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Mood Lightens with Recent Wins but More Work is Ahead | BLOG

Devils focused on climbing out of the hole and back into the playoff picture

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

Winning cures all, they say.

The Devils have two straight ticks in the win column rolling into a fresh start in 2022. And so the mood in the locker room has lightened quite a bit since that six-game winless stretch from December 10-19.

A 4-3 victory in Buffalo and 6-5 OT thriller against Edmonton have the Devils on the upward swing. But it's not enough to get them completely out of the hole that's been dug. That being said, the good vibes and a narrow focus could be the groundwork for a run of success, if they're willing to put the work in.

"It's nice," said Devils coach Alain Nasreddine on Saturday. "It's been a while since we've had back-to-back wins, big wins against Buffalo and then playing a really good team like Edmonton and to come out with the win, it was a big thing. It was a big feat for us and we're not satisfied. We told the team this morning we want to climb back into the playoff picture. We're gonna have to string a bunch of wins together. We're at two now and now the focus is on Washington."

The Devils face the Capitals tomorrow and then have the Bruins and two dates with the Blue Jackets on tap.

Two wins is nice, but... insert Star Wars Kylo Ren screaming, "MORE!" meme. 

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Devils Power Play Wakes from Hibernation | BLOG

The Devils special teams have gone from burden to waking beast over the last handful of games

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

It's taken a while but the Devils power play is showing signs it's waking up. Or maybe it's finally fully awake.

The Devils issues on special teams are well-documented and part of the reason is they simply haven't had their ideal personnel for much of the season. Between injuries to key players and COVID-19 protocols etc., it's been difficult to build any sort of man-advantage momentum.

But it's also about practicing concepts and finally getting them to translate to the games.

"Every practice, basically, we've worked on it," said Alain Nasreddine, who is filling in for Lindy Ruff while the Devils coach is in COVID-19 protocol. "And now you can see how it's gelling with certain concepts that we want to emphasize. We're a lot more attacking, more shots are going to the net, more second opportunities, and just like any good power play, we're good with recovering pucks. I thought we did a really good job last night we create a bunch of chances and obviously got the power-play goal."

The Devils recalled Alexander Holtz to their taxi squad this morning and he may factor in on the power play moving forward if and when he gets into game action. Holtz says he's watched nearly every Devils game since being sent down and has witnessed the growth in the Devils power play.

"They take a lot of shots right now," said Holtz. "They're getting in front of the net and so on. They make it easier. That's how we get successful. They're taking shots and getting to the net. Jack Hughes had a nice one yesterday."

The Devils have scored a power-play goal in four of their last five outings and have gone 50% in their two games since the Christmas break. While it still ranks 31st in the NHL, the last handful of games provide a bit of a blueprint for success moving forward.

On the flip side, the Devils penalty kill has not allowed a goal in four straight outings.

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Holtz Returns to Jersey with Marching Orders | BLOG

Holtz joins Devils taxi squad with eyes set on bettering his 5-on-5 play

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

The message to Alexander Holtz? Grow your game.

There's little doubt Holtz has what it takes to be an impact NHL forward. That's what is in front of him.

But in order to get to that point, the Devils need Holtz to focus on rounding out his game.

"They want me to work on my 5-on-5 game more to be more successful there," Holtz said. "Not only be a threat on the power play all the time. So I'm getting better there too. I'm trying to focus on those kinds of things. And getting better in my overall game, too."

Holtz believes being with the taxi squad is a step toward developing in those areas because NHL exposure is very valuable.

"You play against the best guys in the world. You see the guys, the professionals. everyone. And [I'm trying to] take advantage of everything."

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Foote Looking to Use Size to his Advantage | BLOG

Nolan Foote needs to be a power forward at the next level, which is what he's attempting to grow into

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

Nolan Foote has potential.

After all, he was selected in the first round by Tampa in 2019. But he's still waiting for his opportunity to really catch on in the NHL. He has a six-game cup of coffee with the Devils last year, but has yet to suit up for the big club this season.

This morning, Foote took a step toward that debut by being recalled to the club's taxi squad.

"Every opportunity you can get, just show your game and try to do the best you can," said Foote. "And you know, they're watching every move you do. So you have to bring it every day. And, hopefully, I get that call to play to as well. So just have to be ready every day."

Foote has 10 points (6-6-10) in 22 games for Utica down in the American Hockey League this season. Should he get an opportunity to play for the Devils, he wants to show he can bring what they're asking of him.

"They want me to use my size, be a power forward. I have that skill too, and a 200-foot game," he said. "I just have to be prepared for that. They want me to use my size for sure below the goal line. And that's something I've been working on and my skating as well."

For a young player like Foote, growth, and development are key to future success in the big league.

"I think just consistency is one of the biggest things for me," said Foote. "I think my skating is improving a lot. Which is, I think, the biggest thing to work on. And just trying to keep up on my body weight and stuff like that, so I can use my size to my advantage. I'm tall, so I need to build into my frame and use it. So I think everything's going in the right direction."

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Gillies' Path Clear For First Time in a Long Time | FEATURE

Jon Gillies' hockey journey has been all over the map, but it has settled for the moment in New Jersey where he has an opportunity in front of him

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

Jon Gillies had it all.

Size? Check.

Athleticism? Check.

Hype? Check.

Ahead of the 2012 NHL Draft, Gillies was ranked the 6th-best North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting. His numbers in the USHL his draft year coupled with his size made scouts salivate and the Calgary Flames liked him enough to spend a third-round pick.

He rewarded the Flames with a run of good and consistent play for Providence College, posting save percentages of .931, .931, and .930 in his three seasons there. His NHL debut? A 27-save, one-goal-allowed victory over the Los Angeles Kings, on the road.

Video: Jon Gillies | PRE-GAME RAW 12.16.21

But since some of the early-career highs, Gillies has been on a winding journey. Long stints in the AHL were mixed in with short looks in the NHL. He never could gain traction in the show.

"My journey has been kind of weird," Gillies said. "It started off on a clear path and then got really blurry there for a while. And so I spent a lot of time wondering if the chance was ever going to come again."

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Devils Pleased Bratt Producing Consistently | FEATURE

An elite skater already, Bratt is beginning to show he's got the finish and the drive to be a consistent force in the NHL

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

Jesper Bratt is just 23 years old.

That sentence seems off, but it's accurate.

It seems off because it feels like Bratt has been in the League a long time. He's already played 251 games, compiling 50 goals and 98 assists along the way.

Video: SJS@NJD: Bratt scores in 3rd period

Now, fellow forward Pavel Zacha was quick to correct and note it's not just Bratt but the whole roster that is filled with players in similar situations. The Devils are led by young players who bring a wealth of NHL experience to the table so early in their NHL careers.

Of late, the young Bratt is providing a glimpse into what his ceiling might be at this level. He's streaking right now with seven points in his last five games and he has at least a point in nine of his last 10 outings.

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Ruff Sends Message with Tough Practice | BLOG

The Devils skated hard for well over an hour on Wednesday at practice

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

3-on-1 rushes? 2-on-2 battles? Power play? Penalty kill? The shootout?

You name it, the Devils probably worked on it on Wednesday at practice. It was a fast-paced, physically exhausting skate following last night's 5-2 disappointing effort against San Jose. Just when you thought practice would traditionally have ended, considering the team's travel schedule, Ruff signaled for another drill.

What's that famous line from the movie Dark Knight?

"It's about sending a message."

On Wednesday, Head Coach Lindy Ruff had a message he wanted to convey. 

"Part of that was trying to re-establish [the details in our game] and part of that was the message that last night wasn't good enough," said Ruff. "And if that's what we're going to get, we'll practice harder. Until we do get it."

It does not appear as though today was a one-off for the Devils. If they get more performances like Tuesday night, Ruff seems inclined to repeat today's itinerary.

"I told the team this morning, if we played the way we did last night, we're going to practice even harder the next day," said Ruff. "If we're determined, and we play the game the right way, and we're getting the results, the practice time will go down. But all I had to do was watch the first five minutes of last night's game to know that wasn't even close to good enough. We were pretending."

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A New Era, Dressed in Black | FEATURE

The Devils unveiled the franchise's first third jersey, designed by a Hall of Famer with a deep meaning rooted in the history of hockey in the Garden State

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

Video: The state. The people. The next era.

"I'm from Jersey."

An unabashed proclamation that the deep vocals of actor Patrick Warburton boomed from out of the darkness as a new era of New Jersey hockey emerged.

The Devils released a video, voiced by Warburton, on their social media platforms this morning showing off, for the first time, imagery of their brand new, black third jersey.


As a Paterson, New Jersey native, Warburton's involvement in the release video was one of many symbolic ties between a piece of cloth and a state, home to nearly 10 million people and plenty of hockey fans.

"This is a jersey for New Jersey, and it says it right on the front," said Devils Senior Vice President of Marketing Jillian Frechette. "Our fans were potentially expecting something a little different, but they were longing for black. For us as a brand, and as a team, it's the ability to pay homage to our past but take this bold step forward as a brand. And I think that's the most critical piece."

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Devils and Sabres Face Off for the First | PRE-GAME STORY

The Devils and Sabres each look to rebound after both teams lost their most recent games: New Jersey on Thursday and Buffalo on Friday

by Catherine Bogart and Chris Wescott NJDevils /

In the fourth game of a five game homestead, the New Jersey Devils face the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night at Prudential Center.

You can watch the game on MSG or listen on the Devils Hockey Network.

Read the game preview below and check back for videos, lineup updates, our Pre-Game story and more.

Video: Double Dose of Debuts | DEVILS MINUTE

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Pre-Season Opener Provides Taste of Bright Future | FEATURE

The average age of the Devils five goal scorers in their pre-season opener was 20.6, providing a window into what may be a very bright future for the franchise

by Chris Wescott TheChrisWescott /

Video: Sharangovich, Holtz earn 2 points each in 5-4 victory

Yegor Sharangovich was the oldest goal scorer for the Devils last night in Washington, one of five, at the ripe veteran age of 23.

Let that sink in a moment.

Then move on to the fact that Nico Hischier, the team's captain, scored the game-winning goal to propel New Jersey to a 5-4 victory in their exhibition opener. Forget he's only 22? You're probably not alone.

How about Jack Hughes, who, at the age of 20, looks like a prime take-the-league-by-storm candidate heading into Year 3? The flashes of dominance he had last year have carried over through camp.

And if that's not enough to bring you to the edge of your seat as a fan, think about Alex Holtz and Dawson Mercer scoring in their NHL pre-season debuts as promising 19-year-old first-round picks.

Hopefully, you read this with the Vince McMahon reaction meme playing in your head because it just kept getting better last night.

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