They have an exceedingly young lineup. www.eraneta.com/shea-theodore-c-1_27.html They’ve been challenged by injuries. They want to play a fast, offense-oriented game. They’re not the Bruins. They’re the Bruins’ opponent on Wednesday night.
BOSTON — They have an exceedingly young lineup.
They’ve been challenged by injuries.
They want to play a fast, offense-oriented game.
They’re not the Bruins. They’re the Bruins’ opponent on Wednesday night.
Repeatedly referred to as “the surprising New Jersey Devils,” they own a share of first place in the Metropolitan Division, and they’re standing in the way of the Bruins’ first three-game winning streak of the season.
“They’re playing well, playing fast, playing confident, and they’re scoring a lot of goals,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said on Tuesday. “You watch them on video, and they’re flying around.”
For roughly a generation (1987-2015) under former general manager Lou Lamoriello, the Devils concentrated more on grounding teams that tried to fly around, and it paid off with three Stanley Cups and two other trips to the Finals.
Now in their third season under GM Ray Shero (a Cup winner with the Penguins in 2009) and coach John Hynes, they’re trying to break a five-year absence from the playoffs by not just keeping up the speed at which most of the NHL is playing, but going even faster.
“They want skill, they want speed, they want attack,” Cassidy said. “Before, you thought of the Devils more as ‘clog it up, defend, defend some more,’ and win that way.”
With eight players 23 or younger, headed by 18-year-old No. 1 overall draftee Nico Hischier (3 goals, 12 assists) and defenseman Will Butcher (2 goals, 14 assists), who won last year’s Hobey Baker Award while helping the University of Denver win the NCAA championship, the Devils are armed with plenty of young talent.
At the same time, New Jersey has imported a group of veterans — many of them very familiar to local hockey fans — to help guide the kids.
That list is headed by Hingham, Mass., native Brian Boyle, the 32-year-old forward who may have experienced more change in 2017 than any NHL player. After getting traded from the Lightning to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 27, he signed a two-year contract with the Devils on July 1, then discovered during training camp that he had a form of leukemia.
Boyle had to miss 10 games to begin treatment, but has been in the lineup since Nov. 1.
“The first question that pops into your mind is, ‘Is he going to be OK?’” said B’s defenseman Rob O’Gara, who has trained with Boyle for the last two off-seasons at the Foxboro Sports Center. “But if anyone can handle it, if anyone can fight it, it’s Brian. He’s just an impressive guy.”
The Devils have also received a significant www.goldenknightsproshops.com/teemu-pulkkinen-c-1_30.html boost from Braintree’s Brian Gibbons, another free agent who spent the last two seasons in the AHL with two different organizations. Gibbons, who turned pro under Shero and Hynes in the Penguins’ system, leads the Devils with nine goals, and he’s plus-13.
“I think they’ve probably surprised some teams,” Cassidy said of the Devils, who also include ex-Bruins Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford.
“You think of New Jersey the last couple years, and maybe players go in there [unsuspecting], and all of a sudden they’re ramming it down your throat. ... Hopefully we don’t fall into that trap.”
“Yeah, it’s a big game for us,” said Bruins center David Krejci, whose return from a 10-game absence with an upper body injury (the Bruins were 3-4-4 without him) has helped spark the season’s first winning streak. “We’re building toward something; we’re on the right track.”
Around the boards
Winger Brad Marchand and defenseman Torey Krug both participated in Tuesday’s practice in non-contact jerseys, but Cassidy said neither will play against the Devils. “I can’t really discuss what’s going on,” said Marchand, who has missed five of the last seven games, “but I’m feeling a little better, and trying to keep progressing .... We’ll just keep going day by day.” ...
Center Ryan Spooner, sidelined since sustaining a groin injury on Oct. 15, went through Tuesday’s full practice and may play on Wednesday. ...
Cassidy said rookie winger Anders Bjork, who has missed three games with a suspected upper body injury, won’t return until next week ...
Cassidy said he hadn’t decided if Anton Khudobin will make his third straight start in goal, or if Tuukka Rask will get the assignment.
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