News as Devils Get Set to Resume on Thursday

Just thought I would type something up to get back in the swing of things as the Devils are back on Thursday after more than a week off from action.

Not a whole lot has been going on in the Devils’ camp – a lot of speculation from varying sources have been connecting the Devils to different deals to be made around the upcoming trade deadline, but nothing concrete yet, obviously.

What we do have is a goaltending roster change way back on February 17. Nico Daws was reassigned to the Utica Comets of the AHL while Akira Schmid was recalled to the Devils. This was reported by Amanda Stein of the Devils’ official website.

This move was made to get Daws some game time during the Devils’ break that will conclude on Thursday. Daws had been brought up to the Devils on February 4 according to Stein, making two appearances between the pipes. He started one game and relieved Jon Gillies in another.

Daws got a 4-2 win over the Rochester Americans on February 18 for Utica. Following that, Schmid was sent to Utica and got a 3-2 shootout victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on February 19.

This allowed the two goalies to stay fresh (albeit while traveling to Utica, for the Rochester game and Allentown, Pennsylvania, for the Phantoms game), but also sharp and get reps in.

Other than that news, the Devils are reporting through their app, that Jesper Bratt is healthy after recovering from an upper body injury.

He told Catherine Bogart that “I feel good. I was skating with the skills and skating coach, Ryan Murphy, for all the days when I was (away from) the team and it’s been good. He prepared me the best way to come back in the best shape possible with the team. Today was another good skate, yesterday was a great skate so I feel ready to go.”

He added more, telling Bogart in regards to his injury itself, “In the beginning when it happens you don’t really know how bad it’s going to be but after seeing the doctors and talking to the staff, it didn’t feel like I was going to miss too many games. After the first, second day, I started feeling a little better. I saw the progress every day. We were pretty lucky with the schedule.”

Dougie Hamilton will also be back when the Devils return on Thursday in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. He fractured his jaw on January 2 against the Washington Capitals and required surgery. Bogart reports that he has been cleared to play and will return to the lineup.

Head coach Lindy Ruff told Bogart: “I’m looking forward to him being back in the lineup. I’m counting on him being in. I’ve had a conversation with him, he said he’s ready to go and we’re ready to put him back.”

Hamilton himself said: “It’s always really hard to watch. You want to be out there through the good and the bad and going through everything with your teammates. So it’s hard to be on the outside looking in. Just for me, I’m excited to get back and playing.”

Bogart mentioned that Hamilton needed to work on getting the correct equipment to protect his injured jaw. The shield he would be using needed to both protect his jaw and be comfortable for him.

He continued to Bogart: “It’s changed because of the healing of my jaw. At the start I couldn’t have any pressure on it so I had to find something that had the pressure off it, but I couldn’t play with that mask. I think it’s at the point now where my jaw is solid and I’m able to put a pad on my chin and use that mask. I think there’s three, four different masks, and then just tweaking them and trying different things with those and different pads. I’m very thankful for the equipment trainers for working with me and helping me.”

And now that Hamilton will be wearing the full shield in-game, Ruff wants to give him a chance to succeed his best with it.

That is why Bogart says, he will be likely paired with Jonas Siegenthaler on the backend when Hamilton is back.

Ruff told Bogart: “Siegenthaler has been one of our top defenders on the left side, (this decision is) probably to give him some help at the same time, give him a real solid guy, that’s been a guy we’ve counted on in every situation. Trying to supply a little support. Hamilton’s wearing a full shield and we don’t know how he’s going to be. So part of that is probably putting him in the best place where he thinks he can succeed.”

Hamilton told Bogart about knowing when he was ready to return. Hamilton told her that he and his doctors had been in contact to decide when the timing was right.

He told her: “Talking to the doctors and surgeon and everything it’s my proper healing time. I don’t know if I’ll feel normal for awhile but there’s still some things that could take weeks, months, but I think it’s at the point now where it’s safe to play .. now that I got that green light it’s nice to have that and I’m ready to start playing again.”

The Devils will return to play with a (mostly) healthy roster on Thursday at 7 PM in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.

Devils Give Update on Injuries/Illnesses

The Devils updated fans on injuries and the team’s COVID list today on their official app.

According to Sam Kasan, forward Nico Hischier, who was out with a lower body injury for yesterday’s loss at Boston, “skated on his own Wednesday and could return to the lineup Thursday when New Jersey hosts Columbus.”

Kasan quoted head coach Lindy Ruff as saying that “Nico was back this morning. Skated lightly on his own. He’s going to participate in tomorrow’s morning skate. The likelihood is if things go well, he should play for us.”

Kasan also updated on the status of defenseman Dougie Hamilton. He said that Hamilton had surgery for his “broken jaw and will be out of the lineup indefinitely.”

According to Kasan, “Hamilton’s return will be dependent upon many factors and the team hopes to have an update sometime in the future.” Ruff noted that it everything “depends on the severity and type of procedure they have to do.”

Finally, Kasan mentioned goaltender Jonathan Bernier and his season-ending hip surgery. He mentioned that Bernier had dealt with the hip issue since training camp and, although he attempted to battle through things, he had “exhausted every option to recovery” and “surgery ended up being the final outcome.”

Ruff spoke on Bernier saying that the goalie knew his hip was not “quite right, to where he ended up needing to have surgery.” Ruff also mentioned that Bernier wanted “to make a difference” wanted “to help win hockey games. He really felt the injury was holding him back from making a difference in the game.”

Kasan mentioned that Ruff gave credit to Bernier trying to play “through pain and discomfort early in the season when the Devils really needed him with Mackenzie Blackwood out. Despite his best efforts, the hip prevented Bernier from playing at the level of his true ability.”

Ruff told Kasan that the hip is “a pretty important joint for a goaltender. When you look at some of the struggles he had, you can understand, playing with pain, playing with aggravation, the effect that can have on your game. It’s a physical effect, but mentally you have to battle through all of that.”

Kasan also reported that Ruff is out of NHL COVID protocols. The coach told him that he had been staying in contact with the team while watching at home through Zoom. Ruff also “was on headset with coaches during games and communicated at every aspect with his coaching staff.”

He told Kasan that he “experienced ‘minimal symptoms’” while in protocol.

He commended his team and coaching staff Alain Nasreddine – who took over “head coaching duties”, Mark Recchi (who worked with the forwards along with Nasreddine) and Chris Taylor, who was on the bench overseeing the defense during Ruff’s absence.

The Devils ended up winning in overtime against the Edmonton Oilers and the Washington Capitals before falling to the Boston Bruins last night in their games without Ruff behind the bench.

Kasan, in a separate article, also mentioned another return from COVID Protocol. Forward Jimmy Vesey practiced this afternoon with the club.

Vesey had missed four games while in protocol.

Vesey, Kasan is reporting, “expects to be in the lineup Thursday when the Devils host Columbus.” However, Kasan did mention that “the lack of conditioning and exercise due to the COVID restrictions were noticeable” when he returned to skate on Tuesday on his own.

Vesey told him “I tried to do some activity, but not much you can do. To be honest it didn’t feel great (Tuesday). It felt a lot better (Wednesday) with more bodies and structure to the skate. I actually felt good today and I think I’m good to go for tomorrow.”

Vesey “had no symptoms” according to the article by Kasan.

Vesey noted that while he missed five days, the team also “just had four days off for Christmas, so I’ve been off for quite a few days. That’s the biggest thing, physically feeling in game shape so to speak.”

Kasan said he will try to simplify things when he gets back in the lineup “while gauging how COVID and the time off effected his play.”

Vesey told him “I’ll definitely try to play simple tomorrow. There will be some rust. I’m sure my legs won’t feel great at certain points of the game. That’s just part of the process of getting back. It wasn’t like it was long-term absence. Hopefully it comes back quick.”