In desperate need of a win, Blackhawks visit streaking Devils
The New Jersey Devils are learning how to earn victories even when they’re not at their best.
Meanwhile, simply winning games remains a struggle for the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks.
The Devils will aim to extend their latest point streak to six games when they host the lowly Blackhawks on Tuesday night in Newark, N.J.
Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey rebounded from a 4-3 overtime home defeat to Nashville with Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Philadelphia. The Devils needed third-period goals from Dawson Mercer and Jack Hughes, then held on, to earn the tough road victory in what the club felt was not a completely solid collective effort.
“Good teams find ways to win,” said Devils forward Erik Haula, who has five assists in five games.
Though New Jersey joins Boston as the first two teams to reach the 40-point mark this season, and is 4-0-1 since its 13-game winning streak was halted by Toronto on Nov. 23, coach Lindy Ruff considers his team far from a polished unit.
“We’ve got a ways to go yet as a team,” Ruff said. “We weren’t very comfortable (on Saturday). You look at some of the plays that were a lack of composure, even late.
“We still have work to do as a team.”
That said, the current state of the Devils is much better than the Blackhawks, who have just seven wins in 24 games and are mired in a 1-8-1 rut following Sunday’s 3-0 road loss to the New York Islanders. One night after winning 5-2 over the New York Rangers, Chicago recorded 21 shots on goal for a second straight game and was shut out for the fourth time this season.
“We’re hungry to string good games together,” Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy said. “It’s not an excuse for us to have a good game and be able to let one off the next night.
“We just got to know what works for us.”
Blackhawks netminder Arvid Soderblom (3.32 goals-against average in nine starts) continues to work hard and has stopped 73 of 81 shots faced in his last two starts. With Alex Stalock (concussion) and Petr Mrazek (groin) both ailing, Soderblom could again be in Chicago’s net Tuesday.
Meanwhile, New Jersey’s Akira Schmid made 31 saves versus Philadelphia to improve to 5-0-0 with a 1.42 GAA and .949 save percentage this season. Teammate Vitek Vanecek has 10 wins and a 2.24 GAA in 14 starts but has allowed seven goals in his last two.
With his 13th goal of the season Saturday, Hughes has totaled six goals and two assists in the last five games. He’s scored four times and added two assists in his last three games versus Chicago.
Mercer, meanwhile, has recorded nine of his 15 points in the past 10 games for the Devils, who are amid a 4-0-3 home stretch against the Blackhawks.
Chicago star Patrick Kane has a team-high 20 points and has recorded 11 goals and 16 assists in 22 career games versus New Jersey. That includes 12 points in 11 all-time games at New Jersey. Kane also netted a hat trick with an assist during the Blackhawks’ 8-5 home win over the Devils last season.
–Field Level Media