Devils, Blackhawks meet for first time in 22 months

NHL Hockey

Chicago entered this season aiming to take the next step in an extensive rebuilding project. On Friday night, the Blackhawks hope that facing a team in a similar spot will yield better results than Wednesday’s opener against a Stanley Cup contender.

The Blackhawks continue a three-game road trip Friday by visiting the New Jersey Devils in the first game between the teams in almost 22 months.

Chicago, which missed the playoffs last season for the third time in four years, spotted the Colorado Avalanche three goals in the first 10 minutes of a 4-2 loss Wednesday night.

The Devils will be making their season debut Friday in Newark. New Jersey missed the playoffs last season for the third straight time and the eighth time in nine years since their most recent trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

For the Blackhawks, the end result to the Avalanche — a consensus favorite to win the Western Conference — was not all that discouraging. But doing so in quickly lopsided fashion while Colorado was missing star center Nathan MacKinnon (COVID-19 protocols) did not provide Chicago the early jolt it was seeking.

The Avalanche’s three first-period goals came during a stretch in which Colorado had 14 unanswered shots over a span of more than nine minutes. The Blackhawks outshot Colorado 32-20 over the final 36:22 but never got closer than two goals.

“We got better as the game went on, but it’s hard to dig yourselves out of a hole,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Overall, the start did us in. We need to be better. We will be better. We’ve got good players and the stuff that happened is very correctable.”

The Devils, whose 45 points last season were the third fewest in the NHL, will be looking to build off a promising preseason (4-1-0) with one of the youngest cores in the league. Among the team’s top seven scorers last season, only Miles Wood (26 years old) and Damon Severson (27) are older than 25. Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, had eight multi-point games as a 19-year-old.

The Devils added a pair of playoff-tested veterans to their blue line by signing former Carolina Hurricanes star Dougie Hamilton in free agency and acquiring Ryan Graves from the Avalanche.

“When you’re talking about meaningful games, it’s that we’re giving ourselves a real good chance to be in that postseason position,” said head coach Lindy Ruff, who is beginning his second season in New Jersey. “That’s the next step for us.”

The two teams did not face each other during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season. The Devils won the most recent meeting on Dec. 23, 2019, when New Jersey set season highs for goals and margin of victory in a 7-1 win.

–Field Level Media

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