Stadium Series is More than Just a Spectacle for the New Jersey Devils

With an eye on the Eastern Conference Wild Card race and the Metropolitan Division standings, the Stadium Series is shaping up to be about more than just the special event experience for the New Jersey Devils.

Feb 12, 2024; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Preparations at MetLife Stadium
Feb 12, 2024; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Preparations at MetLife Stadium / TODAY Sports

The 2024 NHL Stadium Series is a big event for the NHL, but the game carries a much heavier weight for the New Jersey Devils than expected at the beginning of the season. Four months into the season, the Devils sit two points out of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Detroit Red Wings. They trail the Philadelphia Flyers by six points in the Metropolitan Division, with two games in hand. The Devils and Flyers each have one more game before the big match-up at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on February 17.

To showcase the state of New Jersey at the Stadium Series, MetLife Stadium is being turned into “NHL Stadium Series Park.” The ice will be surrounded by grass featuring park benches, picnic tables, paths, and more. While other states might be known for pond hockey, the goal is to show that New Jersey is an ideal place for street hockey. 

Street rinks will feature local artists representing each team participating in the Stadium Series. The homegrown Jonas Brothers are headlining the entertainment on Saturday, performing before the game and during the second intermission. The Gaslight Anthem will perform during the first intermission. The overall experience of an outdoor game will be special. But beyond the spectacle of the Stadium Series, this happens to be a very timely divisional match-up where the Devils can make a huge statement.

With two months left of the 2023-24 season, not only are the Devils trying to close the gap between teams above them, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Flyers, but they’re also fighting off the teams below them. The New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, and Pittsburgh Penguins are all right behind the Devils in the standings. Two huge divisional points are up for grabs on Saturday night.

The Devils have fallen short of expectations this season, but they’ve turned the tide lately. They look like a different team than before the All-Star Break. Despite falling to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Devils pulled out a crucial point in that overtime loss against a division rival last week. Now, the Devils are looking to build on victories over the Seattle Kraken and Nashville Predators earlier this week. Despite a dreadful record in back-to-backs, the Devils prevailed two nights in a row, pulling out a gutsy win on Tuesday night against the Predators after falling behind early.

The team has gotten healthier with the returns of Jack Hughes, Tomas Nosek, and Brendan Smith. Additionally, the Devils’ defense has transformed, and goaltending has been more consistent. Despite not making a start for two and a half weeks, Nico Daws stepped in and gave the Devils not one but two nights of solid goaltending in back-to-back wins.

Which players might be big contributors in the Stadium Series? Jack Hughes will be in action, heating up after recently returning from the Injured Reserve. When Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are on their A game at the same time, the Devils can be hard to beat. Timo Meier and John Marino look more like themselves than they have all season. Tyler Toffoli leads the Devils in goals, while Jesper Bratt leads the team in points. Simon Nemec has been a revelation in his rookie season, and Luke Hughes is in the Calder Trophy conversation.

If the Devils can keep up the momentum they’ve built since the All-Star Break, they’ll really start to look like a team that deserves to be in the playoffs. The weather will be frigid at the outdoor game, so it's fitting that it’s time for the Devils to go on a heater.