Devils News & Rumors: Winning Road Trip, Bastian’s Return & More

The New Jersey Devils remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Carolina Hurricanes. The team has earned a record of 29-12-4 through the first 45 games of the 2022-23 campaign. Their 29 wins are the most in the division and second-best in the league tied with both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets.

New Jersey Devils News and Rumours
New Jersey Devils News and Rumours (The Hockey Writers)

The Devils concluded their longest road trip of the season on Jan. 19 and are back in New Jersey. The team held a noon practice on Jan. 21 ahead of another crucial Metropolitan Division matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, Jan. 22. Before we look at ahead at their next game, let’s take a better look at the past two weeks.

A Successful Road Trip

Any time a team can go on the road and return with nine points out of 10, it is considered a success. The Devils came back to New Jersey with a 4-0-1 record, earning victories over the Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks.

Related: 6 Takeaways From Devils’ Dominant 6-2 Victory Over Ducks

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Per NHL PR, New Jersey is the first team in NHL history to sweep an Eastern and Western Canadian road trip, in addition to a California road trip. For the second time in franchise history, the Devils swept the three California teams with the last time occurring during the 2000-01 season.

Even though the Devils earned four victories, head coach Lindy Ruff was frustrated with his team’s overall play.

“We found different ways to win. Turns out to be a good trip. You’re happy anytime you can get that many points,” Ruff said after the team’s overtime loss to the Kraken. “We’re not happy with the way we’re playing. Lost too many battles and gave up too many situations that were preventable. I think it finally caught up with us tonight.”

Good teams will find ways to win, but that does not mean there are not things to continue to work on. Sluggish starts remain an issue for Ruff’s squad, and even though they earned nine points, the head coach will continue to hold players accountable, as he feels right now the issue is effort and determination.

Nathan Bastian Returns from Injury

The Devils finally have a healthy forward group. Ahead of the club’s game against the Kraken, the team announced forward Nathan Bastian was activated off injured reserve. The Ontario native missed 22 games due to a shoulder injury and returned against the team that drafted him during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

“Today is a good day,” Bastian said after the team’s morning skate at Climate Pledge Arena. “I feel good. I don’t think I’d be in the spot I was with the chance of playing tonight if I didn’t feel good. A lot of work went into it. I feel good now.”

Prior to his injury, the 6-foot-4 winger carved out a unique role for himself as a key member of the team’s “BMW Line” along with Michael McLeod and Miles Wood. He additionally was utilized on the power play and penalty kill.

Nathan Bastian New Jersey Devils
Nathan Bastian, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“He was part of our power play, our net-front guy, great on retrievals,” Ruff said of Bastian. “One of the guys physically that can control the walls. Defensively, he’s a guy we counted on to kill penalties and in a lot of tough D-zone situations.”

In his return, the coaching staff reunited the BMW Line, as Bastian logged only 6:48 minutes of ice time. The forward had two shots on goal, three hits, and one takeaway. After the game, Devils’ reporter Catherine Bogart asked Ruff the reason for his limited playing time.

“If you saw the game, that line got caught in their own zone two or three times and couldn’t get out of their own way.”

Fans have seen Ruff shorten his bench more than once this season when he was not happy with a line’s play. After the Devils’ game against Seattle, Ruff said things will have to change and it will be interesting to see what moves the head coach will make, and how it could potentially impact Bastian and the rest of the BMW Line.

Trade Deadline Speculation Begins

The trade deadline is March 3 and the rumors have already begun to swirl. Most news outlets agree New Jersey will be a buyer and the franchise has already been attached to more than a few players.

Bo Horvat and Timo Meier

According to a recent episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast Elliotte Friedman stated that “New Jersey is around something. … I think they want to do things.”

San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier makes a lot of sense for New Jersey. Along with the Nico Hischier connection, he would be an excellent addition to the team’s top six. The biggest concern is Meier’s contract. The Devils will most likely be in for another difficult negotiation with Jesper Bratt’s agent, and if general manager Tom Fitzgerald can lock Bratt into a long-term deal, there won’t be a lot of flexibility to sign Meier.

Timo Meier - Sharks
Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks, Oct. 9, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It is worth noting that as of Jan. 20, the Canucks did not give Bo Horvat’s agent permission to talk to teams about an extension. The 27-year-old would be an interesting addition to New Jersey, but may not be a top contender. According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, “The belief is the Boston Bruins, Seattle Kraken, Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild are among the teams who have inquired about Horvat with Vancouver, with varying levels of interest.”

The Devils are back in action on Jan. 22, when they host the Penguins at Prudential Center. It will be the second meeting between the teams as New Jersey earned the first win of the season series with a 4-2 victory. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for all the latest surrounding the Devils.

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