The New Jersey Devils continued their win streak on Thursday night. They beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime, making it eight wins in a row. The Devils have been riding high. Nothing could knock them down except… another season of goalie injuries.
And Devils fans faced that reality again on Thursday night when Vitek Vanecek walked down the tunnel in the third period. The Devils went on to win the game thanks to Akira Schmid in a relief role, but now the Devils could be facing something a little worse than a Thursday night loss.
Vanecek was likely hurt on a play when Thomas Chabot went full bore into his crease. He was on the ice for several moments after Chabot’s knee took him out. Chico Resch talked about the possibility of a neck injury, and there’s always the possibility of a concussion.
The good news is Vanecek remained in the game. He eventually left, but at least he could collect himself and stay in the game for a spell.
After the game, head coach Lindy Ruff said he had “no concern about Vitek (Vanecek).” That’s good to hear, but we need more information before we are completely in the clear. The Devils rely entirely on Vanecek now that Mackenzie Blackwood is out for three to six weeks. The Devils called up Schmid from the Utica Comets after his successful start to the season.
Schmid got his first NHL win after an unsuccessful stint in the NHL last season. He stopped all seven shots he faced, including a 4-on-3 overtime power play. He kept the Devils alive, and Nico Hischier secured his win when he tipped a Dougie Hamilton shot home to win the game.
The Devils need good news on Vanecek, and they need it before Saturday night’s tilt against the Arizona Coyotes. They could survive with Schmid in net for that game, but they need to know what happens next.
There’s a possibility they claim Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie Laurent Brossoit. He went on waivers earlier Thursday. His issue is his contract. Brossoit costs $2.32 million against the cap. With Jonathan Bernier on LTIR and Ondrej Palat eligible, maybe the Devils could make it work. It would be something they have to figure out later, making it nearly impossible to make a trade later in the season.
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The Devils need Ruff’s words to be true. Hopefully, Ruff wasn’t speaking out of turn when he said he wasn’t worried about his now-starting goalie. If Vanecek isn’t actually hurt, then the team can continue this winning streak, and life on top of the Metropolitan Division can continue. If more than meets the eye, the Devils could be facing another 2021-22 situation. The Devils are already up to three starting goalies, and they will eventually make it four when Jonathan Bernier returns. Things will be in good shape if it doesn’t go beyond that.