Viktor Arvidsson and the Nashville Predators face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
This kind of deja vu, the New Jersey Devils can do without.
Last January when the Nashville Predators most recently visited New Jersey, the Devils had seven injured regulars missing from the lineup. As such, the resulting 3-0 loss to the Predators was not a big surprise.
Now, with the teams again set to face off Thursday at Prudential Center, the Devils are hoping for a better result despite another rash of injuries.
The Devils (4-2-0) placed defensemen Steven Santini and Ben Lovejoy, and winger Drew Stafford, on injured reserve earlier this week. Veteran center Travis Zajac is battling a lower body injury and may not be able to play Thursday, while winger Jesper Bratt remains on IR with a fractured jaw. Then there is goaltender Cory Schneider, who is still rehabbing offseason hip surgery in the minor leagues.
"That's a lot hanging over our heads, but we have to be ready to play," said Devils coach John Hynes. "We have a team picked to win the Stanley Cup coming in, and they're coming off a loss, so we we've got to be ready to play no matter what."
Four players were recalled from the Devils AHL affiliate in Binghamton this week. Rookie forward John Quenneville is back after starting the season in New Jersey, as is veteran defenseman Eric Gryba. They are joined by forward Kevin Rooney and former KHL defenseman Yegor Yakovlev in joining the Devils for Thursday's contest.
"Those guys should bring energy to your team and you should have some real hungry guys in your room," said Hynes. "That's important to find ways to win."
The Devils are looking to snap a two-game slide, punctuated by Saturday's lackluster 5-2 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. In response, Hynes put the team through a series of battle drills in an exhausting practice on Monday before returning to normal hockey drills the next two days.
"We kind of got away the last few games from our game," said Devils forward Marcus Johansson. "We're going to make sure we're ready to play hard when the next game comes up."
Despite Tuesday's 5-4 home-ice loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Predators won seven of their first nine games this season. The defeat snapped a five-game winning streak.
Viktor Arvidsson scored two goals and added an assist in the loss, and has six goals, tied for the team lead with Filip Forsberg. However, it wasn't enough as the Predators surrendered three unanswered goals in the third period.
"We weren't going to win out the rest of the season," Nashville forward Colton Sissons told nhl.com. "Obviously, it stings a little more when you have a two-goal lead heading into the third in your own building. We don't like that one bit."
While the Predators do not have the injury woes New Jersey does, they are a bit banged up. Defenseman Dan Hamhuis left Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury and his availability for Thursday's game in New Jersey is not known. And Pekka Rinne, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, is on IR with as lower body injury.
In Rinne's place, 23-year-old Juuse Saros was elevated to the starter's role. He has four wins in five decisions on the season with a 2.37 goals-against average and one shutout, but did allow five goals on 32 shots in the loss to San Jose.
"One of the best up-and-coming goalies in the league," Forsberg said of Saros to The Tennessean.
Added Predators coach Peter Laviolette, "Juuse has given us no reason to think he can't handle this."
The Predators won each of their last three visits to Prudential Center, including last year's blanking of the Devils. Saros has two career appearances against the Devils, a regulation win and an overtime loss to go along with a 1.45 GAA.