tomorrow. If not, then perhaps this weekend. If Zacha and Sharangovich test negative after five days, they could return by the start of next week. The Blue Jackets have been slumping lately, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. So there’s an opportunity for the Devils to get back in the win column right away tomorrow night.
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017