New Jersey Devils: Miles Wood Proves His Worth Again

New Jersey Devils left wing Miles Wood (44): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils left wing Miles Wood (44): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils lost a game on Friday night. That’s news this season because the Devils aren’t losing like they used to. There’s usually a reason for the losses, and there was plenty of blame to go around on Friday night against the New York Islanders. However, one thing that’s pretty easy to blame is someone who was missing from the lineup. The Devils lost Miles Wood in the second period, and the team lost a considerable amount of bite for the rest of the game.

The Devils are missing Nathan Bastian for a considerable amount of time. He clearly has a pretty serious shoulder injury. This hurts the team’s impact line, which changes how Lindy Ruff chooses his lineup. It hurts the Devils’ ability to choose defensive matchups. The Devils have tried to deal with that by adding Fabian Zetterlund to that line. He’s done what he could, but he’s not Bastian. They are built similarly, but they play different games.

Then, when you take Miles Wood off the line, the impact is almost gone. Wood’s combination of speed and grit is hard to find anywhere. It’s even harder to replace with depth.

Wood played just under six minutes with Zetterlund and Michael McLeod on Friday before he was injured. They had more high-danger offensive chances than they allowed. They didn’t allow any goals. With Wood on the shelf, Ruff was forced to rely on the Jack Hughes line and Nico Hischier line. Hughes actually ended up breaking an NHL record for longest shift. That wasn’t happening if Wood was in the game.

It might sound strange, but Wood’s absence impacts all the other lines. That’s why it was so good to see Wood back on the ice for practice on Sunday.

The hit was huge, but it’s good to see Wood is back on the ice and ready to rock. The Devils rely heavily on their impact line. Wood has only seen five goals scored against him this season. He’s been on the ice for 15 goals at 5v5. He’s only allowed two high-danger goals while he’s been on the ice, and he’s seen 12 high-danger goals scored (the best averages on the team, according to Natural Stat Trick).

Wood’s line is out there to hold leads, and it gives a good balance to the lineup. Without Wood, Ruff relies heavily on his two best players. That’s only going to work for so long. Leaning on Hughes and Hischier might eventually lead to an injury.

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The Devils were without Wood last season, and we saw what happened. They were pretty terrible. At the time, we weren’t aware of Wood’s impact on this lineup. His unique skillset allows Ruff to play his game. His speed is a game changer at a moment’s notice. The Devils need that, and it’s great news they will likely have it starting on Monday evening.