Either the New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers will end Sunday night in a far better state of mind than they carry into their meeting in Newark, N.J.
The longtime division rivals are mired in skids and coming off discouraging losses as they square off for the first of their three meetings ofthe season in a span of a little over two weeks.
Both teams were off Saturday after absorbing defeats Friday, when the host Flyers lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3 and the visiting Devils fell to the Nashville Predators, 4-2.
The losses continued the gradual unraveling of fast starts for both squads and ratcheted up the urgency as the Devils and Flyers try to remain in an Eastern Conference playoff race that already promises to be as competitive as ever. New Jersey and Philadelphia each have 20 points and are among six teams within four points of the wild-card spots.
New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff hopes Friday night's loss serves as a bottoming out point for his club, which has lost five of six (1-3-2) since opening the season 7-3-2. Friday, Nashville scored the game's first three goals, didn't surrender a goal until more than midway through the third period.
"That's probably the worst game I've seen us play," said Ruff, who is in his second season as Devils head coach. "Didn't win the competitive battles. Didn't engage early. Conveniently second on a lot of plays. We wouldn't have beat anybody tonight. It's just the truth."
The Flyers have been besieged by injuries during a five-game losing streak that came on the heels of going 8-4-2 in their first 14 games. Kevin Hayes (abdominal) and Patrick Brown (thumb) haven't played since Philadelphia's most recent win, a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Nov. 16, while Derick Brassard suffered a lower body injury against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
"We're obviously being challenged right now as an organization here, we're being stretched out as far as player personnel up here with our farm team," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said Friday night. "Everyone has to be better and that starts with me.
"I've got to do a better job of making sure that guys perform to their level. When you look at our group right now, (there are) a few guys, in my estimation, that could give us more and give us better and that's what we've got to do. We've got to stick together as a group."
Devils star center Jack Hughes missed his 16th straight game Friday with the shoulder injury he suffered against the Seattle Kraken on Oct. 19. The 20-year-old practiced multiple times this week and is due to be reevaluated next week.
Last season, the teams faced each other eight times, with New Jersey winning the season series 4-3-1.
--Field Level Media