The New Jersey Devils haven't been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012. Taylor Hall hasn't tasted the postseason in a career that began in 2010.
When the Devils take the ice at home Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators, they will be five points out of a playoff spot with 26 games to play. It may appear to be a lot of time to overcome that deficit, but in a league full of three-point games that only become more common down the stretch, every point matters to the Devils.
"I don't think we want to necessarily be nervous," defenseman Damon Severson said to NorthJersey.com. "It's like a batter in the ninth inning with two outs and you've got a runner on base. Are you going to strike out or are you going to get a hit? I like those moments where you know you have to win games and make big plays to get yourself into the playoffs. I think we should enjoy that."
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The Devils acquired Hall from the Oilers in the offseason to be a difference maker and now would be a good time for him to make a difference. He has 13 goals and 37 points in 46 games and has six points over his past six games.
"I feel pressure to perform for my teammates and this organization," Hall said to NorthJersey.com. "But, for me, having not been there before, it's a win for me right now being in these games, where every goal matters, where every play matters, where every penalty kill is huge. It's really fun for me. I'm really enjoying that aspect of being here."
"We've got to make sure we play with urgency," said goaltender Cory Schneider to NorthJersey.com. "We put ourselves in a spot where we have to make sure we get two points every night. I think we've responded pretty well. Do we have a realistic chance of catching the top four (in the Metropolitan Division)? Maybe not. But a wild-card spot is still there. Hopefully, we can attain that goal. We just have to be realistic about where we're at."
The Devils aren't chasing the Senators, but they have 64 points and could be a team the Devils need to pass in order to secure a wild-card spot in the East.
The Senators are coming off a 3-2 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday that saw them blow a 2-1 lead and unable to find a third goal despite 41 shots on net.
"There's moments where we threw everything at him but the kitchen sink," Senators coach Guy Boucher said to the Ottawa Sun. "Our goal was to get 40 shots and we got 41. I think at the end of the second period we got 14 straight shots and we just couldn't bury that third one and that probably would have made a big difference."
The Senators play six of the next seven games on the road. If they hold off the Devils and other teams chasing them, success over the next two-plus weeks will have a lot to do with it. It could also decide what GM Pierre Dorion does at the March 1 trade deadline.
"I would be fully supportive if Pierre came to me and recommended that we add to our payroll by bringing in players from other teams at this point of the season -- as long as it's reasonable," owner Eugene Melnyk said to the Ottawa Citizen.
"If they want (top prospects Thomas) Chabot or (Colin) White, they can forget it. We're going to be smart about it. That's what I'm afraid will happen, so we're just going to stay to our plan and that's not to give up our future."