One of the concerns from the New Jersey Devils 4-3 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals was the status of Dougie Hamilton. The defenseman took a puck to the face and left the game. He would not return and even went to a hospital. The Devils announced a statement this afternoon to update the world on his condition. And they also dropped four more statements to go with it. It is a heap of bad news that impacts tonight’s game in Boston and at least the next few - at best. In summary:
- Dougie Hamilton left the game on Sunday due to a broken jaw. He will get surgery on it tomorrow. His timeline for a return is indefinite.
- Nico Hischier, who not only played in the whole game but scored the game winner in overtime, is out due to a “lower body” injury. Could it be his foot? Could it be something else? It is not officially known. His timeline for a return is also indefinite.
- Jonathan Bernier has been out since early December with a hip injury. He had surgery on that hip and will be out for the rest of the season.
- Yegor Sharangovich and Pavel Zacha entered the COVID-19 protocol. Per Amanda Stein, they are asymptomatic so they will be out for five days at best. This means they will be out for tonight’s game, Thursday’s game against Columbus, and Saturday’s game in Columbus (unless the five days is to the hour, otherwise they might get into that game. I am unsure how specific the protocol timeline is in this case).
That is just a heap of bad news for the Devils. We know what this team may look like without Hischier given he was out for a good part of December on COVID protocol. It was bad. While the Devils defended admirably in Washington without Hamilton, the blueline is absolutely weaker when he is not there and his absence will loom large. I expect that to be bad. Bernier was providing good support for Mackenzie Blackwood through November. The Devils have, sort of, got used to his absence. But it does mean more pressure on Blackwood to perform and also on the likes of Jon Gilles and Akira Schmid, if and when they have to enter the crease. Sharangovich has been playing quite well as of late, or at least produced quite well as of late; and Zacha is Zacha. Their absences do not help either for the next two to three games. Again, this is a lot of bad news at once. I think the general sentiment among the People Who Matter is either something I cannot write here or an overall lament. In short: I agree. This is terrible.
So what will the Devils do about it?
Starting from the back out, the Devils have Schmid and Gilles available to backup Blackwood. Again, Bernier has been out long enough to know what the Devils intend to do: lean on Blackwood. Regardless of recent form or horrible gaffes, there really is not a better option in the system. For defense, Christian Jaros will draw into the lineup tonight in Boston per Amanda Stein. That makes him the #7 defenseman on this roster. Jaros has yet to establish himself in New Jersey. He has not been particularly good or even halfway decent in a handful of appearances. But, again, he has suffered through injury and COVID protocols that could have denied him some opportunties to set himself. If Jaros falters or the Devils need another defender, Kevin Bahl is on the taxi squad and presumably ready.
At forward, Tomas Tatar left the COVID protocol today. Tatar will play tonight so he covers one of the three new spots opened up at forward. Sharangovich and Zacha should be back by next week’s game at the latest barring any further developments and illnesses. The Devils can presumably get by with fill-ins. I would think Alexander Holtz or Nolan Foote, both on the taxi squad, may get a game or two in place of those two. The big loss is, again, Hischier. There really is not a good way to fill in his role in the lineup. I do not think anyone in Utica can do the spot duty for Hischier. Again, we know this from last month. The Devils may just have to deal with it as best as they can. This means Dawson Mercer should get more offensive opportunities. This may also mean (sigh) that Michael McLeod’s responsibilities will also grow. The best case scenario is that Hischier’s injury ends up being minor and this is an issue that impacts a week or two instead of a month or more. Of course, with the lack of actual local media, we will only know about it when the team decides to let us know about it. (Aside: Why don’t you do it? Simple answer: Circumstances makes it such that I cannot.) Still, Hischier’s absence will loom large at forward as Hamilton’s will at defense.
Oh, and I guess we’re going to see Mason Geertsen get some minutes too since he is on the active roster and available.
I understand that the proverbial cat has been out of the bag, so you may have already shared your frustration at the Devils essentially getting kneecapped by today’s combo pack of bad news. Still, what is your take on this? What do you think the Devils should do about it? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.