Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils Pick & Prediction JANUARY 11th 2024

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The high-scoring New Jersey Devils have been playing well and also received some good news on the injury to star center Jack Hughes.

Winners of five of their past seven matches (5-2-0) but idle since Saturday’s 6-4 home loss against the Vancouver Canucks, the Devils will play at the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night in the teams’ first meeting of the season.

They will do so without the dynamic Hughes, who was felled Friday with an upper-body injury against the Chicago Blackhawks after a hard tumble on a rush.

“Jack’s case is going to be weeks, not months,” coach Lindy Ruff said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think we all have to look at that as good news, so we’ll just keep evaluating week-to-week and see how it progresses.”

The 22-year-old Hughes, who missed Saturday’s match, tops New Jersey with 45 points and 21 power-play points. He averages 20:30 of ice time in 32 games this season.

He was recently chosen to play in the 2024 NHL All-Star Game on the first weekend next month, but his participation is questionable.

New Jersey also skates without forwards Timo Meier (mid body), Ondrej Palat (lower body) and Tomas Nosek (foot), plus defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler (foot) and Dougie Hamilton (pectoral).

None will play in Florida, though Ruff said Meier is the closest, skating some on his own but not practicing with the team.

The Devils have been strong away from the Garden State, carrying a 12-6-0 road mark to Florida for Thursday’s match in Tampa and Saturday’s in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers.

On Tuesday night in the opener of their four-game homestand, the Lightning took their time through 50 minutes but got down to business at the end to win for the 20th time this season.

Trailing by a pair of goals and failing to put a shot past Los Angeles All-Star goaltender Cam Talbot, coach Jon Cooper’s squad came alive to tie it over a 3:02 span behind markers from Tyler Motte and Brandon Hagel.

The Lightning won the overtime faceoff and controlled most of the play. Then, a steal by Hagel, a pass from him to Nick Perbix and the defenseman’s crafty backhander beat Talbot for a 3-2 victory.

The overtime goal was Perbix’s first ever in the NHL and also his third game-winner in his six career tallies.

While triumphant for just the third time in seven games (3-4-0), it was the kind of win a struggling team needs: rallying late and getting the added point with a win in the extra session.

“We carried play for a lot of the game,” Perbix said. “Obviously, they got two quick ones in the second, but as long as we stuck to our structure, we figured that some would go in.”

Hagel, who notched a goal and an assist, said his team played well but trailed because of the bug that has bitten the squad all season – turnovers.

“It just feels like that this year, that every time we make a mistake it’s going into the net,” Hagel said. “It didn’t feel like we were being outplayed.”

The victory boosted the Lightning to 12-5-3 at home and gave Cooper his 500th career win.

Since the 2018-19 season, Tampa Bay has won eight of the 11 matchups (8-3-0) with the Devils including four of the past five.

–Field Level Media

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