Laine leads Jets against Devils

The hottest goal scorer in the NHL takes his act Off-Broadway Saturday night when Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets visit the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Laine, the league’s reigning First Star of the Week, scored 18 goals in November, the most ever in a single month in franchise history. After scoring a pair in Thursday’s 6-5 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, Laine has five multiple-goal games this season and 13 goals in his last six games.

His first goal Thursday was the 100th of Laine’s NHL career. He is the fourth-youngest player in league history to reach that plateau, behind Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson and Brian Bellows. He reached the milestone in only 179 games.

“I knew it was going to come eventually,” Laine said to reporters following Thursday’s win. “When you work hard, you’re going to get it at some point. Good to get it out of the way and try to chase 200 (goals) now.”

Despite Laine’s productive month, the Jets (14-8-2) had the same record in November as in October, winning seven of 12 games (7-4-1). They’ve lost three of their last five games and have not won consecutive contests since a three-game winning streak Nov. 9-14.

The Jets allowed 23 goals in their last five games, never fewer than four in any one single contest in that stretch.

“As far as giving up goals against, that’s something we want to improve on as a team, but more importantly we are trying to get wins every night,” Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey told The Winnipeg Sun.

Led by Laine, the Jets have a tremendous core of gifted offensive players to offset the team’s defensive struggles. Four players — Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Laine — average a point per game or better; and Nikolay Ehlers recorded his third career hat trick Thursday against the Blackhawks.

“I feel like I’ve been playing some good hockey lately,” Ehlers said to reporters. “It’s gotten better and better. I work as hard as I can to grow as a player. And (Thursday), I got rewarded.”

The Jets won each of their last three visits to New Jersey. Their last loss at the Prudential Center was a 2-1 shootout defeat on Oct. 30, 2014; and they won nine of the last 11 head-to-head meetings overall since the start of the 2013-14 season, including a 5-2 victory in Winnipeg on Nov. 11.

This all might add up to a tough night for the Devils (9-11-4), who do have one big factor in their favor, however. The Devils are 7-1-3 on home ice this season.

“We feel very comfortable playing at home,” said Devils forward Blake Coleman. “The crowd here gives us great support, there’s lots of energy in the building and we feed off that.”

Coleman had an assist on Friday when the Devils lost to the Capitals 6-3 in Washington. Taylor Hall had two assists and Nico Hischier scored a goal and an assist in the loss, New Jersey’s fourth straight defeat and sixth in the last seven games (1-3-3).

The Devils surrendered 19 goals in the last four games.

“We need to have some urgency here,” Devils captain Andy Greene said to northjersey.com. “When there are critical points in the game, we’ve got to dig in and flip it.”

Devils rookie Michael McLeod, a 2016 first-round draft pick, made his NHL debut on Friday. He centered the fourth line and played only eight shifts totaling 5 minutes, 36 seconds. McLeod did not record a point nor a shot on goal and lost five of six faceoffs.

“He’s a young prospect that’s gone down and played well,” Devils coach John Hynes told reporters. “I think he’s earned an opportunity to come up here, so hopefully he can come in and make an impact.”

Another Devils rookie, winger Brent Seney, was part of a big moment in Friday’s game. Late in the second period, he was hit from behind by Capitals forward Tom Wilson, knocked out of the game for a stretch before returning in the third period. Wilson received a match penalty for the check and Seney cleared concussion protocol, finishing with three shots on goal in 9:45 worth of ice time.

Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid allowed four goals on 29 shots against the Capitals, with two goals scored into an empty net. It is likely Cory Schneider will get the start on the back end of consecutive games Saturday. Schneider has not won a start since December of 2017.