Devils’ Dawson Mercer aims for history against Knights

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Dawson Mercer has a chance to tie the franchise goal-streak record when New Jersey Devils oppose the Pacific-Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Friday in Las Vegas.

Mercer scored the winning goal in New Jersey’s wild 7-5 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday in Denver, his seventh straight game with a goal. That’s tied for the most ever by a New Jersey Devils player in a single season.

The franchise mark of scoring goals in eight consecutive games is shared by Paul Gardner and Valeri Zelepukin. Gardner accomplished the feat with the Colorado Rockies in 1977-78. The Rockies eventually moved to New Jersey in 1982. Zelepukin’s run included the last six games of the 1992-93 season and the first two of the 1993-94 season.

Over the past seven games, Mercer, a 21-year-old center who was a first-round pick in the 2020 draft, has nine goals and five assists.

“I just want to make sure I can contribute as much as I can,” Mercer said Wednesday after his first career four-point game. “For it to keep going and feel like this is a great feeling. To see that one go in the back of the net, I was pretty happy.”

New Jersey improved to 22-4-3 on the road by completing a sweep of their season series with the Avalanche. It was also the 40th win of the season for the Devils, the second-best total in the NHL.

Next up for the Devils is a Vegas team that gave them a nice assist by grinding out a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Hurricanes saw their lead in the Metropolitan Division shrink to one point over the second-place Devils with the loss.

Jack Eichel scored two goals and Reilly Smith netted the winner with 3:42 remaining as the Golden Knights moved two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division.

Vegas is 7-1-2 since All-Star break, and Eichel is a major reason why. He has seven goals and four assists during that stretch. In his final eight games before the break, Eichel had no goals, one assist and a minus-8 plus/minus rating.

“I think this last stretch of games here coming off the (break) has probably been the best I’ve played here in probably some time,” Eichel said. “I just try to enjoy myself and play with some confidence and attack a bit. I think it’s a byproduct of how the team is playing right now. Our team has been playing well. We’re taking care of our own end and we’re finding ways to win hockey games.”

The Golden Knights have done it despite a rash of injuries to their goaltenders. Expected starter Robin Lehner is out for the season after undergoing offseason hip surgery. All-Star Logan Thompson is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, as is backup Laurent Brossoit. That left Adin Hill as the last man standing until Thursday, when the Golden Knights made a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets to acquire Jonathan Quick.

The 37-year-old Quick, dealt earlier in the week from the Kings to the Blue Jackets for goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, helped lead Los Angeles to two Stanley Cups and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2012. However, he was just 11-13-4 with a 3.50 goals-against average this season, and his .876 save percentage was the second worst in the NHL among goalies with at least 15 appearances.

“We know where he is in his career, but he’s also a two-time Stanley Cup champion that can bring other things to the room as well as on the ice,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “For us, we looked at it as an opportunity to upgrade. No reflection on the other three guys. Some level of insurance, and let’s see where it leads us.”

Cassidy said Hill would start Friday against New Jersey.

–Field Level Media

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