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Devils face depth-in-net issues as injuries pile up

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The New Jersey fold is eerily empty at the moment.

The New Jersey Devils are currently facing a depth-in-the-net issue, with starter Mackenzie Blackwood placed in NHL COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday morning, further narrowing the team’s goaltending options in the foreseeable future.

Normally, backup keeper Jonathan Bernier would take over from Blackwood as the latter worked his way through the protocols. But Bernier is on set with an illness of his own, as the Devils announced this week that the veteran will miss the rest of the season as he recovers from hip surgery.

So New Jersey has to find the next man.

Maybe it could be Akira Schmid, 21, a 2018 fifth-round pick who has played three games this season. This is unfortunately not possible either, as Schmid found himself in COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday, with Blackwood joining him shortly after.

So, the Devils must now move forward with a goaltending trio consisting of Jon Gillies, Nico Daws and Scott Wedgewood.

Neither option is so enticing on the surface, with Gillies’ save percentage of 0.864 falling below the equally putrid 0.875 of Daws and 0.880 of Wedgewood. Not to mention, those three combine for a grand total of 73 NHL games played throughout their career, making them one of the most inexperienced goaltending groups in the league.

Daws has the most potential among his net-tied counterparts, it appears, being a 21-year-old former third-round draft pick in the 2020 Draft who backed Team Canada to the 2020 World Junior Championships and recorded a percentage of d save .925 in 10 games with the AHL Utica Comets this season. But he’s still woefully inexperienced, and probably wouldn’t even have been with the Devils if it weren’t for the pandemic-related absences.

Gillies and Wedgewood, on the other hand, are veteran companions, neither of whom have been able to stay at NHL level for an extended period.

So the Devils essentially have a choice between throwing a young prospect into the fire before he’s likely ready, or going forward with a tandem of veterans who are more suited to the AHL.

The person responsible for making this decision is not in an enviable position.