The New Jersey Devils are in the midst of yet another losing season and here’s another reason to perhaps fade them the rest of the way: Star forward Jack Hughes is done because of a knee injury. Given the timing of Hughes’ injury, it was decided he would be held out of those games and immediately begin his motion rehab and conditioning. This was the third NHL season for Hughes and his most productive one so far. The center had 56 points in 49 games, with 26 goals and 30 assists. Here’s a look at two intriguing NHL matchups this weekend. Check back for odds.
Must Bet NHL Weekend Games
Boston at Tampa Bay, Friday
It’s a 7 p.m. ET puck drop from Tampa and shown on the NHL Network. This is hugely important in the Atlantic Division. Florida is going to win it and two of Toronto, Tampa Bay and Boston will finish second and third. The second- and third-place teams would face each other. The fourth-place team has to face a division champion in Round 1.
Boston suffered a bad loss Tuesday, 5-3 in Detroit, and saw defenseman and trade acquisition Hampus Lindholm sustain a lower-body injury. Lindholm was hurt when he collided into Detroit’s Pius Suter in the second period. Not clear if Lindholm will miss time. Since being acquired by the Bruins, Lindholm has four assists in seven games while averaging 21:45 minutes.
Star winger David Pastrnak missed Tuesday with an injury suffered Monday and he’s in question. Pastrnak has 38 goals and 71 points in 69 contests this season. Center Trent Frederic also was out Tuesday with an injury. He has five goals and 15 points in 49 contests.
Tampa’s main injury is to defenseman Ryan McDonagh. He last played on March 24 and has three goals and 21 points in 60 contests in 2021-22. This is the last regular-season meeting between the teams. Boston leads 2-1 and won the most recent game 3-2 at home on March 24. Pastrnak had his 12th career hat trick, scoring the tiebreaker with 4:10 left. Erik Haula assisted on all three of the Bruins’ goals — his first career three-assist game. Jeremy Swayman stopped 22 shots for the Bruins. Brandon Hagel and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves for the Lightning.
Washington at Pittsburgh, Saturday
This one starts at 3 p.m. ET and is nationally televised on ABC. These teams could also meet in the first round of the Metropolitan Division playoffs depending on how things shake out. Of course, it’s the renewal of one of the NHL’s best individual rivalries in future Hall of Famers Alex Ovechkin of Washington and Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh.
Ovechkin is one game-winning goal shy of passing Gordie Howe (121) for the second-most in NHL history and one point shy of 1,400 career points. Ovechkin is aiming to reach the 50-goal mark for the ninth time in his career. That would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history. Ovechkin would additionally become the first player in NHL history to reach the 50-goal mark at the age of 36 or older. Nicklas Backstrom is one assist shy of passing Denis Potvin (742a) for the 45th-most assists in NHL history
Should be Vitek Vanecek in net for the Caps and he’s slumping. Vitek Vanecek surrendered four goals on 18 shots last time out in a loss to the Minnesota Wild. It was Vanecek’s third appearance in his last four in which he has surrendered four or more goals. In that four-game span, he has given up a total of 16 goals. The Caps are pretty healthy.
Pittsburgh winger Jason Zucker (lower body), who was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Zucker was last in the lineup on March 31 and has 14 points on the year. “We’ll see how it goes, but we’re certainly encouraged by what we saw today,” said coach Mike Sullivan after. “He had a good practice.”
In other good news on the injury front, Brock McGinn joined team practice for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on March 11 vs. Vegas. The forward, who has missed the past 12 games, wore a no-contact jersey. McGinn is thus not quite ready to play.
Washington is 2-1 vs. Pittsburgh this season and this is their final non-playoff meeting.