It’s been a busy couple of weeks – both for me personally and for the New Jersey Devils. I relaunched my podcast No Credentials Required (new episodes drop on Mondays and Wednesdays) and the New York Jets had two games last week. Since I’m the Jets beat writer, I needed to cover them. Now I’m back with Devils coverage to sum up the week and this week, the Devils made their first West Coast trip in nearly two years. How did the Devils fare and what’s coming up for them this week?
Devils Goin’ Back to Cali
Gibson, Ducks Blank Devils
The New Jersey Devils then went on their first West Coast trip for three games in four nights. Their first destination was the Honda Center in Anaheim to face an improved Ducks team. This was a forgettable night for the Devils as they couldn’t seem to get things going. Forward Ryan Getzlaf scored on the power play to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead at the 12:05 mark. Forward Troy Terry scored the next two goals for the Ducks – one on the power play – and forward Isac Lundestrom scored a shorthanded goal to close out the scoring. Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 28 saves and blanked the Devils for his first shutout of the season.
Devils Rally, But Fall to Kings in OT
Two nights later, the Devils faced the Los Angeles Kings. Neither team scored until Kings forward Adriam Kempe scored with just two seconds remaining in the second. Devils forward Jesper Bratt responded early in the third with a goal to tie the game for the Devils. Then, came the worst period probably ever for defenseman Damon Severson. First, he was called for tripping at the 7:06 mark. It was followed by an interference call at 10:41. Finally, a high-sticking penalty followed, which the Kings capitalized on with a goal by Arthur Kaliyev. With the net empty, Pavel Zacha tied the game with 24 seconds remaining. The Kings made short work of the extra frame as Philp Danault forced a turnover from defenseman Ty Smith deep in the Devils’ zone. He found Alex Iafallo in front, who put the puck past goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and the Kings took the W, 3-2.
Devils Bounce Back in San Jose
The Devils had a quick turnaround with a trip north to San Jose to face the Sharks. A scoreless tie was broken 4:48 into the second period as forward Rudolpfs Balcers scored to give the Sharks the lead. Defenseman Ryan Graves scored his first goal as a New Jersey Devil with 3:15 remaining in the period to tie the score. A powerplay goal by Jonathan Dahlen gave the Sharks the lead back. Forward Janne Kuokkanen leveled the score for the Devils with 2:56 remaining. Neither team scored in the extra frame, so the Devils would have their second shootout of the week. Bratt and Logan Couture scored for each team, but the game-winning goal was scored by the unlikeliest of scorers: Damon Severson. The Devils concluded their Pacific Division swing with a win over the Sharks, 3-2.
Transactions: Wedgewood Placed on Waivers, Holtz Makes Devils’ Debut
This week, the New Jersey Devils made two notable transactions. First, the Devils waived goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who was released after Sunday’s game against Columbus. In three games with the Devils this season, Wedgewood went 0-2-1 with a 3.19 GAA and an .880 save percentage. It’s no secret that the Devils’ goaltender room is a tad crowded with both Blackwood (heel) and Jonathan Bernier (hip) returning from injury. The Arizona Coyotes claimed Wedgewood off waivers on Thursday. Wedgewood is no stranger to the Coyotes; he was traded to Arizona in 2017-18 and spent 25 games with the Coyotes. Wedgewood’s first game back as a Coyote was a successful one; he backstopped the Yotes to their first win in 2021-22 with a 3-2 win against Seattle.
The Wedgewood transaction made room to call up forward Alexander Holtz from Utica. Holtz has been a wagon for the Comets; in four games, the Devils prospect has five goals, including one on the power play. Every Devils fan knew this was going to happen eventually, especially with Jack Hughes being out for an extended period (more on that later). Holtz was a healthy scratch against Anaheim, but made his NHL debut on Friday against the Kings. Holtz has four SOG in two games with the Devils and has averaged about 13:33 of ice time playing on a line with Dawson Mercer and Yegor Sharangovich. Time will tell how long Holtz will be with the Devils, but hopefully, he’ll make a difference offensively.
You better believe they gave the kid his moment.— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 6, 2021
Congrats, Alex. Welcome to The Show. pic.twitter.com/VKG2UHC718
Injuries: Blackwood Returns, Hughes Out Until December
Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood returned to the New Jersey Devils lineup this past week after missing the first eight games of the season. Blackwood has missed time after recovering from heel surgery in the offseason and the Devils have given him time to rest up. There was also the slightly unnecessary controversy of his COVID vaccination status, of which he says he’s received his first dose. Blackwood made his season debut against Los Angeles and made 26 saves in helping the Devils earn a point in the overtime loss.
Now comes the bad news: on October 29, the Devils announced the status of forward Jack Hughes. Hughes has been missing from the lineup since landing on his shoulder after getting tangled with Seattle defenseman Jeremy Lauzon on October 19. He was reevaluated and the Devils made the announcement that the forward would be reevaluated in five weeks. Hughes is undergoing physical therapy while his shoulder heals. His presence in the offense has been missed, especially since he was leading the team in takeaways and points before his injury.
Minor Report: Utica Remains Perfect, Adirondack Travels East
The season continues also for the New Jersey Devils’ minor league affiliates. In the AHL, the Utica Comets are undefeated in their first six games. The Comets have rallied back from early deficits to take wins in two of their last three games. The first rally came against Lehigh Valley, where they fell behind 2-0, but scored five answered goals. Their second rally was against Toronto, where they fell behind 2-1 in the second, then scored five unanswered goals. Leading the team in scoring is forward Chase DeLeo, who has a goal and nine helpers in six games. Reilly Walsh leads all Comets defensemen with five points (all assists). In three games, goaltender Akira Schmid has posted a 1.31 GAA (eighth in the AHL) and a .953 GAA (tied for eighth in the AHL). As of this writing, the Comets sit in first in the North Division with 12 points.
In the ECHL, the Adirondack Thunder is off to a 2-2-1 start, good enough for third in the North Division. The Thunder traveled east for a three-game tilt in Newfoundland against the Growlers. The Growlers took the first game of their three-game series on Friday with a convincing 4-1 win. On Saturday night, the Thunder handed the Growlers their first loss of the season by stealing a 6-4 win. The Two teams face off on Sunday afternoon in the conclusion of their series. Forward Pete MacArthur leads the team with 6 points (2 G, 4 A) and Nick Rivera has four goals in six games on 16 shots. Rookie goaltender Mareks Mitens has two of the Thunder’s three wins, posting a 2.95 GAA with an .896 GAA.
Goal of the Week
This week, I’m awarding the New Jersey Devils TWTW GOTW to defenseman Damon Severson. The veteran defenseman had a rough couple of games between his penalty trouble on Friday, which continued into Saturday. But Severson made up for those penalties by breaking out the silky stuff to win the game for the Devils over San Jose and end the trip on a high note.
silkyyy pic.twitter.com/E4QZ8EmowA— Devils on MSG (@DevilsMSGN) November 7, 2021
The Week Ahead
This week, the New Jersey Devils return to the friendly confines of the Prudential Center. They face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night and welcome the New York Islanders on Thursday night. The Devils conclude the week against the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.