Injuries and COVID Begin to Mount for New Jersey Devils

A similar pattern is starting to develop for the New Jersey Devils. Last season, seven games were rescheduled due to a COVID outbreak on the team. For the remainder of the season, the Devils were left scrambling to make up games. They would play up to four games a week from mid-February through May to make up those games. The result was a seventh-place finish in the East – I mean, the Mass Mutual East Division. This season not only is COVID starting to rear its ugly head, but injuries are also starting to mount up.

#CoronaSZN Strikes Again

We are there.

With the Omnicron strain of COVID – why did we skip Nu and Xi? – moving across the world, you knew it would eventually hit the New Jersey Devils. And it did: in December, seven players went into COVID protocol. The league and the players association rushed in protocols and taxi squads to ensure games were played. In December, seven players entered COVID protocol, including Nico Hischier, Ryan Graves, and P.K. Subban. Even head coach Lindy Ruff missed three games following COVID protocol. Three games were postponed at the end of December due to so many players being out due to protocol. Games against Pittsburgh, Montreal, and St. Louis were rescheduled after the league paused the season.

Their Monday night home game against Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay was postponed as more Devils players entered protocol. In fact, the Devils only dressed 18 players in Saturday night’s game in Columbus, so this was coming. Their games in Montreal and Toronto due to provincial restrictions in Quebec and Ontario. The Devils are scheduled to play Thursday at the New York Islanders, who had COVID issues of their own in November. If that game is postponed, their next game won’t be until January 19 against Arizona. Not only has COVID affected the New Jersey Devils, but so have injuries.

Key Injuries to Key Players

(Don’t worry, Devils fans: this was from October.)

Not only are the New Jersey Devils no stranger to COVID, but they’re also no stranger to their share of injuries this season, especially to key players. The Devils have lost somewhere between 150-175 games lost this season due to injury and COVID. This is especially true as of late, but this trend has lasted all season. Forward Miles Wood has not played at all this season after having surgery on his right hip. Forward Jack Hughes missed 17 games after suffering a Grade 1 separated shoulder in just the second game of the season against Seattle. On November 19, the Devils announced forward Tyce Thompson would be out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. In last Sunday’s win, defenseman Dougie Hamilton took a puck to the face and suffered a broken jaw.

But no position has been more affected by injury than at goaltender. Mackenzie Blackwood missed the first month of the season after recovering from offseason foot surgery. He also missed a few games in November due to a sore neck. Jonathan Bernier’s season ended prematurely when he had surgery on his right hip. Jon Gillies – acquired from St. Louis on December 15 – went into COVID protocol before the Devils came back from the league pause.

Will the Devils Get Back to Full Strength?

With the rise in COVID cases around the league and injuries mounting, another break for the New Jersey Devils could be good. Prior to the pause before Christmas, the Devils were on a slide where they lost nine out 10 games. After the break, they’ve won four out of six games and are in a three-way tie for fifth in the Metropolitan Division. They have a long way to go to catch Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, though. As of this writing, the Devils have seven games to make up. Hopefully, the trend of COVID and injuries doesn’t affect the Devils for too long and for that matter, the rest of the league.

I’m Ryan McCarthy and I cover the beat for the New Jersey Devils. Thanks for reading my season preview. Be sure to look at our other NHL coverage on Belly Up Sports. If you want to chirp at me on social media, my Twitter is @whoisryanmcc.

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