Four wins in their last five games have steadied the New Jersey Devils, whose season-opening two-game losing streak was a discouraging start for a team hoping to step forward as a playoff contender following a lengthy rebuild.
Now the Devils get an opportunity to find out just how much they’ve improved by facing the most impressive contender of them all.
The Devils will look to maintain their winning ways Friday when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in Newark, N.J.
Both teams have been off since earning wins Tuesday, when the visiting Devils trounced the Detroit Red Wings 6-2 and the Avalanche continued their six-game, multi-national road trip by edging the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout.
New Jersey’s most lopsided win of the season came in the second game of a back-to-back set. The Devils traveled to Detroit after falling 6-3 at home to the Washington Capitals on Monday night.
“Knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy test,” Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said Tuesday night. “These guys have been playing some good hockey. But to answer the bell the way we did, it was fantastic.”
Jesper Bratt had two goals and an assist, and Jack Hughes added one goal and one assist against Detroit.
The Devils have outscored their opponents 19-12 over the last five games after beginning the season with consecutive 5-2 losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Red Wings.
But none of the four teams New Jersey has beaten — the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders in addition to Detroit — made the postseason last spring, when the Devils missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year and the ninth time in 10 seasons.
A much bigger test awaits on Friday. The Avalanche are a consensus favorite to repeat after rolling to the title last season, when they had the second-most points in the regular season before losing just four games in the tournament — including two in the Finals, when Colorado dethroned the two-time defending Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Avalanche got off to a slow start by losing three of their first five games — including consecutive losses to the Winnipeg Jets and Seattle Kraken, neither of whom qualified for the playoffs last year. But back-to-back wins over a pair of contenders, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Rangers, have provided Colorado some momentum in the midst of a two-week road trip.
The win Tuesday was particularly energizing for No. 1 goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Rangers. He stopped 44 shots in regulation and overtime before turning back three of four shots in the shootout to close out the win against his former teammates.
“I would say a pretty memorable (win),” Georgiev said. “I’ll try to enjoy this one tonight, but then recharge. We’ve got a lot of other really important games coming up.”
After visiting the New York Islanders Saturday, the Avalanche head to Finland for a pair of games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
–Field Level Media