Having lost three of four games, the latest a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils are in need of a spark.
Alex Holtz, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft, was summoned from the minors on Thursday after scoring five goals in four games for the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets and is expected to make his NHL debut in Friday’s road game against the Los Angeles Kings.
“This is what you dream of your whole life. I’m really pumped for this,” said the 19-year-old forward after Thursday’s practice.
The Devils, who have two more games remaining on their California road swing, could use a boost. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is expected to miss the game, a blow to the club that’s struggling after winning three of four games to kick off the season.
Coach Lindy Ruff said Holtz could help their struggling power play. Against the Ducks, New Jersey was 0-for-5 with the man-advantage, and surrendered a short-handed goal. The Ducks also scored twice on their power-play chances.
“It’s frustrating. The power play needs to make a difference,” captain Nico Hischier said. “Even just getting momentum back. That’s not what we’re doing right now. We just have to put pucks on net and get one dirty one to get the confidence back. Obviously, we have to get better. We don’t have any confidence. We have to simplify it. It’s not good enough. It’s that simple.”
Should Holtz play, it would mean two of New Jersey’s three first-round picks from 2020 will be playing for them — the other being forward Dawson Mercer, who has three goals and five points in eight games.
The Kings are looking to extend their three-game winning streak, which was stretched with a 3-2 shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
Prior to this mini-spree, the Kings dropped six consecutive contests.
“I didn’t think we were a 1-5-1 team, or whatever our record was when we came home,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We also played seven of our 10 games against Central Division teams, and top-end teams, we’re trying to get up in their weight class.”
Piling up victories has the Kings believing they’re on the right path to success. The way the Kings regrouped to earn the win after what transpired on Wednesday — Blues defenseman Torey Krug scored a game-tying short-handed goal with nine seconds remaining in regulation — is a positive to build upon.
“Obviously that’s not what we wanted,” forward Adrian Kempe said. “We wanted to win it in the first 60 minutes, but we came back from being down 1-0 in the third period (to take a 2-1 lead). We told each other on the bench, ‘Let’s keep going here and we’re going to get our chances in OT,’ if not we have good players to finish in the shootout.”
The Kings also made a couple of roster moves on Thursday in anticipation of forward Andreas Athanasiou playing for the first time since an upper-body injury early in training camp.
Forwards Alex Turcotte and Vladimir Tkachev were recalled from the AHL’s Ontario Reign, while defensemen Kale Clague and Austin Strand were sent to the minors. Star defenseman Drew Doughty was moved to the long-term injured list. Doughty suffered a knee injury in late October and is expected to miss two months.
–Field Level Media