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Hall says 'playoffs or bust' for Devils after busy offseason

Forward happy with upgrades after 29th-place finish

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall said nothing short of the Stanley Cup Playoffs should be the goal for the New Jersey Devils this season.

"I think if we don't make the [playoffs], that's a huge disappointment for everyone," Hall said. "That's a spot we don't want to envision ourselves in and with the talent we brought in, the upgrades and the growth of our team, I think it's playoffs or bust."

Last season, New Jersey went 31-41-10 and finished 26 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

 

[RELATED: Hall fine if contract talks extend into regular season]

 

As a result, the Devils had a busy offseason, selecting center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21 and acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators the next day. They also signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million contract July 1 and acquired forward Nikita Gusev in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29 before signing him to a two-year, $9 million contract the same day.

"It was a great summer for us, there's no doubt about it," Hall said. "We finished 29th (in the NHL), so there were some upgrades that needed to happen, and I think they've all been filled. Now we see how everything fits, how guys can play in our system, and who surprises. That's really what you're looking for, is guys that come in and play better than you think, or you guys think they will, and I'm excited to see that."

Hall, who missed the final 47 games last season after having arthroscopic surgery in February to remove fragments from his left knee, said he will not be limited in training camp and hopes to play in a minimum of two preseason games, most likely later in the schedule.

"I'm just looking for game situations, being hit when you don't expect to, putting yourself in spots where you just can't replicate in the offseason," Hall said.

Video: Hall lands at No. 41 on the Top 50 Players list

The Devils have a seven-game preseason schedule with three home games. They open with split-squad games against the Boston Bruins and at the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

"I'm obviously expecting to feel 100 percent during those games and there's not going to be any limitations, minuteswise or anything like that," Hall said. "It's more just about feeling comfortable playing 5-on-5. In the summer, you do so much skill work and skating work. It's important to get out there and feel nine other guys out there on the ice with you. That's really what I'm looking for."

Hall had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games in 2018-19, one season after winning the Hart Trophy voted as the NHL most valuable player after getting an NHL career-high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games and helping the Devils qualify for the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

"It was a great feeling as a team to know that over 82 games we accomplished something that wasn't really expected of us (in 2017-18)," Hall said. "This year is probably going to be a different feel. It's expected of us, from outside and inside. But there's a ton of growth that can happen over the course of the season when your team is competing for a playoff spot. You really see what players and your team [are] made of."

The Devils open their season against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 4.

"It's been a constant climb, really," Hall said. "I think I'm still going to feel even better than I do right now, a month from now, and it's just going to keep getting better. The one thing that's really hard to do in the summer is push yourself gamewise and put yourself in uncomfortable spots. You try your best, but that's what camp is for. That's what the exhibition games are for, and I'm really excited to do that and feel confident doing so."

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