– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
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NEWARK, NEW JERSEY — For once, the “Huuuuuuuuuuuughes” chants that rang about the Prudential Center were not for the young man who, later on in the same game, set one of the the team’s longstanding records while cementing his case to be a Hart Trophy finalist. However, the serenading was still reserved for someone in the family, as an even younger Hughes took to the ice for the first time in the National Hockey League, capping off a milestone day for the franchise.
Defenseman Luke Hughes, the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft who was fresh off playing in the NCAA’s Frozen Four last week for the University of Michigan, made his debut alongside his older brother in a game that the Devils cruised to a 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres to secure home ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the game all but in the bag, it was older brother Jack who who took a feed from Jesper Bratt before firing into an empty net from the left wing for goal No. 43 and point No. 97, the latter setting the new team record for most points in a season and breaking Patrik Elias’ old mark of 96 in the 2000-01 season.
Before that scene at the end of the game, which included a video montage of Hughes’ great plays and a congratulatory message from Elias on the Jumbotron, the setup before the opening face-off was just as memorable for the elder Hughes, as both he and Luke were standing on the blue line before the national anthem, introduced to the crowd beforehand as one-third of the Devils’ starting lineup for tonight.
And what would some brotherly love be without a little friendly sibling rivalry?!
“I think [Luke] had a louder [ovation] than I did,” Jack said when recalling his debut in a Devils uniform in 2021.
Luke, who recorded 11:15 of ice time and ended the game a minus-1, got his first taste of the NHL and, like players such as Charlie McAvoy and Cale Makar in recent years, could find himself going from skating collegiately to being thrown into the Stanley Cup Playoffs fire in a matter of a couple weeks’ time.
“It was a dream come true,” Luke said about his NHL debut. “It was really special. It was pretty fun to play out there with the speed and size out there.”
The victory also marked win No. 51 for New Jersey, tying the 2008-09 team for the team record for victories in a single season. They can break the record on Thursday evening in Washington D.C. against the Capitals, and a win coupled with a Carolina Hurricanes loss on the same night would give New Jersey the Metropolitan Division title.
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