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Game Preview #67: New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins

With not too many games left to play, the Devils go to Boston tonight.

Bruins vs Devils
Damon Severson had a rough game against the Canadiens, but hopefully he bounces back tonight.
Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.