Quick Notes As New Jersey Devils Drop Two To Philly

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 26: Scott Wedgewood #41 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center on January 26, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 26: Scott Wedgewood #41 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center on January 26, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils are in the midst of a significant stretch, and the first pair of games did not go well. A good start is important for this team, clearly. This team needs to look at every game as a four-point affair, so they can not afford to lose to the Sabers this weekend. While they didn’t come away with even a point, it wasn’t all negatives against the Flyers and some players are still doing quite well.

On the offensive side of the puck, Jack Hughes went pointless but had his chances and was an absolute puck hound. Even in a loss and a pointless performance, he was a stud on the ice. His growth is noticeable and his compete level never waivered. Fellow top liner Kyle Palmieri continued to be snake-bitten and unlucky, but the goals will come. Hopefully they come sooner rather than later.

Jesper Bratt returned to the lineup on Thursday and played a solid game. It looked like he had his midseason legs and was fully ready, which is great news for the Devils. If he continues to play like he did in his first game back, expect him to show up on the score sheet this weekend.

Miles Wood continued to show he is actually a good NHL player. He has the wheels and the tenacity which looks to be tempered by good sense as he picked up another point. His line was shuffled in the second game against the Flyers. With Travis Zajac going on the COVID-19 protocol list, it’s unlikely we’ll see them together for a while.

As for the fourth line, Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian continue to be some of the most impressive players on the team when it comes to expectations and these two deserve to be in the lineup. McLeod even managed his first career goal on an amazing play by Miles Wood who drew a penalty and still kept on the puck when most players would have just let the play end to get the man advantage faster. Quickly, all three of these players who were projected to be fighting for fourth-line minutes or to get on the roster look to be carving out a nice spot in the lineup.

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On the defensive side of things, the Devils have two players who have stood out. Ty Smith is a monster in all ends of the rink and sits second in points by a rookie. Even in the defensive end he’s avoiding mistakes. Those he does make he is working hard to recover from. His effort, skating, and just about everything else is standing out again and again, so his growth will be pushing this roster forward just like Hughes’.

The other is, again, P.K. Subban who has been by far the most disappointing defender on this team. His fall from star to mediocre to bad has really been a story for a while now, but this could have been his redemption year with less pressure, a better defense core around him, and lower expectations. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to anything. In each game, Subban is taking awful penalties and is making decisions that is costing the Devils goals. Though it will likely not happen thanks to a $9 million price tag, the Devils should put all Subban options on the table, including making him a healthy scratch for a game.

With two massive games this weekend against a returning Taylor Hall, the whole team needs to be firing on all cylinders. Buffalo is one team that they should and need to beat to get points if they have playoff aspirations this season. Matchup wise, the Devils need to watch out for the high-end forwards but overall depth should be in favor of the black and red with how they have been playing lately. On the back end, Wedgewood will have to be sharp all game but with a solid game from the defenders, the Devils will be able to take home 3 or 4 points keeping them in the playoff picture.