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Jesper Bratt Fractured Jaw by Accident in Thursday’s Practice; Drew Stafford Signed

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Bad news hit the New Jersey Devils right before their regular season opener in Sweden against Edmonton. Swedish right winger Jesper Bratt took a puck off a crossbar to the jaw in Thursday’s practice and fractured it. He is now out and Drew Stafford signed. This post reacts to this morning’s Devils news.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt will be out for a while with a fractured jaw.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Good morning. I have some bad news: Jesper Bratt fractured his jaw in practice yesterday. The New Jersey Devils have announced the injury and that Bratt is on injured reserve this morning. Not to be flippant, but it was off a bad break:

That’s right, the first injury of the 2018-19 campaign was from a total accident. Pucks do not always hit crossbars to begin with, much less rebounding off the crossbar and directly striking someone in the jaw with enough force to do some damage.

This injury especially sucks for Bratt. First, taking a puck to the jaw really hurts. Second, it was an accidental bounce off iron that caused it. No malice. No check that went wrong. Nothing to really blame; it was an accident. Third, I’ve never had my jaw fractured, but I would have to think it is rather uncomfortable and painful. Fourth, Bratt is a young player who was about to start his second NHL season after the first one started off well and ended poorly. He earned a top-six role in preseason; an opportunity to show that he can improve upon his rookie season. That will have to wait. Fifth, and most importantly, Bratt’s injury will keep him out from playing in his home country. The Devils have not played many games outside of North America; and they have not played a regular season game in Sweden before. This may be the only time this game happens and Bratt was injured less than 72 hours before the puck drops in Gothenburg, Like Nico Hischier and Mirco Mueller on Monday against SC Bern, being able to play in your home country is a special feeling. Knowing that the crowd is largely behind you, being able to prepare closer to home, and participating in a game that does not happen often. Bratt cannot play in it and I feel especially bad for him with this injury.

There is no reported timetable on how long he is out. I will not speculate; but since he is on IR, he will be out for the next seven days - which means he definitely will not play tomorrow or at the home opener next Thursday. Bratt did show up in Friday’s practice in a suit and interacted with the fans. That’s good. But I figure he’d rather be in uniform and practicing for tomorrow’s game. I do too.

This injury sucks for the Devils. Not that there’s a good time for a player to be out with a fractured jaw, but the very beginning of the season is a really tough time as the team had a set plan with Bratt to start the season. Bratt was a shoe-in as the second line’s right wing; skating with Marcus Johansson and Pavel Zacha. It was a line that moved the puck well in preseason and could take . Plus, Bratt was used on special teams last season and could have been planned to be on the second units of both special teams like last season. Now, there is a hole in the roster. Plan A is out the door, the Devils need to go to Plan B.

As per Amanda Stein’s notes from today’s practice, Stefan Noesen was moved up to take Bratt’s place on that line while Jean-Sebastian Dea skated on the fourth line. There’s your plan B. . I would have to think the Devils will start the season with those combinations. It remains to be seen who takes a power play or penalty kill role on a second unit, assuming Bratt was there, so do not be surprised if you see a new or different face there. No disrespect to Noesen, but I wonder how the line will function. Maybe it’ll work out; Noesen was a responsible 5-on-5 player last season and he is far from slow. Can he be offensive enough to make it a threatening line? We’ll see.

Still, Bratt’s injury exposes the depth at right wing. Drew Stafford, who is a right winger, remains with the team although he is unsigned. Until this morning. In response to the injury, the Devils have announced that they have signed Drew Stafford to a one-way contract for one season worth $850,000.

Stafford is depth at this point. It’s not a bad idea to have him as a thirteenth or fourteenth forward. Better that than keeping a younger, possibly-developing player as a scratched player when he could be playing somewhere. A quick summary of Stafford: he’s got a good shot, he’s good in the shootout, he’s not fast, he’s not good in the run of play as he used to be, and he’s not good off the puck. As a bottom-six winger, he can get by; but he’s going to battle with Quenneville and Dea for minutes for the time being. The money is whatever - it is not much, it is only for one season, and the Devils still have more cap space than everyone except Carolina. I’m not surprised he was signed since, again, Bratt’s injury exposes the depth at right wing and Stafford was hanging around the team anyway. Better that than make a trade or call someone up that could be playing but to just be around like Nick Lappin or Michael McLeod.

This morning’s news of Bratt’s was not good. What is your take on it? How badly will it impact the team? What do you make of the decision to sign Stafford in light of Bratt’s injury? Please leave your answers and thoughts about Bratt and Stafford in the comments. Thank you for reading.