Through the first 14 games of the campaign, Taylor Hall had been as advertised for the New Jersey Devils. He’s leading the team in goals, points, has the highest average ice time among forwards and has been an all-around stud since the start of the season.
That was all to be expected, though, when the Devils acquired Hall, 25, from the Oilers in a stunning one-for-one trade for defenseman Adam Larsson. The only issue so far is Hall’s injury woes look as though they have followed him in the trade from Edmonton, as well.
According to NJ.com’s Chris Ryan, Devils coach John Hynes said ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars that Hall would be held out of action as a precautionary measure after Hall came to the rink with “something bothering him a little bit.”
That led some to believe that Hall was dealing with simply a slight knock that would keep him out in the short term, but following Tuesday’s game, there was growing concern about the ailment and Hynes updated Hall’s status post-game, saying Hall has been sent back to New Jersey ahead of schedule for an MRI and further evaluation of the injury.
According to Ryan, Hynes said the intention was for Hall to undergo a “thorough process to make sure we know what's going on with him,” but that’s far from reassuring when it comes to the star winger’s health. And save an injury to Cory Schneider, losing Hall would be about as bad as news could get for the Devils. Hynes said an update on Hall’s status is expected in “a couple days.”
Unfortunately, Hall having to miss time — and even a significant period of time — due to injury would be nothing new.
Hall was plagued by injuries throughout his time with the Oilers, with three of his injury absences spanning 10-plus games. In 2010-11, his rookie season, he missed the final 17 games with an ankle injury, followed that up with shoulder and head injuries that cost him 21 games in 2011-12, missed a single outing due to a hamstring ailment in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, suffered a knee injury early in the 2013-14 season, sprained his MCL in November 2014 and missed an additional 23 games in 2014-15 with a lower-body injury.
The 2015-16 season marked the first time in Hall’s six-year career that he had stayed healthy throughout an entire campaign, and it was also the first time in his career that he was able to suit up for at least 80 games.
The concern for the Devils goes beyond Hall’s injury, though, because unlike other teams where a second-line player might be able to step up and provide some offense, the New Jersey roster is awfully thin. That goes double for the current situation, too, as Mike Cammalleri, a potential replacement on the top line, has missed the past three games due to personal reasons and didn’t join the Devils to start their four-game road trip.
In Tuesday’s win over the Stars, Hall was replaced by Beau Bennett, who registered an assist playing alongside P-A Parenteau and Travis Zajac. And while it’s hard to see Bennett, who has skated less than 12 minutes in six of 14 games this season, as someone who can provide a potential long-term fit on the top line, it might be a way to ease rookie Pavel Zacha up the lineup into a top-six role. With Hall out, Zacha’s ice time increased by nearly four minutes from the previous game.
No matter who takes over while Hall is gone, though, the Devils are hoping for a swift return for their top-line winger.
UPDATE: The Devils announced Wednesday afternoon that Hall has undergone arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He's expected to be on the shelf for 3-4 weeks and has been placed on injured reserve.
If Hall can return on the short end of that timeline, he could miss as few as 10 games, but that could extend to more than a dozen games depending on his recovery.
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