To say that Taylor Hall has the complete attention of the Minnesota Wild heading into Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center is an understatement.
Following practice Wednesday, Hall was pretty much all Wild coach Bruce Boudreau and his players talked about.
Hall is as hot as any player in the league right now, recording at least one point in all 19 games he played since the calendar flipped to 2018. His goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 home-ice loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets extended his red-hot personal scoring streak and gives him 13 goals, 14 assists and 27 points since Jan. 2.
“They read and watch TV, they know what he’s doing,” Boudreau said of his players. “They will be told, they will be seeing video of him (Thursday). They’ll be well-aware of him. I mean, everyone’s well-aware of him because he’s a really good player.”
Added team captain Mikko Koivu: “That’s not an easy thing to do in this league. It takes consistency from a great player.”
Hall leads the resurgent Devils (31-21-8) with 25 goals and 63 points. He is two goals shy of equaling his career best, and his point total is already 10 better than last season, his first with New Jersey following a trade from the Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge, he’s got it going right now,” Wild defenseman Ryan Suter told reporters. “When you play teams, you try and look at their top players and get familiar with them fast. He was in the West, so it helps a little bit knowing him. Not going to be easy, though.”
Devils fans serenaded Hall with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” in their last game as his Hart Trophy candidacy picks up steam in the season’s second half.
“It’s cool,” Hall of the chant. “I have a lot of fun playing in front of our fan base. It was great to hear and it gives you a little boost. But I just want to keep going.”
The Devils had their four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, but received some good news on the injury front the next day when No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider took part in an optional practice. Schneider missed the past 13 games with a groin issue, leaving Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack to handle the chores between the pipes.
“I’m pretty far along from where I was a couple of weeks ago,” offered Schneider after the on-ice workout with a small group of teammates. “I’m just trying to get a feel for where I am at and keep ramping it up. If I come back I want to make sure I am a difference maker and good enough to be who I am.”
Schneider indicated he likely will not be ready to play Thursday, but his return is imminent.
Boudreau said Wednesday that backup goalie Alex Stalock will start for the Wild (32-20-7) in New Jersey. Devan Dubnyk will get the call Friday when the Wild close out a three-game road trip against the New York Rangers.
The Wild rallied past the New York Islanders on Monday 5-3 as Jason Zucker scored twice, and Tyler Ennis and Matt Cullen contributed a goal and an assist.
Veteran center Eric Staal picked up an assist Monday and he enters the game against the Devils one point shy of 900 in his career.
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