While the overall results are mixed so far for the New Jersey Devils, Jack Hughes is off to a flying start with 10 points through four games.
Coming off a four-point night, Hughes attempts to continue his early-season roll Thursday when New Jersey visits the Montreal Canadiens.
The Devils are 2-1-1 and Hughes has four goals and six assists after totaling 43 goals and 99 points in 78 games last season. He a power-play goal and assisted on two other goals with the man advantage when the Devils claimed a 5-4 victory on his overtime tally Friday night against the New York Islanders in Elmont, N.Y.
“What I would say is obviously he’s an unbelievable player,” Devils defenseman Luke Hughes said of his older brother. “But what he would say right now is, ‘We’re four games in, we’ve got a long season, a long way to go.’ He’s a special player and a huge part of this season.”
Jack Hughes helped the Devils rebound from a lackluster 4-3 home loss to the Florida Panthers on Oct. 16 that prompted a lengthy practice the following day.
“I thought that really looked like our club,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of the Islanders game. “We created a lot of turnovers, inside shots and a lot of good opportunities. Our play around the puck was a lot stronger than it has been the first few games.”
Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Toffoli and Luke Hughes also scored power-play goals as the Devils were 4 of 5 with the man advantage against the Islanders. New Jersey heads to Montreal with the NHL’s top power play at 42.9 percent (9-for-21).
“We’re not wasting too many power plays,” Jack Hughes said. “We’re pretty sharp off the get-go.”
He helped the Devils win against the Islanders even though they played slightly short-handed. Nico Hischier did not return to the ice after the second period because of an apparent shoulder injury, and Erik Haula sat out the game, but both returned to practice on Monday and are expected to suit up on Tuesday.
Montreal will attempt to win a third straight game even since experiencing a special teams nightmare against the visiting Minnesota Wild on Oct. 17.
The Canadiens allowed two short-handed goals and three power-play goals in a 5-2 loss but responded to the rough showing by going 9-for-10 on penalty kills in wins against the Washington Capitals on Saturday and the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. Over the past two games, Montreal allowed a total of three goals after giving up 13 in its first three contests.
After Cole Caufield scored the game-winner 47 seconds into overtime to beat Washington, Justin Barron and Brendan Gallagher scored at even strength before Tanner Pearson added a power-play goal late in the third period on Monday in the Canadiens’ 3-1 win at Buffalo. Pearson has three goals in five games.
Jake Allen earned wins in both of those games by stopping 67 shots, but Sam Montembeault could make the start on Tuesday on the second night of a back-to-back set. Allen was helped by a defense that blocked 19 shots against the Capitals and then matched that total against the Sabres.
“(Monday) was a big win, find a way to come here after another big, emotional win the other night,” Allen said. “To get back on the horse sometimes isn’t easy, but I was impressed with the group. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.”
New Jersey is 11-2-1 over its past 14 meetings with the Canadiens and has won on each of its past seven trips to Montreal.