GOTHENBURG, Sweden - There was a noticeable absence at New Jersey Devils practice Friday, one day before the Devils open their regular season against the Edmonton Oilers. Sweden-native Jesper Bratt was not on the ice after suffering a fractured jaw in a freak accident during practice Thursday.
"He has a fracture, and no surgery is needed so that's good news," coach John Hynes said. "He should be able to continue his physical activity over the course of (rehab) and he'll be back ready to go when the time comes."
Bratt has been placed on injured reserve, with his expected recovery set at two to three weeks. In the meantime, his Devils' teammates are rallying around the Swede who won't be able to play Saturday in his home country.
"You feel so bad for him. It's a once in a lifetime thing to play an NHL game in Sweden and you have all your family and friends here," Marcus Johansson said. "It's just really bad luck. I feel for him."
Without Bratt available to play, the Devils signed forward Drew Stafford to a one-year contract. Stafford, who played for New Jersey last season, has been with the club through training camp on a PTO.
"I'm forever grateful just for the opportunity to come back," Stafford said. "I'm very thankful I was given an opportunity to play, show up into camp, put in the work and compete to be a part of the group. It worked out."
As for whether Stafford will play in the season opener on Saturday, that remains to be seen. Coach John Hynes used him as an extra forward in practice on Friday, with the practice lines looking as follows:
Friday's practice was open to the public, with fans from all across the globe traveling to Scandinavium to see an NHL team prepare.
"I feel pretty grateful to get to experience this," Travis Zajac said. "It's not every team that gets to come out here and play in front of different fans. They appreciate the game just as much as the fans back in North America. It's a different atmosphere, it's a great feel for the guys to get out here and help grow the game."
On Saturday, the Devils begin their 2018-19 campaign against Edmonton. Puck drop is set for a local 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EST) start.