After seeing 19 players on their roster placed on the NHL’s COVID list at one point, the Devils finally were back at practice Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Rangers, which will be their first in 16 days.
The Rangers, meanwhile, have their own problems.
They were off Sunday because of the postponement of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers, and on Monday, they practiced for the second time without leading scorer Artemi Panarin, who missed their last game with a lower-body injury.
Also, rookie K’Andre Miller, who has been one of their top two defensemen, left practice early because coach David Quinn said he was dealing with an upper-body injury.
The status of both players for Tuesday’s game is uncertain.
Given that the Rangers were shut out in two of their last three games and that their average of 2.39 goals per game was tied with the San Jose Sharks for 26th in the 31-team league entering Monday, it would be understandable if Quinn & Co. weren’t exactly feeling bad for the Devils.
"We’re going about our business, doing what we need to do to improve our team,’’ Quinn said. "Obviously, goal-scoring has been an issue; obviously, our power play has struggled [0-for-its-last-14 chances and 2-for-the-last-31]. We worked on those things today. So what the opponent’s doing, and how many guys they have, and how they’re practicing, and how many times they’ve practiced, that really has nothing to do with how we’re going to approach it.’’
Panarin, who apparently suffered his injury in last Wednesday’s game against Boston (he had only two shifts in the third period of a 3-2 overtime loss), skated on his own before practice. Quinn didn’t rule out the possibility that the winger could play without having practiced with the team Monday, but he suggested that would be unlikely.
"Unless he comes in tomorrow and chomping at the bit and takes a pregame skate, then the chances are zero he’ll play,’’ Quinn said. "So we’ll see. If he feels good, then we’ll make a decision then.’’
Miller has been Jacob Trouba’s partner on the second defense pair for all but one game, and he is second on the team in plus/minus with a plus-5 (fourth-line forward Kevin Rooney is plus-6). But at practice, Brendan Smith skated with Trouba and Miller rotated in with the third pair of Anthony Bitetto and Libor Hajek before leaving early for "precautionary reasons,’’ according to Quinn.
Smith has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury suffered in a collision with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Brandon Tanev on Feb. 1. But he apparently is OK now.
"I feel good and I’m ready to go,’’ Smith said.
Without Panarin, Quinn kept together the second line he used Friday against Boston, with Ryan Strome centering for 19-year-old Alexis Lafreniere and 20-year-old Kaapo Kakko. As he did at Saturday’s practice, he dropped Pavel Buchnevich to the third line with Brett Howden and Phil DiGiuseppe and put grinder Colin Blackwell in Buchnevich’s usual spot on the first line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
"Obviously, they’re pretty high-class skill players,’’ Blackwell said of his new linemates. "I’ll just try to bring my speed and bring my energy and kind of relentlessness — kind of dog-on-a-bone mentality — so we can kind of generate some offensive momentum.’’
Notes & quotes: Quinn said he expects defenseman Jack Johnson (groin, seven games missed) to practice in a few days.