Devils D Luke Hughes, 19, to make playoff debut vs. Hurricanes

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Sunday, May 7, 2023

New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Luke Hughes will make his Stanley Cup playoff debut Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Trailing 2-0 in the Eastern Conference second-round series, Devils coach Lindy Ruff announced some lineup changes heading into Game 3, and Hughes, who joined the Devils after his college season with the Michigan Wolverines ended last month, will slide in and replaceRyan Graves, a veteran who is out with an upper-body injury.

Hughes, 19, is the younger brother of teammate Jack Hughes, 21, both first-round draft picks for the Devils who are viewed as key cogs in the franchise's rebuild. After struggling through two losses to open the series -- a round after also dropping the first two games to the New York Rangers -- perhaps the club will be energized by Luke Hughes' offensive skill set from the blue line.

"If I get the opportunity, I am very prepared and very ready," Luke Hughes said after staying late after practice ended to work Saturday with the power-play unit.

Ruff said he believes that Hughes indeed is ready, despite having just two games of NHL regular-season experience.

"We know he is going to skate," Ruff said of the first-year player who scored his first NHL goal in New Jersey's final regular-season game. "He got a little taste at the end of the year. I really feel his skating will help us, so I am excited to see him get in and play."

His brother is in the same boat as the coach.

"He'll be a guy that can move the puck in and out of the zone and get us moving fast," Jack Hughes said.

Carolina has outscored New Jersey 11-2, collecting nine even-strength goals. Ruff said his team has been reckless with its coverages against the Hurricanes. He said he hopes returning home for the next two games sparks his team and gets his players to take their game to another level.

"We haven't played our best," Jack Hughes said. "We did it again and dug ourselves a hole, and now's the time we have to work our way out of it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.