The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (24-37-5) at the Boston Bruins (41-20-5). SBN Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder
The Time: 7:00 PM
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
Skaters Getting to Full Strength
Miles Wood returned to the lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, playing 11:46 and making an immediate impact on the flow of the game. His hip did not seem to deter him from speeding down the ice to negate an icing, creating scoring chances for himself and the team, and at one point he delivered a huge check in the defensive zone to free up the puck. The Devils missed this element from Wood, and Lindy Ruff told Amanda Stein that he thinks Wood felt good physically the morning after - an important marker for whether he was actually ready to return.
Lindy said Miles Wood was slotted in on the second power-play unit in his first game back but "our first power play had so much zone-time we never really got to the second power-play (unit)."— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) March 30, 2022
In addition to Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha has been trying to return from an upper-body injury since Quinn Hughes crosschecked him into the boards in their last game against Vancouver. While Pavel Zacha was spotted at the beginning of a practice a few days ago, he was held out of practice yesterday.
Pavel Zacha was held off the ice today after leaving yesterday's session early. #NJDevils Lindy Ruff saying that he "thought he would be a little further along."— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) March 30, 2022
The only other Devils we are waiting on to return are Janne Kuokkanen from a wrist injury that has held him out since February, and Tyce Thompson from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for most of the season. They have been practicing on the fifth line with Mason Geertsen in practice.
#NJDevils lines and pairings from todays practice: pic.twitter.com/MEy7k5eLKx— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) March 29, 2022
Things We Want to See Down the Stretch
At this point of the season, all the Devils really have to do is monitor player progress and make evaluations for the upcoming offseason. One of these concerns is the goaltending position. While Stein reported that Nico Daws is occupying his own net in practice, Andrew Hammond and Jon Gillies are sharing one. I think all Devils fans, and apparently Lindy Ruff, would agree that we have seen enough of Jon Gillies to determine his services are not needed for the NHL level. Andrew Hammond seems like he is close to a return at this point, so I would like to see him backup sooner rather than later.
I would also like to see Janne Kuokkanen and Tyce Thompson get a couple games before the season ends. I do not believe Kuokkanen is as bad as he was this season, and I would like to know if he would be able to supplant Andreas Johnsson on the third line (which would allow the Devils to trade Johnsson and his salary in the offseason so they can pick up either a higher end forward or another defenseman). Tyce Thompson might be further from a return, but I have to imagine he's not too far off given he's been in practice for a few weeks.
Lastly, it would be nice to see several players hit some milestones. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, with 54 and 47 points respectively, should hit 60 (and in Jack's case, possibly 70) by the end of the season. Jesper Bratt, who already has 65, could get to as high as 80 points given his scoring pace. Damon Severson, Dawson Mercer, and Yegor Sharangovich are also close to 40 points, and it would be great to see Severson beat his career high of 39 by a good margin while Sharangovich gets to above 20 goals once more.
To add to Jack Hughes' excellent season, he's also approaching the all-time single season scoring lead for players with zero penalty minutes. This is remarkable, as Duncan Field notes below, since Jack Hughes has an extremely active stick and regularly works to strip the puck away from opponents. However, Jack always puts himself in good position to make these plays with his skating ability. You don't see him hooking anyone's legs or hands - even when he's behind. He is very patient defensively, and if this holds up - it could be a fun piece of NHL trivia in the future.
For anyone interested in how big of a deal Hughes' season is - he's on track to have the best-ever season with 0 PIM, while still being top-30 in the league for takeawayshttps://t.co/PfmlZrypxS— Duncan Field (@DMRField) March 30, 2022
What do you think of tonight's game? Do you think Kuokkanen should draw in for Johnsson or Vesey? How about Thompson for McLeod? Will we ever see players like Reilly Walsh and Nikita Okhotiuk? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.