As a pair of last-place teams, the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks have plenty in common. However, only the Devils will be embarking upon a new era Wednesday night when they host the Ducks in an intra-conference matchup in Newark, N.J.
The Devils haven’t played since Saturday, when they snapped a seven-game losing streak and earned interim head coach Alain Nasreddine his first victory by edging the host Arizona Coyotes 2-1.
The Ducks embarked upon a four-game East Coast road trip Tuesday, when they fell 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The win Saturday came far too late to change the course of the Devils’ derailed season — a fact underlined Monday, when the Taylor Hall drama finally concluded as New Jersey traded the former Hart Trophy winner to the Coyotes in exchange for three prospects and two conditional draft picks.
The Devils entered the season hoping to convince Hall, an impending free agent, to re-sign with the club. But neither Hall nor management ever engaged in serious contract talks, and a trade seemed inevitable once New Jersey lost its first six games (0-4-2) and failed to win more than two games in a row over the season’s first six weeks.
Head coach John Hynes was fired Dec. 3, one day after a 7-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres that marked the second defeat in the seven-game losing streak. Hall was a healthy scratch in his final two games with the Devils as general manager Ray Shero sifted through offers.
While Shero didn’t have much of a choice but to trade Hall and allow everyone involved to embark upon a fresh start, actually dealing the star left winger was still a difficult moment.
“It may have made it a harder decision if we were five points or three points out of the playoffs, right now or at the deadline,” Shero told reporters Tuesday. “But I don’t think it was that hard of a decision based on that, as far as where we (are), and obviously making sure we have assets that are coming back to us that we like.
“But again, it’s always a difficult decision when you’re trading someone like Taylor.”
Unlike the Devils, who have the second-fewest points and second-worst goal differential in the NHL, the Ducks are at least on the periphery of the playoff race. Anaheim enters Wednesday eight points out of a wild-card spot.
But the Ducks, who have won back-to-back games just twice since a 3-0-0 start, had typical consistency issues Tuesday, when they fired 41 shots against Flyers goalie Carter Hart. It marked the third straight defeat for Anaheim in which it had at least 33 shots while scoring two goals or fewer.
“When we were playing together, we were playing very well,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said postgame Tuesday. “We were getting our chances, we weren’t playing in our zone, and then we would turn the puck back or we try to beat guys individually. And you can’t win in this league by yourself.”
Of immediate concern for the Ducks is the knee injury that right winger Troy Terry sustained in the second period at Philadelphia. Terry didn’t return to the game, and his status for Wednesday was uncertain.
–Field Level Media