The New Jersey Devils have returned from their eight-day vacation feeling as healthy and refreshed as they’ve been in quite some time.

Lindy Ruff’s young, struggling team will face the Penguins in Pittsburgh Thursday night. Dougie Hamilton (a $63 million defenseman) will be back in the lineup along with forwards Jesper Bradt and Andreas Johnsson for the first time since almost two months.

Hamilton was signed in the offseason as a free agent. He has missed 17 games after sustaining a broken jaw and taking a shot in his face against Washington. In Hamilton’s absence, the Devils posted a record of 4-13, which places them at the bottom of Eastern Conference.

It’s always hard to watch. Hamilton stated that you want to share the bad with your teammates and go through all the good and the worst. It’s difficult to look in from the outside. It has gone by quickly and slowly. For me, it’s been a fast and slow process. I’m eager to get back to playing.

Hamilton’s return makes the Devils’ power play their best man on point

After an hour-long practice, Ruff stated Wednesday that he had been waiting for the moment when he would finally say, “I’m ready to move.” There are two sides to the game and it is important to be able to play in both. We need his support.”

Ruff intends to be flexible with Hamilton’s ice time, especially considering New Jersey plays at Chicago Friday night.

Hamilton, 28, had seven goals and twenty assists in his 30 games. He said that the injury was strange because he can still skate and practice without any contact. Hamilton’s problem was getting his jaw into a position where it wouldn’t hurt to wear a helmet. He tried four, and he used a faceguard.

He can tolerate a little more padding under his chin.

Nico Hischier, Devils captain, had a broken sinus and had to use a shield before last year’s pandemic-shortened season. It took him several games to get used to the new equipment.

Hamilton’s 108 shots are second in the club’s scoring, behind Bratt’s 121.

Bratt, who was injured in the upper body and missed the previous two games, is leading the team with 14 goals and 29 assists. He also has 43 points.

Johnsson is sixth on the team, with 11 goals and 15 assists. He missed the previous two games due to a lower-body injury.

Although they have some players back, the Devils still lack their top two goaltenders Mackenzie Blackwood (heel), and Jonathan Bernier(hip). Bernier will be out for the season, and Blackwell might not play again. Jon Gillies, Nico Daws will be filling in.

New Jersey will begin the 32-game final stretch with a 17-25-8 mark.

Hischier stated, “We want to finish strong for certain.” That’s our goal. We don’t look ahead. We try to keep our eyes on the next game. We will stick to our game plan. You’ll win games if you do this, and that’s exactly what we want.”