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Game Preview #11: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks

With the loss of Jack Hughes, the Devils enter a Chicago game down their two top centers. Can they overcome the loss, or will they fall to a 4-6-0 Blackhawks team with Connor Bedard?

NHL: NOV 03 Devils at Blues Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: MSGSN, NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network

Key Takeaways

  • The Devils were careless and sloppy in their 4-1 defeat against the Blues on Friday.
  • Jack Hughes reportedly has avoided the “worst-case scenario” with the injury he sustained in that game, but an exact timeline for his return is still unknown. He’s expected to miss “some time.”
  • The Devils need to move on from their loss, focus on what’s in their control, and shake off any anxiety they might feel from losing their two superstars.

What’s going on with the Chicago Blackhawks?

Naturally, you’ll know that the Blackhawks drafted Connor Bedard first overall in the 2023 NHL Draft. He’s been fine through ten games, scoring five goals and seven points, tying for fourth in the league rookie scoring race. He’s currently tied with Luke Hughes, but behind rookie standouts Logan Cooley and Marco Rossi. Reports on Bedard’s performances have been mostly positive, if mixed on his defensive play. Regardless, he’s scored some beauties already this season, and I’m looking forward to seeing him for a full game tonight.

Former Devil and Hart-winner Taylor Hall is due to return. Alongside Hall, Bedard has the perfect set-up man to complement his goal-scoring talent. It would’ve been nice to see Jack Hughes go up against Hall and Bedard, but unfortunately the NHL and its fans were robbed of that.

The Blackhawks are 4-6 in 10 games, which is not quite as bad as I thought they’d be thus far. Still, outside Bedard and a returning Taylor Hall, there isn’t much to get excited about with this team.

The trouble for the Devils could lie in net. Arvid Soderblom has terrible stats through four games, but Petr Mrazek has actually been quite good in his seven starts and could be credited with most of the Blackhawks limited success thus far. Seeing as how the Devils were just bodied by Jordan Binnington in St. Louis, and they’re missing two of their most dynamic scorers, New Jersey can’t just out-talent and out-score their opponents right now. They need to play solid system hockey and not let the few scorers the Blackhawks do have to take over the game.

No Jack Hughes? No Problem (Hopefully)

As all of you are no doubt aware by now, Jack Hughes suffered an upper-body injury against the St. Louis Blues on Friday when he crashed into the boards shoulder/neck/head first. There’s been no official update from official Devils sources, which is hardly surprising but is still no less frustrating. Still, Elliotte Friedman had this to say:

This could mean anything, but I’ll take it as a positive sign. Some time to me could mean anywhere between 2-6 weeks to several months or more, if worst-case is taken to mean season ending or something less serious. I don’t expect to get much from the Devils anytime soon. We still have no official word on Nico Hischier’s status, either. So Devils fans will have to move on and prepare for the next game with who we do have in the roster.

There was no morning skate tonight, but I expect to see Haula and Mercer play the top two center positions tonight. They tried Mercer between Toffoli and Meier in limited action against the Blues last game. Obviously it didn’t work, but the Blackhawks are a much worse team defensively. We’ll see.

Your Thoughts

What line combinations would you like to see tonight? Can the Devils survive Hughes’ and Hischier’s absences? Let us know in the comments below.