NEWARK, N.J. - The Devils have a system in place that emphasizes playing fast, aggressive and with up-tempo pace. The style has been implemented in New Jersey for several years, though this is the first season under head coach Lindy Ruff.
And the system is built around the athletes.
"I like to use the players to whatever their strength is," Ruff said. "Our system really hasn't changed."
Video: PRACTICE RAW | Lindy Ruff 04.19.21
New Jersey has maintained its style despite dealing with injuries to their top two leading scorers, Pavel Zacha (undisclosed) and Jesper Bratt (lower-body), compounded with the losses of veteran talents in Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Dmitry Kulikov and Sami Vatanen.
There have been some growing pains, such as the recent four-game sweep by the New York Rangers, which included back-to-back shutouts. But with only a handful of games remaining in the season the team isn't going to overhaul the system for a more defensive and passive approach.
"I don't think our team is built to just turn around and skate backwards in the neutral zone," Ruff said. "We're trying to use angles and puck pressure.
"Use a (Jack) Hughes, a (Janne) Kuokkanen, a (Yegor) Sharagovich, use those types of players to their strengths, which is trying to angle and take time and space away."
Adapting to a more defensive style, such as a 1-2-2, could keep the games lower scoring and could keep the scores closer. The key word though is could. But it's better for the club's long-term development to master the current style, which is more fitting for the players in the lineup.
And the scoring woes are more causal of the team's current injuries, which includes having missed captain Nico Hischier for 35 of the club's 44 contests this year. The Devils did score three goals in back-to-back games after the consecutive shutouts.
"I think we got exposed a little bit with speed with some of the players out of the lineup," Ruff said. "If you look at (Sunday's) game, I thought we made some adjustments. We only gave up the one even-strength goal. What hurt us again was special teams.
"We were able to create a good number of opportunities and we did a good job of trying to balance that. They skated by us a couple of times and they just skated by our youth."