The New Jersey Devils have a rugged stretch of games this week, beginning with a trip to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Wednesday.
The Devils, who have lost four of their past five games, host Columbus Friday and Buffalo Saturday.
New Jersey’s lone victory the past two weeks came last Thursday. The Devils won at Pittsburgh 5-2, then fell at home to the New York Rangers 5-3 on Saturday.
Winning the 50-50 battles on the ice was the key in those two games, according to coach Lindy Ruff.
“The biggest difference in the Pittsburgh game was we came up with a lot of pucks,” he said. “We broke the puck out easy, we got the puck out early on. I think if we stay down the road winning those battles, we’ll be in a real good place.”
A major development in the matchup with the Rangers was the return of Jack Hughes. The high-scoring forward, who missed five games due to a shoulder injury, had a goal and an assist to increase his season point total to 22 in 11 games.
“We’re in a rough stretch of hockey right now, including (Saturday),” Hughes said. “That’s a game that really good teams win. And we’re not there right now. That’s something that we’ll have to get back to. We’ve done it before.
“We just have to sharpen up – our top guys all the way to the bottom. We’re 16 games in. We have a lot of runway. This isn’t our final product.”
The Devils will be playing the Red Wings for the second time this season. Hughes scored twice as New Jersey won its season opener 4-3 at visiting Detroit’s expense.
The Red Wings returned home after playing two games in the Global Series at Stockholm, Sweden. They lost 5-4 to Ottawa in overtime on Thursday, then squandered a two-goal, third-period lead as Toronto won 3-2.
Swedish native Lucas Raymond scored in both games.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” forward David Perron said. “I think for Lucas, I thought he played pretty good hockey in scoring two goals in his home country, that has to be pretty special for him. We’re happy about that.
“Getting a point (Thursday) was good for our team and it could have been a very special week if we won Friday.”
Their No. 1 goaltender didn’t play in either contest. Ville Husso returned to Detroit early due to the birth of his first child.
Husso owns a 6-3-1 record despite a subpar 3.61 goals-against average and .885 save percentage.
“I’m still winning games, so I think that’s the big thing, but of course you don’t want to let four goals in every game,” Husso said. “Focus on what I can do better.”
Husso watched the games in Sweden from afar and hopes the team can bounce back this week. The Wings play at Boston Friday, then host Minnesota Sunday.
“Unfortunately, only one point (in Sweden), but the guys battled,” Husso said. “They got to enjoy the Sweden part as well. I wish we would have got more. It’s a long season so we just got to get ready for the next game.”
–Field Level Media