A recent surge for the New Jersey Devils has almost certainly arrived too late to save their playoff hopes. But the Devils will look to continue wreaking havoc with contenders on Saturday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche.
Both teams were idle Friday after opening the new decade with victories Thursday, when the visiting Devils edged the New York Islanders 2-1, and the host Avalanche snapped a three-game losing streak with a 7-3 rout of the Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues.
The win was the season-high third in a row for the Devils, their longest streak since a three-game run from Dec. 27-31, 2018, and extended their point streak to five games (4-0-1), their longest of the season and longest since an eight-game streak from March 23 through April 5, 2018.
While the Devils’ first two wins in their current point streak came at the expense of fellow non-contenders in the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators, New Jersey ended 2019 and began 2020 by earning a pair of one-goal wins over two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
New Jersey edged the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins 3-2 in a shootout on New Year’s Eve afternoon before outlasting the Islanders, who are tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division despite the absence of star rookie center Jack Hughes (upper-body injury). Interim head coach Alain Nasreddine said Friday that Hughes practiced but will not play Saturday.
Even with the recent success — the Devils are 6-2-1 dating to Dec. 14 — New Jersey remained 13 points out of a playoff spot entering play Friday. But the spirits are far higher in a locker room that grew deflated during a 9-17-5 start that included the firing of head coach John Hynes and the trade of former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall.
“We’re skating and we’re playing with confidence,” Devils center Nico Hischier said after Thursday’s win. “We’re making plays if they’re there. From one guy to the last guy, everybody digs in. Everybody wants to climb the standings. We’re playing really good hockey right now.”
The Avalanche enjoyed a far better start than the Devils but lost six of their final eight games (2-5-1) in December, a span in which Colorado suffered five multi-goal losses.
The Avalanche hope they righted the ship on Thursday, when they scored the game’s first three goals and added four in a row in a span of a little less than 15 minutes bridging the second and third periods against St. Louis, the defending Stanley Cup champion.
The win also, at least momentarily, broke a tie for second place in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars, and kept the Avalanche five points clear of the final wild-card spot.
“That’s a really good team, so huge points,” Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer said after making 24 saves Thursday night. “It was a good statement game for us. We need to keep collecting points and playing the right way. You miss a point here and there, it’s going to cost you in the end.”
–Field Level Media