Tonight the New Jersey Devils will play their first game in eight days. The break came at a good time for the team as they appear to be getting a few players back from injury. While some believe the season is a total loss, seeing the Devils are last in their division with 39 points, the team will look ahead to string together meaningful games. Prior to the puck drop in Pittsburgh, I thought it would be a good time to check in and see who is hot and who is not as they prepare for the last 32 games of the season.
Devils: Who Is Hot
The New Top Line of Sharangovich-Hughes-Mercer
While Jesper Bratt was out with an injury head coach Lindy Ruff put together a top line of Yegor Sharangovich, Jack Hughes, and Dawson Mercer. They played one game together against the Tampa Bay Lightning and combined for seven points (three goals, four assists). Mercer is a natural center but his versatile style of play complimented Hughes and provided entertainment for the fans inside Prudential Center.
It is no secret that the Devils will be looking for wingers, specifically a player who will compliment Hughes. Fans have seen Sharangovich play some of his best hockey on a line with Hughes, and Mercer’s creativity and hustle were the perfect compliments to complete the trio. Heading into tonight’s game Hughes is on a four-game point streak. Sharangovich is currently on a hot streak with seven points in his last four, and Mercer celebrated his first-ever three-point game against the Lightning.
Severson has become a very important member of the Devils’ blue line this season. He currently leads all defensemen in New Jersey with 27 points (six goals, 21 assists). He has seamlessly stepped up in the absence of Dougie Hamilton and has been able to quarterback the Devils’ power play. He logs the most ice time among his team averaging a little over 23 minutes.
It is strange to think there are rumors swirling that Severson could possibly be moved when he is arguably having the best season of his career. While fans may see him as being disposable, especially in his own zone, the coaching staff has another opinion entirely.
“Damon is not just an offensive D-man,” Assistant Coach Alain Nasreddine said in January. “He’s a guy that can play on both sides of the puck and be effective. That’s what we need him to do. It’s one thing to put up points, but for us, Damon’s (play defensively) he’s more valuable.”
Regardless of your opinion on the 6-foot-2 defenseman, his game has reached a new level this season, and being paired with Jonas Siegenthaler seems to have had a positive impact. Entering tonight’s contest he has six points in his last five games.
Devils: Who Is Not
Since his trade from Nashville, there was an expectation that P.K. Subban would be the solution to New Jersey’s blue line. Obviously, that was not the case and for some, they feel Subban has not worked out as the organization hoped. He has comfortably settled into being a depth defenseman for the Devils this season and while has not necessarily performed poorly he has not put up the offensive numbers that most anticipated.
Related: Devils: 4 Trade Destinations for P.K. Subban
Since Jan. 2 he has five points (one goal, four assists). In 47 games this season, he has scored three goals, and since coming to New Jersey the most goals he has scored is seven in one season. They say expectations lead to disappointment and that has summed up Subban’s time in New Jersey.
This is not a dig at Jon Gillies and Nico Daws who have been thrown into an unexpected situation. The goaltending has been an area of concern since October and unfortunately, both the aforementioned players are left trying to stay afloat and give their team a chance to win. Daws has played four career NHL games and Gillies appeared in 13 games prior to his trade to New Jersey. They are both doing the best they can considering the circumstances, but a lack of consistency has hurt the team at all positions, and the goaltenders are no exception.
Earlier today Coach Ruff provided an update on Mackenzie Blackwood but did not provide a timetable for his return, just a hope that the team will get him back. Jonathan Bernier, who the Devils acquired in the offseason, is under contract until next season but his future is unknown as he is healing from hip surgery.
The Devils will face the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at PPG Paints Arena for the final time this season. It will be New Jersey’s 51st game of the season as they hope to improve upon their 17-28-5 season record.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.