When the Devils started Steven Santini over Ben Lovejoy on Saturday, it was in hopes that the young defenseman could help suppress some of the Philadelphia Flyers’ offense after a 5-goal effort from the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Not only did the Flyers win 5-2 today, but the Santini experiment barely even got off the ground. On just his second shift of the night, Santini took a puck up high and was forced to leave the ice. He did not return. In speaking to head coach John Hynes after the game, beat writer Amanda Stein reports that Santini suffered a broken jaw. He will be out indefinitely.
This is an unlucky blow for both the player and team. Santini was making his first appearance of the season for the Devils and hoping to stick in the top six this time around. The 23-year-old defenseman played in 38 and 36 games respectively in his first two pro seasons, but has yet to even play half an NHL season, nevertheless establish himself as a starter. A second-round pick in 2013, Santini was a mainstay of the U.S. Juniors program and a standout defender at Boston College for three years. Santini is a stay-at-home type and does not bring much in the way of offensive potential, but is a smart, safe option on the back end and seemingly has the skill set and demeanor of a solid bottom-pair defenseman.
While that may not sound all that exciting, Santini is the exact type of player that the Devils could use right now. After a hot 4-0 start to the season, New Jersey has allowed ten goals in back-to-back losses and have the Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning on the docket this week. With a less-than-stellar goalie tandem of Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack and a defensive corps that is top-heavy with offensive-minded puck movers like Sami Vatanen, Damon Severson, Will Butcher, and Mirco Mueller. The team could use more conservative, tight defensive play right now and hoped Santini could provide it. Instead, the onus could be back on banged-up Lovejoy to pick up the slack in the defensive end.