The New Jersey Devils will aim to reverse their recent fortunes and secure a postseason berth on Saturday when they host the Ottawa Senators in Newark, N.J.
The Devils (45-19-8, 98 points) have dropped five of their past six games (1-3-2) and reside two points out of punching their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. They also sit two points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division.
Jack Hughes collected two goals and an assist in New Jersey's 5-4 setback to the host Buffalo Sabres on Friday. The Devils scored two goals in the third period before seeing their comeback bid fall just short as they attempted to secure a postseason berth.
"At the end, it doesn't matter," New Jersey captain Nico Hischier said. "We lost the game. Wasn't a good game."
Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler said the team was thinking too much about the playoffs and not as much about Friday's opponent.
"It's a big deal. Not something you do every day," Siegenthaler said postgame. "Maybe it was stuck in our head. We need to forget today and focus on tomorrow and clinch tomorrow."
When the Devils hosted the Senators on Nov. 10, Hischier capped a two-goal performance by scoring in overtime to give New Jersey a 4-3 win. The Devils breezed to a 5-1 victory over the Senators nine days later in Canada's capital city.
Ottawa (35-32-5, 75 points) has won two of its past three contests following a five-game losing skid (0-4-1) to sit five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Alex DeBrincat recorded two goals and an assist in the Senators' 7-2 romp over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
"It's nice to get a definitive win for this group," DeBrincat said. "I thought we played pretty good from start to finish and played well in our zone, too. I felt like our line did pretty well."
DeBrincat's offensive explosion was a welcome sight, even to himself.
"I guess I've got to score more," said DeBrincat, who has 23 goals after topping 30 in three of the previous four seasons. "Obviously, this year hasn't been as good for me, offense-wise. Still trying to do what I can to help the team win. We've been doing a good job battling against the top teams each night, trying to pull out some wins."
Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk tallied twice against Tampa Bay to boost his point total to seven (five goals, two assists) in his past five games.
Tim Stutzle, who leads the Senators in goals (35) and assists (44), was held off the scoresheet in both meetings with New Jersey this season.
Ottawa defenseman Jakob Chychrun exited the Thursday game in the third period with an undisclosed injury. He did not participate in the team's brief workout on Friday before the club departed for the Garden State, and he was listed as doubtful for Saturday.
"One of the things that is underrated about him is how heavy he is defensively," Senators coach D.J. Smith said, per the Ottawa Sun. "He's a big guy. He holds net front, he snaps pucks, he gets pucks to the net. He's skating up in the play. It's a huge loss for us."
Minutes-eating defenseman Thomas Chabot likely would pair with Erik Brannstrom should Chychrun sit out on Saturday. Nick Holden likely would slot into the lineup for depth along the blue line.
--Field Level Media