Part of that practice time was dedicated to individual skills. Multiple times over the last few weeks, the Devils skills coach has made an appearance. Redbank, NJ native Ryan Murphy was hired prior to the season to work with both New Jersey and the Binghamton Devils when time permits for individual skills work.
"I'm new to it," Subban told me. "In Nashville or Montreal, we never really had a skills guy come in during the season. But I like it, first of all because the way he comes in, for us he's just saying "guys, this is for you guys" and that's where it starts. The players see it more as helping us and you can get what you need out of it. I thought it was great."
Earlier this week, Subban announced his plans to continue his Blueline Buddies program that began while he was with the Nashville Predators. He hosted his first night, which pairs youth and law enforcement together for dinner, the game and a meet and greet with PK. The first group of Blueline Buddies made their way through the Prudential Center last Friday. I made sure I was there for the pre-game meet and greet. It was really quite something to watch. One of the children there, before Subban came out, you could feel the level of excitement emanating. "I'm about to meet a celebrity!" they said. And then, when PK came out, the eyes lit up, the shyness came around, but Subban made everyone feel completely at ease, trying to get the kids out of their shell in the few short moments he had before the game.
It was this really nice reminder, the power that a simple hello, a simple five minutes of someone's day can make a world of difference. Once Subban left for the team meeting, I chatted with the detectives and the two children they had with them. It was equally as exciting for the detectives to have the chance to participate in the program. It was neat for me to stand in the background and watch the power of an athlete make an impact with just a few moments of their time.
I've had so much fun this year with Matt Loughlin as we relaunched the Devils Official Podcast this off-season. We've had a string of players on our past three episodes. We obviously ask the hockey questions, but we really try and use that time to learn about the players off the ice. The podcast makes for a relaxed environment where I think Matt and I have been able to get players to open up. This week we had Nico Hischier on and I was totally impressed to know that Nico is a top notch snowboarder, which I guess shouldn't come as a huge surprise, given the fact he grew up in Naters by the Swiss alps. I had to ask, what about all those tricks people do on snowboards? Yup, Nico can do them too. But don't worry, he says, he hasn't done them since he's been in the NHL and though not written in his new contract as a clause, he doesn't plan on getting on a snowboard anytime soon!
Miles Wood has just two points in nine games this season, but maybe that's about to change. We know players can be sticklers for equipment and equipment changes, but it sounds like Wood might give it a shot. Suggested to him by Patrik Elias, the 24-year-old is switching to a longer stick.
He first used it on the advice from Elias in practice on Saturday and said he felt an immediate difference.
"He sees the game as us," Wood said. "What we were talking about out there was just my stick length. He think's it's a little too short. So I had the equipment staff put a nob in the stick just to extend for practice and I just kind of liked it."
I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about equipment specifications, but here's the adjustment that Miles will be using against Tampa, it's minimal, but has made a difference so far.
Cory Schneider and his wife Jill (along, I guess, with their "son" Jack Hughes) hosted this year's team Halloween party. The costumes were fantastic too. I'm partial, because I'm a crazed FRIENDS fan, but Taylor Hall and his girlfriend Rachel nailed it with their costumes, dressing as Ross and Rachel, after a wild night in Vegas and putting Sharpie marks on each others faces.
As for the host, he broke down some of his favorite costumes:
"Blake and his wife did Castaway," Schneider said. "It's one of my favorite movies. Damon and his girlfriend did Globo Gym from Dodgeball which was pretty good, there was a lot of creativity. There were a few last year where you could tell went to Target at the 11th hour and bought one off the rack but I thought this year everyone did a really good job."
I was confused though, some of the costumes were recognizable. But, Jesper Bratt and Jesper Boqvist, I couldn't quite put my finger on. When I asked Schneider, he had the best answer, sorting through his own confusion.
"I don't know," Schneider said when I asked him. "I don't know if they were like ABBA, or Swedish 80's … maybe in Sweden that's the 2000's! They were just party-boys from Sweden I guess!"
Something I found out, when talking Halloween? Not only is Kyle Palmieri not into the supernatural, but he once left a hotel on a road-trip because he thought the hotel was haunted. I won't say where, but the team no longer stays at that hotel. But, Palmieri actually left the team hotel and bought himself his own room just up the street at another hotel. You can't make this stuff up! I had it confirmed by several people, including Kyle himself!
Video: REPORT | Halloween vs Hauntings
Enough with the Halloween, now. How about the confidence of Jack Hughes rising? Actually, that might not be a fair way of putting it. Hughes has always had his confidence and has never been afraid to be confident in his game. But now it seems to have started to connect on the ice. Unlike before the NHL, Hughes doesn't have the puck on his stick the entire time and with that he seems to have figured out how to play in the NHL. It is still a long learning process, but he's recognized as just so smart on the ice that it might not take that long.
Heading into the next week, Hughes is riding a three-game point streak and his two NHL goals are eerily similar. A laser of a shot from the circle that rockets through a small hole between the goalie and the cross-bar. It's incredible really, the precision.
Sometimes you find out little nuggets of information in press conferences about systems and the way a coach wants their players to play. On Friday night, John Hynes expressed his disappointment with how the game against the Coyotes went, particularly with the mental mistakes that ended up in the back of the Devils net. A rule in the John Hynes system?
"We have a rule," Hynes said post-game. "You can't line-change when you have the puck in the neutral zone. And we line changed."
And it cost them against the Coyotes. So, in practice this week, we saw a lot of execution on the fundamentals.
And finally, congratulations are in order for Martin Brodeur. On Wednesday I had the chance to travel to Toronto, Canada to be in attendance while Brodeur was elected into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, along with seven other new members. While the three New Jersey Stanley Cups were mentioned, Brodeur was also recognized for his Team Canada play during the Olympics. He's a hero to so many in New Jersey, but equally in Canada, his home country.
At the event, Brodeur was also awarded the first ever Order of Sport of Canada. It's a recognition of an athlete, builder or contributor to Canadian sports that exemplify shared Canadian values of respect, equality, fairness and openness.
Video: RAW | Brodeur Canada's Sports Hall of Fame
Brodeur was on the stage with several Olympic athletes, and I think he felt a little out of place, saying "as a hockey player [in the NHL], we always think about hockey, we don't really think about sports." As the audience broke into a chuckle, Brodeur continued, "Well, it is a game!"
BONUS: Please welcome to the team Catherine Bogart. You'll see her throughout the year at community-driven events, making sure we bring to you all the initiatives the Devils and HBSE organization are doing behind the scenes. Catherine started last week and she has been a great addition to our Content Team!
Video: JERSEY LIFE | Devils Kids Day
You can follow her on Twitter at @CatherineBogart