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Taylor Hall happy to be in playoff mix with Devils

Left wing finds closure after playing in Edmonton, has sights on All-Star Game

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The scenery didn't just change for Taylor Hall, so did the situation.

The left wing, playing for the New Jersey Devils after six seasons with Edmonton Oilers, is enjoying the fact that he's able to make offensive contributions for a team chasing a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It's an unusual scenario for Hall, who never, at the midway point of a season with Edmonton, was on a team at least .500 and in the thick of the playoff race. Following their 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, the Devils are 20-20-9 and four points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"Just to be in the [playoff] mix right now, I'm enjoying it," Hall said. "Hopefully, as a team, we can keep growing and put ourselves into contention."

Hall, who was acquired by the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson in a trade with the Oilers on June 29, said he's in a much better place now after playing in Edmonton on Jan. 12 for the first time since the trade. The Devils lost in overtime 3-2 but Hall received an ovation and video tribute.

Video: NJD@EDM: Oilers welcome back Taylor Hall

"I think closure is the perfect word; finally going to Edmonton and getting the ovation and the video and seeing everyone there," Hall said. "I really haven't even thought about Edmonton since. It's weird, but there's been a lot of closure."

The game against the Oilers in Edmonton weighed heavy on Hall. He had a goal and six points in 14 games prior to visiting his former team, but has since scored two goals and six points in the past seven games.

"That game [in Edmonton] was always in the back of my mind, knowing I'd have to go back, be in that city and play that team," he said. "If you look at my play leading up to that game, it wasn't my best stretch. But it feels like a weight's been lifted. After getting that stuff over, it's nice to get to games that are really meaningful now."

Hall is also excited to be representing the Devils and the Metropolitan Division at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). It will be his second All-Star Game appearance after representing the Oilers for the Pacific Division last season, the first year the NHL used the 3-on-3 format.

Video: NJD@MTL: Hall buries Henrique's slick no-look pass

"I was surprised with how serious all the guys took the game last year and that made for a really competitive and fun atmosphere," Hall said. "The key to the 3-on-3 format is puck possession, and good line changes. It's such a different game 3-on-3 because once you get the puck it's just keep away."

Hall is tied for second on the Devils in goals (11), and is first in assists (20), points (31) and shots on goal (124). The Devils have been responsible for 51.1 percent of all shot attempts whenever Hall has been on the ice, which ranks second on New Jersey.

"Taylor came in as a player with the understanding that there were things he needed to be better at for us," Devils coach John Hynes said. "We've done a lot of 1-on-1 video with him, given him some leeway but also put our foot down with him at times with what is and what's not acceptable.

"It's not so much an unwillingness to do it, it's just really understanding the system, the reads you have to make and attention to detail you need to have. He's realizing now is doesn't take away from his offensive game to have that type of discipline in being able to track back on line rushes, and understand that from good defense, a player with his ability will eventually strike offensively."

Hall feels the Devils have as good a shot as any other team in contention for a wild card spot, particularly since New Jersey will play nine of its 11 games at home in February. Before that, however, he'll look to make New Jersey proud at the All-Star Game.

"It's not something you set out to play in at the start of the season, but certainly it's a nice recognition and going there and playing with the best players in the world is a privilege," Hall said. "I'm excited to represent the Devils. I was hoping that I was going to get a chance to play in the game and I'm honored to do it."

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