It’s not great news for New Jersey Devils fans, even if the team is doing well at the moment. Mackenzie Blackwood will be out for three to six weeks with the MCL sprain he recently suffered and, according to team reporter Amanda Stein, Ondrej Palat will miss eight to ten weeks following groin surgery.
While head coach Lindy Ruff did joke that Palat would disagree with that timeline, it’s still a long period to be without your top free agent signing. Palat was supposed to come in and show the Devils how to play like champions and will now miss more than two months with a serious injury. The 31-year-old signed a five-year, $30MM contract with the Devils and makes a whopping $8.25MM this season. He scored three goals before going down.
Luckily the Devils are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, on a six-game winning streak and now 9-1 in their last ten. After a shaky start they have been getting outstanding goaltending, something that will now have to continue with Vitek Vanecek carrying the load. Akira Schmid is up as well to fill in for the absent Blackwood, but Devils fans won’t want to go down that road again.
Because of injuries, New Jersey was forced to ice seven different netminders last season, with Nico Daws actually tying Blackwood for the most appearances. With so much turnover no one was able to perform very well and the team had an .886 save percentage overall. It is vital that Vanecek, who has a .940 over his last five starts (all wins), stays healthy for the next stretch or things could quickly derail for the Metropolitan-leading club.