The New Jersey Devils’ first game in 16 days began with a fight and ended with a three-goal third period. But the chaos could really start Thursday night, when the Devils are scheduled to visit the Boston Bruins.
The Devils returned to action Tuesday after a coronavirus hiatus by beating host New York Rangers 5-2. The Bruins have not played since Saturday, when their 10-point streak ended in a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders in Uniondale, NY.
Nineteen Devils players were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list and at least eight players, including goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who was the first New Jersey player on the COVID-19 list on January 21, fought. against the coronavirus between a 5-3 win over Buffalo Sabers on January 31 and victory on Tuesday.
The Devils still had four players on the COVID-19 roster Tuesday night, but they were never behind the Rangers, who played five games while New Jersey was on hiatus.
Devils center Michael McLeod and Rangers left winger Chris Kreider fought 29 seconds in the first period after McLeod leveled Mika Zibanejad on the benches. The teams scored twice each in the second before New Jersey produced a flurry of three goals in the final 10 minutes of the third.
“We talked a lot about the opportunity we had, that we had a lot of excuses for maybe not playing well, and I told the team that we had to find a reason to win,” Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said Tuesday night. . “We came out well and played a strong game, a very tight game.”
Now the demons just need to do it, over and over and over again. The game against the Rangers marked the beginning of an 83-day span in which New Jersey is scheduled to play 47 games.
“The practices of the whole team are pretty well almost done,” Ruff said.
On Thursday, the Devils will face the well-rested Bruins, who are unlikely to be in high spirits after absorbing only their second regulation loss of the season on Saturday. Boston is 0-2-0 against the Islanders and 10-0-2 against everyone else.
The Bruins entered Wednesday with the most points in the Eastern Conference, but their fast start has come despite an offense. Boston has scored 12 of its 42 goals through the power play, but has 0 of 10 in power play opportunities in the last four games, a span in which it has scored just eight goals overall.
The four days off between games allowed head coach Bruce Cassidy to play with the Bruins’ lines. During Monday’s practice, Cassidy placed Jake DeBrusk on the top line in place of David Pastrnak, who skated on the second line.
Pastrnak is tied for second with the Bruins with three uniform-force goals and tied for fourth with 10 points, but Cassidy said he expected the mix to have a trickle-down effect. DeBrusk is yet to score in nine games after scoring 19 goals in 65 regular-season games last year.
“Hopefully it rips out both lines,” Cassidy said. “Maybe this will make both lines consistently score.”
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.