It’s alarming enough that the New Jersey Devils have lost 10 out of the last 12 games. They have lost their standing for a solid playoff spot and now are hanging on to one of the wildcard spots in a wildly competitive Metropolitan Division. To make matters worse, the Devils most recent four-game slide has come with little offense as well as the team has combined for three goals in those four games.
Andrew Gross of NorthJersey.com writes that the team hasn’t been able to compensate for the Taylor Hall injury who has missed the past three games and had to give up his spot in today’s all-star game due to a thumb injury. The scribe points to the play of Travis Zajac, who missed the first 17 games of the season after having offseason surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle. Zajac has just five goals and two assists in 31 games since returning and despite his struggles remains a top-six forward and is still on the power play. His defensive play has also cost the team some goals as well.
“I’ve got to make better plays and better decisions at key moments,” Zajac said. “We’ll find a way to work ourselves out of it. We’ve done it all year and it’s the only way to get out of it.”
- Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press writes the team has to come to a conclusion that their chances of a playoff spot are so remote they must sell off as much as they can. While defenseman Mike Green is an obvious option in Detroit, she believes the team needs to free up a top-six forward spot for some of the team’s younger forwards, citing the contract of winger Gustav Nyquist as their best bet to unload one of them. Nyquist has another year on his contract of $4.75MM which might force Detroit to retain part of his salary and they still would have to get him to sign off on his no-trade clause. However, with 14 goals in 48 games, he is having a solid season and has already passed his total from last year and is closing in on his goal totals from the 2015-16 season as well. That might give the team an opportunity to promote prospect Evgeny Svechnikov, the team’s first-round pick in 2015.
- The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons wonders how the Toronto Maple Leafs will stay motivated in the final third of the season. The scribe writes that the Maple Leafs have basically locked up a playoff spot (albeit, unofficially) as they are entrenched in the Atlantic Division’s third playoff spot with a 28-18-5 record. They are unlikely to move up as Boston is five points ahead of them and surging and Tampa Bay 10 points ahead of them in the standings. They are also not likely to fall out of the playoffs as the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens are 15 points behind them. Simmons believes that coach Mike Babcock will have his hands full for the remainder of the season and hopes when the time comes, the team will be ready for the playoffs.