Devils Edged in Columbus as Jackets Take Second Half of Home-and-Home

The Devils completed their home-and-home series with the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio tonight with a severely shorthanded lineup. Despite this, they were able to stay in the game until the end, but ultimately lost 4-3.

Roster issues to start with. Dougie Hamilton is still out for the foreseeable future with a broken jaw that he had successful surgery for last week. However, he was also added to the team’s COVID Protocol earlier today. He was not alone.

Hamilton, Yegor Sharangovich and Pavel Zacha (the latter two of which were already on the list) were joined on the COVID list by Nate Bastian, Mason Geertsen and Devils leading scorer Jesper Bratt.

Losing Bratt is obviously especially hard for the Devils to overcome. He and Jack Hughes had been rolling and this just completely kills momentum for them. Bratt was missing just his second game of the season.

Columbus saw the opposite end of the COVID list issue. They got defenseman Zach Werenski back out of Protocol, a player the Blue Jackets did not have for the game at New Jersey on Thursday.

With the chunk taken out of the Devils lineup, some creative changes were in store for fans. Forward AJ Greer and defenseman Colton White slotted into the lineup with Greer making his season debut with the Devils. They had been available on the Taxi Squad. The Devils would go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen which would lead to some mixing and matching along the way.

Dawson Mercer moved up to the first line, playing right wing with Jack Hughes centering and Tomas Tatar at left wing.

Greer played left wing on a line with Michael McLeod centering and Marian Studenic at right wing.

Goaltender Jon Gillies was the Devils’ lone healthy scratch.

And with that, the one place that things have stayed pretty consistent for the Devils has been in net. Mackenzie Blackwood made his sixth straight start tonight and made 30 saves off of Columbus’ 34 total shots. He finished the night with an .882 save percentage. He stopped the Jackets’ one shorthanded shot and four of their five power play shots. The Blue Jackets were 1-for-3 on the man advantage. At even strength, Blackwood stopped 25 of the Jackets’ 28 shots.

Joonas Korpisalo went for the Blue Jackets again tonight and was equal to 27 of the Devils’ 30 total shots he had thrown at him for a .900 save percentage on the game. This included saving both New Jersey shorthanded chances and all six of their power play shots. The Devils went 0-for-3 on the power play.  At five-on-five, he saved 19 of the Devils’ 22 shots.

The Jackets had a pregame ceremony tonight honoring Jakub Voracek, who played in his 1,000th NHL game against the Devils on Thursday at Prudential Center.

The Devils have also dropped their last five visits to Nationwide Arena – including their last trip there, January 18, 2020, a 5-0 Blue Jackets win. The Jackets were in the temporary Central Division last season and did not play the Devils.

The Blue Jackets wasted no time in getting on the board.

Just 42 seconds into the game, Damon Severson was called for a hook, which put the Jackets on the power play early.

And, though the Devils dodged this particular bullet at Prudential Center on Thursday, Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has become a true Devil killer, would put Columbus up in front.

It happened with 2:01 gone by in the first when Patrik Laine recovered a save made by Blackwood on Boone Jenner. Laine passed to Voracek (who had drawn the penalty in the first place) on the right side. He quickly moved it to Bjorkstrand at the left side of Blackwood’s net and Bjorkstrand tapped the pass in to make it 1-0 Columbus.

Jenner did not get a point out of that goal but would notch the Jackets’ second one. This came 2:02 after the Bjorkstrand goal and it was a weird one.

Jenner was behind the Devils net and threw it in front sort of out of desperation. Hughes was coming back, back checking through the slot and the puck deflected off of his right skate and in past Blackwood. Adam Boqvist (secondary) and Gustav Nyquist (primary) had the assists on the goal and it was now 2-0 Blue Jackets.

The Jackets had taken control of the early part of the period and jumped out to the quick 2-0 lead.

The Devils, however, would come roaring back at the end of the period and tie things before the intermission.

At the 14:41 mark, the Devils won the puck out of the far corner and Jimmy Vesey guided back to Severson at the point. Severson found Nico Hischier in the middle of the ice wide open. Nico’s shot snuck through Korpisalo’s arm and in as the Columbus goalie could not squeeze it and hold on. That cut the Jackets lead in half at 2-1.

And the Devils’ come back was in full force. With 20 seconds to go in the first, Vesey struck again. A Blue Jacket player knocked down a Devils pass and inadvertently kept the puck in his zone. Mercer grabbed it and passed through a seam to Vesey, who got off a quick shot that defected and changed direction on Korpisalo and went in. The Devils had tied the game up at two heading into the second period.

For Vesey, this was his first multi-point game since March 3, 2021 according to MSG+ and Steve Cangialosi. At that point, he was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and accomplished the feat at the Edmonton Oilers.

In a back-and-forth game, the momentum would shift right back to the Blue Jackets in the second period.

At 9:31 gone by in the new period, the Jackets dumped the puck into the Devils zone. It went into the near corner and Sean Kuraly, on the forecheck, hit the Devils’ defenseman hard, taking him off the puck and out of the play for a second. Kuraly then centered to Bellmawr, New Jersey-native Eric Robinson, who sept the puck towards Yegor Chinakhov, who then scored into the empty side of Blackwood’s cage to put the Jackets back in front 3-2.

The Devils would respond on this one, though, when Marian Studenic scored at the 13:32 mark. That one came when Jesper Boqvist cut up the right side and into the Blue Jackets zone. He shoveled it on net with a backhand with Studenic driving to the front of the net, fighting through a check. Studenic would hammer the puck home after one or two hacks at it. That would tie the game again, this time at three apiece.

The second period would end on a deflating note for the Devils.

While on the power play, with Max Domi having gone off for hooking Greer – a power play for the Devils that would finish out the second period and continue on to the third if the Devils did not score – Hischier had a chance stopped by Korpisalo as the Columbus goaltender made an amazing glove save on him, going right to left across his crease.

It was a great save and the Devils were visibly knocked out by it. Columbus would eventually kill the rest of the power play in the third.

They probably did not lose the game because of that save, but it sure did not help the Devils’ mentality for sure.

And then the dagger, brought down by, who else? Oliver Bjorkstrand.

With five minutes gone by in the third, the Devils won a faceoff deep in their defensive zone. The puck, however, instead of going back towards the corner, the Devils’ defense and safety, went forward to Adam Boqvist at the near point. Boqvist moved it to Voracek at the near half wall. Voracek quickly found a seam across to Bjorkstrand, set up at the far side of Blackwood’s net. Bjorkstrand blasted a shot that went in and made it 4-3 Blue Jackets.

With the puck being pushed forward off of the faceoff, the draw actually functioned as a faceoff win for Columbus for all intents and purposes, despite the Devils officially winning it.

The Devils would pull Blackwood with just about over two minutes remaining in regulation. They would fight hard but just could not get the equalizer and 4-3 was our final as the final horn (and cannon shot) fired.

It was another normal Devils-Blue Jackets game as Bjorkstrand ended up victimizing New Jersey with two goals in the end.

Columbus outshot the Devils 34 to 30. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs with McLeod leading personally with a 52-percent win percentage.

Each team ended the game with six total penalty minutes while the Jackets outhit the Devils 24-13. Columbus also edged the Devils in blocked shots with ten to New Jersey’s nine. Team giveaways saw the Jackets with 12 while the Devils only registered one.

Severson led all Devils skaters with 26:42 of total ice time (which included 4:38 of power play time and 2:17 of shorthanded time). Ryan Graves led the defensemen in PK time with 3:25 of shorthanded time out of his 20:10 of total ice time. He also played 19 seconds on the power play.

Hughes led the forwards with 25:48 of total ice time – including 4:59 on the PP and eight seconds on the PK. Hischier led the forwards in penalty kill minutes with 2:42 out of his 21:35 of total time. He also played 3:57 on the man advantage.

Vesey led the Devils in points with two (one goal and one assist) as Jack Hughes’ point scoring streak ended at five games. He did not register a point tonight.

Hughes did lead the Devils in shots on goal with five. Defenseman Christian Jaros led the Devils in hits with three. Severson, Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler led in blocked shots with two each. Vesey had the Devils’ only giveaway with one to lead there while Janne Kuokkanen had two takeaways to lead in that category.

And with that, the Devils will try to get back to their winning ways while also hoping to get relatively healthy again next week.

This will be another tall order as their next game comes Monday at home in Newark against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop for that game is 7 PM at Prudential Center and the game will be shown on MSG+.

We will have coverage of that game for you right here then. In the meantime, have a great end of the weekend everyone!

Devils to Auction Broadway/Hayesy Jerseys for Charity

The Devils announced today that the warmup jerseys worn by them and the Chicago Blackhawks back in the Devils’ season opener on October 15, 2021 will be auctioned off for a good cause.

In a press release put out by the team’s PR department, the New Jersey Devils announced that they are “launching the “Broadway/Hayesy” Jersey Auction, in memory of late NHL alum Jimmy Hayes, former Devil and Kevin’s brother.” Kevin Hayes currently plays with the Philadelphia Flyers – tomorrow’s opponent for the Devils.

The jerseys being auctioned off include the Devils’ jerseys with “BROADWAY 10” on the back and the Blackhawks’ jerseys with “HAYESY 39” on the back. Jimmy Hayes played for both clubs. “Broadway” and “Hayesy” were his nicknames in NHL locker rooms and the “10” and “39” were the numbers he wore for the Devils and Blackhawks, respectively.

“Funds raised from the auction will benebit the Hayes family and charities of their choosing” according to the press release.

The press release notes that during the season opener at Prudential Center, New Jersey “hosted Hayes’ family members during the game and honored him with a moment of silence prior to puck drop.”

The auction will last from Monday, December 13, 2021 (beginning at 12 noon ET) to Monday, December 27, 2021. The press release notes that each jersey’s auction time will end staggered beginning at 5 PM ET on December 27.

Hayes, who passed away tragically this past summer, played 334 NHL games over a career that lasted seven years. The press release says that he notched 54 goals and 55 assists for 109 points in the NHL.

The Dorchester, Massachusetts-native was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011, but never played a game for the franchise, as he was traved to the Blackhawks, where he began his career in 2011 and played to 2013. He also played for the Florida Panthers (2013 to 2015), the Boston Bruins (2015 to 2017) and finished his NHL career with the Devils in 2017-2018.

The Devils, as mentioned, will be traveling down the Turnpike to take on the Flyers tomorrow at 7 PM at the Wells Fargo Center. Jimmy’s brother, Kevin is currently a member of the Flyers.

In some other news pertaining to that game directly, the Devils have added another player to COVID Protocol.

Sam Kasan is reporting on the “Inside the Devils Blog” that defenseman Christian Jaros, who just made his return to the lineup following a stint on Injured Reserve, has been placed in COVID-19 Protocol. He joins forward Nico Hischier and defenseman Ryan Graves on the list.

According to Kasan, forward Yegor Sharangovich was also “held out of practice as a precaution. He is not currently in protocol.”

Devils head coach Lindy Ruff told Kasan “We’ve got two or three in (protocol) right now and hopefully it can end there. We don’t know what tomorrow brings either. We have a few guys that aren’t feeling well. Some of it is cold related. So, it’s hard to separate the two.”

And with those players now unavailable due to COVID Protocol, there opens up some opportunity for players down in Utica.

Kasan mentioned in a separate post on the Devils blog that New Jersey has recalled forward Marian Studenic and defenseman Kevin Bahl.

Studenic will be making his return to the NHL club, where he started the season after making the Devils out of training camp.

Kasan said that he got sent down to the Utica Comets and, in the 13 games he has played in the AHL since, he has five goals and five assists for ten points.

Kasan quoted Studenic as saying: “When I got sent down, I still had the mindset to keep going. Maybe I would have another opportunity. It’s here now so I’m happy about it.”

Kasan also pointed out that while with the Devils, he will likely play as “a penalty killer and fourth liner, though a fourth liner with a lot of speed.”

Contrast that with where he was with the Comets, as Kasan noted that in Utica “Studenic played a top-6 role for the Comets, which included power-play time and big minutes.”

The speed that Studenic brings should please his coach in New Jersey. Kasan quoted Ruff on Studenic as saying: “The one thing that we need is speed up front. It always helps our team, and he can bring that.”

As for Bahl, this will be the blue liner’s first call up to the NHL this season. He was assigned to Utica out of training camp.

Bahl admitted to Kasan that he did not have the best training camp.

“I don’t think in training camp I got to the level that I wanted to” he told the Devils writer.

Kasan said that he was sent to “Utica to work on many facets of his play.” Bahl “pointed to his positional play and retrieving pucks in the D zone as a few.”

Bahl continued to Kasan that the “biggest thing down there was development. I was watching video every day. It was a big factor for me to keep getting better. I’m definitely excited, it means a lot to get called up and it shows they have a lot of faith in me.”

Ruff told Kasan: “Kevin has got the range and the skating ability that a lot of guys don’t have. I felt he got off to a slow start at camp. He didn’t use his reach. I think his physicality could have been better. From what I’ve heard, that part of his game has really come around. It’s something he’s worked at.

“You have to give him credit. He’s worked hard at it. He’s going to get another opportunity,” Ruff concluded.

Kasan reminded readers that Bahl played in seven NHL games last season with the Devils. When he asked Bahl about that, Bahl said: “Last year was awesome. I got a feel for it. I know a bit more what to expect. I’m just excited to play.”

He also told Kasan, “The biggest thing is turning my preparation into confidence. How well I can prepare and how well I do things away from the rink. That will build my confidence being on the ice.”