Newark, N.J. — One of the first skaters on the ice for Group B this morning was Luke Hughes. Hughes missed yesterday’s practice, but worked out off the ice after having dealt with a “nagging injury.” The 20-year-old defenseman wore a green, no-contact jersey on Thursday. However, Hughes resumed regular activity on Saturday and is anticipated to take part in a scrimmage on Sunday.
Hughes was paired with John Marino right away with Simon Nemec rotating in some shifts next to No.6. Later in the day, Kevin Bahl lined up next to Colin Miller. That appears to be a possible pair on the blue line.
Saturday’s scrimmage was eventful. Let’s take a look at three takeaways from the Devils scrimmage on Day 3 of training camp.
Ondrej Palat looks strong
Ondrej Palat is skating out there like he hates the ice. There’s definitely a pep in his step this fall, one that was a little less obvious in 2o22. Palat continues to be deployed with Erik Haula and Dawson Mercer.
Palat had surgery on his groin last season that caused him to miss 10 weeks of the regular season. The 32-year-old veteran explained last spring that it was difficult for him to feel 100% healthy last season following his recovery.
“Yeah, I’m pain-free,” Palat explained. “I worked out my groins, hips, and everything a lot. It’s been great so far.”
Palat’s uptick in speed isn’t just due to his recovery, however. The two-time Stanley Cup Champion explained after playing so much hockey while in Tampa Bay, he finally had some time this offseason to train a little harder.
“I did (work on my speed),” Palat explained. “It was a little bit longer of a summer so I could work on things. I didn’t have time over the last couple of (summers). So hopefully I will continue to be a little better and faster.”
Palat’s chemistry continues to build with new linemates Erik Haula and Dawson Mercer. The trio continues to move well together as an offensive threat and solid defensive line.
It’s easy to imagine a bounce-back year for Palat this season.
Bratt-Hughes-Toffoli are clicking
Tyler Toffoli isn’t the most graceful skater, but that’s okay. The 31-year-old forward is smart enough to put himself in the right position at the right time. And his hands are quite silky smooth that he can handle the puck when necessary. Even defensively, Brendan Smith pinched to make a play and Toffoli was there to play defense and prevent a scoring chance.
Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt continue to dance eloquently around the ice. With Toffoli’s positional awareness and the Hughes/Bratt duo’s playmaking ability, there’s the making of a lethal first line.
The trio of Bratt, Hughes, and Toffoli put together quite a few scoring chances during Saturday’s scrimmage are building some obvious chemistry with the newcomer. That line even opened the scoring in the first period.
“I thought (Toffoli) had a couple of great opportunities,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff explained. “He missed a one-time opportunity that I think is pretty well his bread and butter. But, overall we’re looking at Jack’s line as something that could work.”
Nosek-McLeod-Lazar are annoying (for the other team)
The trip of Tomas Nosek, Michael McLeod, and Curtis Lazar is going to be a problem.
McLeod has come to camp looking every bit as fast and strong as he did in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s the type of defensive forward that puck carries hate to see on the ice. McLeod is aggressive and in your face on the forecheck, hounding the opposition and more than likely will strip the puck.
Now imagine you manage to get around McLeod, pick your head up, and see another one. That’s Nosek. All the while you’re trying to keep in the back of your mind that Lazar is out there somewhere looking to knock you on your behind.
The trio is an aggressive, forechecking machine with speed and physicality. They’re annoying and Devils fans will love it.
“I established myself as a fourth-line center (before coming to New Jersey),” Nosek explained. “So if it’s going to be on the wing here, that doesn’t matter. I’ll take face-offs and kill some penalties and try to be good shutdown forward.”