The ink was barely dry on Jack Hughes' new contract when the New Jersey Devils fell behind early and were on their way to another loss on Tuesday.
After flopping in Hughes' return to the ice, the Devils attempt to reverse their recent downward trend Thursday night when they visit the high-scoringMinnesota Wild, whose 83 goals lead the NHL.
Hughes will play his second game following a 17-game absence due to a shoulder injury sustained Oct. 19 against the Seattle Kraken. Before returning, he signed an eight-year contract extension, but the excitement of his return and new contract hardly extended to the results on the ice.
Hughes took one shot on goal in 17-plus minutes in Tuesday's 5-2 home loss to the San Jose Sharks. The Devils trailed by four goals before Tomas Tatar and Jesper Bratt scored midway through the third, and Tuesday's loss dropped them to 2-4-2 in their past eight games since scoring 11 times in the final two games of a three-game winning streak Nov. 6-11.
"It's not fun losing, but the good thing is we have more chances back-to-back coming up so we'll put that one behind us, regroup and we've got to get better as a team," Hughes said. "It's my first game back, but it's a wakeup call for myself and the team."
One of New Jersey's losses in its recent slide was a 3-2 shootout loss to the Wild on Nov. 24 on home ice. That was in a game where the Devils trailed 2-0 before a frenzied third period and Kevin Fiala's game-winner in the shootout.
Fiala's goal started Minnesota's third four-game winning streak of the season and this run is after a 2-3-1 slump. In the past three games, the Wild have scored 16 of their league-leading 83 goals while getting home wins over the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes.
The Wild are 8-0 when scoring at least five goals. In Tuesday's 5-2 win over Arizona, Minnesota got goals from five players and points from 10 players.
Jordan Greenway scored and collected two assists for a career-high three points, while Kirill Kaprizov, Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno also scored.
The Wild have scored 23 times during a four-game home winning streak and lead the NHL with 61 goals since Nov. 2 thanks to an offense with at least four goals in 11 of the past 14 games.
"That fits right where we should be, where we expect to be," said Greenway, whose effort vs. Arizona helped Minnesota tie its longest winning streak of the season.
"We've been playing well enough to be at the top of the leaderboard. So, yeah, I think that's where we should be and that's where we should stay for a while."
Kaprizov leads the Wild with 25 points, including a four-point night Friday against Winnipeg, and comes into Thursday's game with seven goals and 19 points in his past 14 games. Ryan Hartman leads the Wild with 12 goals and five of those are in his past seven games, including last week's win in New Jersey.
"I just think that we've got some depth scoring that everybody's producing," Wild coach Dean Evason said. "They're all, for the most part, playing the right way and the same way, and if we do that, we feel that we'll be able to score goals. Fortunately, we have and, fortunately, everybody has. It's not one line. It's not two guys. It's not one defenseman. Everybody's involved in the offense."
--Field Level Media