Sinking Devils aim for bounce-back vs. Blue Jackets

A run of deficient defensive performances is threatening to undo a quick start for the New Jersey Devils.

Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets are hoping the worst is over after their most productive showing of the first two months.

The Devils attempt to stay over .500 on Friday afternoon in Newark, N.J., when they host the Blue Jackets, who are seeking consecutive wins for the second time this season.

New Jersey began the season 6-2-1 following its 5-3 win in Minnesota on Nov. 2. Since then, the Devils are 2-6-0 and four of those losses were by at least three goals.

In their six most recent losses, the Devils have been outscored 29-12 and often are allowing multiple goals three minutes apart or fewer.

At St. Louis on Nov. 3, the Devils allowed two in a span of 2:42 in the second period. Four nights later, they gave up two in a span of 2:08 in the third at Colorado.

Against Washington on home ice Nov. 10, they gave up two tallies over a span of 15 seconds in the first, and four nights later in Winnipeg, it was two goals in a span of 2:04 in the third.

The latest instance occurred in a 4-0 loss at Detroit on Wednesday that marked New Jersey’s first regular-season shutout in 101 games. The Devils were held to a season-low 16 shots on goal and allowed three goals in 72 seconds late in the first period.

“I saw a total lack of respect for our puck play,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. “Turned too many pucks over. Every time we turned it over it was in the back of our net. Just a total lack of disrespect for time and place in the game and just puck management.”

The Devils played their 10th straight game without Nico Hischier (upper-body injury). Hischier was activated from injured reserve, has practiced twice but could be out again along with Timo Meier (lower-body injury).

“We have to put this one behind us and turn this ship around real quick,” said Tyler Toffoli, who was a minus-2 Wednesday and is a minus-8 during this slide. “It’s not an excuse to be missing guys and all that. We have to play with the guys in the lineup and have to play hard every single night. I think we’ve definitely shown that we can do it but we got to put it together here.”

Columbus won consecutive games Oct. 20-21 by turning back Calgary and Minnesota but is 2-9-4 in its past 15.

The Blue Jackets lost six one-goal games in a nine-game skid (0-7-2) before impressively ending the slide with a 7-3 win over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Boone Jenner scored twice and Zach Werenski collected four assists as the Blue Jackets scored more than four goals for the third time. Patrik Laine, Kirill Marchenko, Erik Gudbranson, Cole Sillinger and Dmitri Voronkov also scored in a game where 12 players registered at least one point.

Laine scored his third goal this season after being a healthy scratch for Sunday’s 5-2 loss at Philadelphia.

“It’s a tough stretch,” Jenner said after his power-play goal snapped the Blue Jackets’ 0-for-22 skid. “As a group, we have to use this to come together. Nobody’s going to get us out of it other than ourselves. I liked our game tonight.”