The New Jersey Devils were down a defenseman in a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday. Brendan Smith exited the game with a lower body injury in the first period when he collided with Charlie McAvoy. The Devils were forced to play the rest of the game with five defensemen. After the game, coach Lindy Ruff revealed Smith has a leg injury and would be evaluated in New Jersey.
A few months ago, Brendan Smith being injured wouldn’t have seemed catastrophic for the Devils. However, due to injuries of top-pairing defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Siegenthaler, the Devils were already thin on the blue line. Simon Nemec came up after Hamilton’s injury and has been the team’s best defenseman recently. But Hamilton’s production is greatly missed. He will likely be out for the rest of the regular season.
Smith played a few games as a winger due to the pile-up of injuries to forwards, as well. The Devils are currently missing Jack Hughes, Timo Meier, Tomas Nosek, and Ondrej Palat. Nolan Foote has been out all season with no update on his status.
Siegenthaler’s broken foot forced more changes to the D-man pairings. With Siegenthaler down, Smith shifted back to defenseman. The Devils have been running with pairings of Smith/Nemec, Luke Hughes/John Marino, and Kevin Bahl/Colin Miller.
It remains to be seen if Smith will miss time. It would be a major problem for the Devils if he does. His grit and physical presence have been important this season. Smith is extremely valuable on the penalty kill. Losing Smith would also create lineup trouble. Without him, there’s a hole on the left side of the blue line. Right now, the roster includes Cal Foote as a backup defenseman. Foote is right-handed.
The Devils have a loaded schedule this week, including another back-to-back this weekend. They play the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. If Smith is unavailable, it will be interesting to see how the Devils shuffle the lineup. A trade to address the struggling defense could be on the horizon either way.
New Jersey has faced a staggering amount of adversity from injuries this season. At this rate, it’s amazing they’re still in the playoff conversation.