It’s safe to say that the Devils have officially hit a rough patch in their season. In their last 10 games, the Devils are 2-8-0, dropping eight of their last nine matchups. Their specialty teams continue to provide subpar production, Blackwood has been inconsistent lately, and Ryan Murray has been a healthy scratch for them the last couple of games. It seems as though nothing can go right for the Devils, and they recently just suffered another devastating blow.
Their newly named captain, Nico Hischier, recently suffered a face injury that will keep him out for quite some time. The injury was a complete freak accident made at the hands of defenseman PK Subban. In a game against the Washington Capitals (Feb. 27), during the course of the third period, Subban fired off a shot from the point area, and unfortunately, the puck hit Hischier’s face shield.
Ultimately, his face shield was able to absorb some of the strong momentum from the puck, but not enough for him to avoid some of the impacts of it. Once he got hit, he went down onto the ice immediately and was holding his face. The referees quickly blew their whistles, and play stopped immediately. He was bleeding extensively, but luckily, the trainers were able to get to him quickly with a towel.
What gave the Devils’ organization some hope that the injury wasn’t as serious as it looked was that he was able to stand up and walk towards the locker room under his own power and didn’t require any additional assistance. Sometimes when an athlete is able to do that, it usually signifies that their respective injury isn’t that bad. However, a couple of days went by, and Hischier was still nowhere to be seen. There was a lot of concern and speculation amongst the fan base as to how severe his injury truly was.
When asked to give an update surrounding Hischier’s injury at a Devils practice, head coach Lindy Ruff stated, “No update, but no bad news either.” While his answer was vague, it gave the Devils fan base a small amount of hope that maybe Hischier would be listed as day-to-day. These hopes and rumors were quickly put to rest because, a couple of hours before their game against the New York Rangers (Mar. 4), there were reports released revealing the true severity of Hischier’s face injury: he apparently suffered a sinus fracture due to the puck’s impact.
The Devils officially placed him on injured reserve list, declaring him to be out week-to-week. To give some reference as to how long he could potentially be out, Hischier was listed week-to-week back in late December due to a lower leg injury that he suffered while working out at his home in Switzerland.
As a result, he missed all of training camp and didn’t make his season debut until Feb. 20 against the Buffalo Sabres. Albeit, he did have a setback due to testing positive for COVID-19 in early February, but his time missed with his respective leg injury was still extensive. His absence is a big blow for a struggling Devils team. Despite being named the youngest head captain in the entire NHL, it seems as though Hischier cannot catch a break. He has only appeared in five games, registering three points (two goals and one assist) as a result.
People are starting to notice that Hischier’s numbers seem to be heading downwards. But the argument can be made that since his games played have been going down, it results in his personal statistics going down, as well. A shortened injury-plagued season certainly won’t help him repeat his rookie year stats.
What’s Next in the Wake of Hischier’s Absence?
Once again, the Devils are going to have to adapt during Hischier’s absence. One of the worst parts is that line combination of himself, Jesper Bratt, and Pavel Zacha were on a bit of a hot streak prior to his injury. Considering the fact that the Devils did relatively well without him, Bratt, and Sami Vatanen at one point, it’s not entirely impossible for them to not break out of their recent losing skid. In the wake of his injury, Janne Kuokkanen was brought back up to the main roster once again to help fill some space.
So that’s another obstacle that the Devils are going to have to overcome. With them recently demoting Michael McLeod to their taxi squad, they’re already in the mix of experimenting with different line combinations. It will be an interesting few weeks for the Devils organization as they look to right the ship with Hischier out as the trade deadline approaches in one month.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Interestingly, he is also one of the only full-time black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his line of work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. He first began writing for his high school’s paper at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy. Aside from hockey, he also covers the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) for Belly Up Sports.