New Jersey Devils vs. Chicago Blackhawks Pick & Prediction JANUARY 5th 2024

The New Jersey Devils haven’t fully emerged from the deluge of injuries they’ve encountered during the first half of the season.

But the Devils are much closer to being whole than the Chicago Blackhawks are.

The Devils will look to continue surging, and the undermanned Blackhawks will attempt to salvage the finale of their five-game road trip Friday night when New Jersey hosts Chicago in Newark in the final game of the season between the teams.

The Devils were off Thursday after scoring the last three goals of a 6-3 win over the host Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks will complete a back-to-back set after falling to the New York Rangers 4-1 on Thursday for their fourth straight loss.

The win was the fourth in the last five games (4-1-0) for the Devils, who are 12-6-1 since Thanksgiving despite rarely putting their optimal lineup on the ice. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is out indefinitely after undergoing pectoral surgery Dec. 1 while left winger Ondrej Palat (lower-body injury) and Timo Meier (middle-body injury) were sidelined Wednesday.

But the Devils do have centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, who were their top two scorers last season and are returning to form after missing a combined 16 games this season through late November due to shoulder and upper-body injuries, respectively.

Hughes, who missed five games from Nov. 5-16, had just two points in his first three games back but has 23 points in the last 18 games. Hischier staked the Devils to a 2-0 lead by scoring twice in the first 10 minutes Wednesday, when he finished with a season-high three points while centering a first line — along with wingers Erik Haula and Dawson Mercer — that finished with seven points.

“To get out of the gate and score early, get the lead — I thought that line did a tremendous job,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “And obviously Nico was leading the way.”

A nightmarish season for the Blackhawks got worse this week when left winger Anthony Beauvillier suffered a left arm injury Tuesday night.

Among the injured players are left winger Taylor Hall, the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner, who had two goals in 10 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right ACL, and top defenseman Seth Jones, who has missed the last 11 games due to a shoulder injury.

The Blackhawks, whose 24 points are the second-fewest in the NHL, began their road trip Dec. 29 by squandering a two-goal, first-period lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. Chicago hasn’t led in any of the last three games, a span in which it has been outscored 15-2.

“I don’t know how many teams can absorb this many injuries,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “We’re trying to get some people to play with some continuity, with some new lines and a new lineup, but it’s what we’re dealt right now. We have to deal with it.”

–Field Level Media

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