It has been increasingly obvious over the last 12 months that MacKenzie Blackwood is New Jersey's goalie of the present and future. The Devils made it official Monday, one night before Blackwood and his teammates will host the Boston Bruins.
Both teams were off Sunday and Monday. The Devils mounted a late comeback Saturday to beat the host Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. The Bruins' recent skid continued Saturday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Washington Capitals.
Blackwood's status as the Devils' starter was further cemented Monday when former starting goalie Cory Schneider was placed on waivers. If Schneider clears waivers, he'll be sent to Binghamton, New Jersey's affiliate in the American Hockey League.
Schneider had been expected to be the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur when the Devils acquired him from the Vancouver Canucks in 2013 and subsequently signed a seven-year deal in 2014. But Schneider began breaking down in 2017-18, when he battled groin and hip injuries as New Jersey returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Schneider underwent hip surgery following the first-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 33-year-old is just 6-19-5 since the start of the 2018-19 season, including 0-4-1 this year.
"Hopefully, if he does clear waivers and goes to Binghamton, then it's not the end of the road here for us," Devils head coach John Hynes said Monday afternoon. "It's an opportunity for us to help him and for him to help himself, get his game where it needs to be. And it will be good for both parties."
Blackwood, meanwhile, is 17-14-3 since making his NHL debut last Dec. 18. The goalie, who turns 23 next month, has gone 3-1-0 while starting the last four games, including both ends of the back-to-back set last weekend against the Canadiens and a night earlier against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We're scratching and clawing here for wins," Hynes said of the Devils, who entered Monday in a three-way tie for last place in the Metropolitan Division. "We come off two (games), Mackenzie is playing well, the schedule lends itself to where we can go back to him for sure tomorrow and then go from there."
While the Devils have generated some momentum, the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins are looking for a spark after losing five of six (1-2-3) following an 11-1-2 start. Boston has squandered a lead in four of the recent losses, including a 4-0 third period lead in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Nov. 12.
The Bruins are hopeful the shootout loss Saturday to the Capitals marked the end of the slide. Boston squandered leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and gave up the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation.
"The last few games, we haven't been able to put in a full 60 minutes," center David Krejci told reporters afterward. "But the last couple games, we've been getting close, we've been playing some good teams. But too bad we couldn't extend the lead in the third. It was there for us even in the shootout."
Forward David Pastrnak scored his NHL-leading 17th goal in the contest against Washington but it was just his second in the past five games. He scored at least one goal in 11 of 13 games prior to the recent stretch.
--Field Level Media