The New Jersey Devils have been one of the NHL’s hottest teams since shortly after the Christmas break and they hope to stay that way.
They earned points in 16 of 18 games heading into Thursday’s contest against the Blues at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The Devils went 13-2-3 during that span to move within three points of the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.
“Every point matters and we’re in it,” Devils forward Erik Haula after the team’s Wednesday practice. “I’ve talked about building our game all year and now we’re getting to that point where it’s going to be vital that we have consistency in our game so when we do get in those big games, we feel comfortable and trust our game.”
The Devils are coming off a 3-2 victory at Columbus on a last-second goal by Ryan Graves. Seven of New Jersey’s previous nine games went into overtime or a shootout.
“The one thing we’ve done well is we’ve stayed in games,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “When games have been tight, we’ve been around, gotten into overtime. We’ve won games different ways.
The Devils, who are an NHL-leading 20-3-3 on the road this season, will be without No. 1 center Jack Hughes again. He practiced Wednesday in a non-contact sweater while recovering from his upper-body injury.
The Blues have won their first two games coming out of their extended All-Star break. They have maintained a positive vibe despite the trade that sent Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers.
The possibility of more trades are coming ahead of the March 3 NHL deadline hangs over the team as its front office looks to retool the roster.
“Just kind of playing for one another right now and playing hard,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “Just worrying about one game at a time. That’s really all you can focus on. I know it’s a cliche answer, but that’s the reality and that’s the position we’re in and we go game by game now and try to grab two points each night.”
The Blues adjusted their team defensive scheme coming out of the break and got positive early returns.
“Changed some things up and forechecking a little bit harder in different ways and stuff like that,” Schenn said. “Which is, hopefully, limiting defensive zone time for us. And just kind of being more aggressive on our toes.”
The Blues lost defenseman Torey Krug (lower body) and winger Brandon Saad (upper body) to injuries during Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
After Wednesday’s practice, Blues coach Craig Berube said Saad would be sidelined against the Devils while Torey Krug had a chance to play.
The Blues won their previous game against the Devils this season 5-3 on Jan. 5 in New Jersey. Robert Thomas had two goals and an assist in that game and Pavel Buchnevich had three assists.
Hughes scored twice for the Devils in that loss and No. 3 goaltender Akira Schmid took the loss.
“It’s just a good team all around,” Berube said of the Devils. “They’ve been a good team all year . . . they’re a very quick team, they’ve got real fast forwards, they have big D, they transition the puck really well. With their speed they get a lot of odd-man rushes and they make good plays off the rush.”
–Field Level Media