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Devils Lindy Ruff: ‘We Got Our Ass Kicked’ vs. Oilers

Lindy Ruff, visibly frustrated following a loss for the first time this season, was pointed with his postgame analysis following their 6-3 loss to the Oilers.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Newark — This season has been anything but consistent for the New Jersey Devils. Unlike 2022-23, the Devils are sloppy, defenseless, and cannot buy a save if their season depended on it. It was more of the same for head coach Lindy Ruff and the Devils when Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers came to town. Now losers in three straight games at home, it was the first time this year that Ruff showed frustration following a loss.

“I think we all understand where we’re at,” Ruff snarled. “You have a lead going into the third period. The compete level, the battle level, and the attention to detail (all missing). We coughed up the puck on three or four goals. We got out-numbered at net-front on a couple of goals. Just attention to details. We got outworked, we got our ass kicked.”

The Devils looked completely lost in Thursday’s 6-3 loss to Edmonton. There were a few short moments where they looked like they were tightening up their play . A quick decision in the first period to pull Akira Schmid in favor of Vitek Vanecek seemed to pay off. However, the Devils couldn’t keep that momentum and it swung back Edmonton’s way.

It’s certainly not the first time this season New Jersey has folded under the pressure. The Devils, in fact, carried a 3-2 lead heading into the third period of Thursday night’s contest. It took the Oilers just 1:09 into the final frame for Edmonton to tie and then take the lead on the sticks of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Adam Erne.

“We just lost her head,” captain Nico Hischier said. “It can’t happen after the way we battled back. It was a bad start obviously, but we battled back and then going into the third with a lead, just gave up one (goal) after the other and it should not happen.”

Timo Meier finally broke through after going nine-plus games without a goal. He put the Devils ahead 3-2 in the middle frame with just under four minutes left in the period. It was an encouraging feeling for the Devils’ highest-paid forward to finally chip in offensively. Yet, it was quick discouragement when all that effort went to waste.

“We’re up 3-2. You can’t come out like that for the last period,” Meier explained.

“Those kinds of losses, they sting. Now we’ve got to analyze it. This one, I would say it’s a frustrating one. But, you can’t put your head down. You gotta go and get back to work tomorrow, watch the tape, and analyze all the stuff that we did wrong. But I think mostly it was just kind of that attitude that came out with tonight.”

To his credit, the Devils head coach took the blame for the loss. New Jersey didn’t skate on Wednesday amid a busy schedule leading up to Christmas. They’ve played three games in the last five days and have one ahead on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. Ruff claimed that giving his players the day off from on-ice work on Wednesday, despite losing two games in a row before Thursday, left them unprepared for Edmonton.

“I worry after every loss,” Ruff continued. “You’ve got to maintain a level of consistency. After taking a day off yesterday, the way we came up (against the Oilers), for me that’s really on me. If you decide whether you’re not going to practice, you want to make sure that you have energy, we knew we were up against a desperate team that lost three hockey games in a row. And we come up like that. I mean, our first puck play and we’re going to hand it to them? Spot them a couple of goals? Really, that’s on me, I have to have the team ready.”

The good news is despite the way they’re playing right now, the Devils only sit four points out of playoff position. The bad news is the Eastern Conference is so tight this season that there is such little margin for error. There have been a few losses this season that left the Devils’ locker room in a state of devastation. However, none more devastating than Thursday night’s in which Ruff walked off from the podium after putting the entire loss on himself. At this point, the major injuries are behind New Jersey. They can’t lean on that crutch anymore.

The Devils and their fans are worried. Perhaps, it’s time to talk about whether or not Ruff should be worried about his job, too.

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