Hughes, 20, an All-Star for the first time this season, injured his left leg early in the second period when checked along the boards by Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom. The two were both zeroing in on the puck in the corner when Wahlstrom’s knee connected with Hughes’ leg as Hughes fell awkwardly to the ice.
Devils defenseman P.K. Subban took issue with the hit, rushing down the ice to confront Wahlstrom, engaging him in a fight. Subban was issued a game misconduct, and though Hughes, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2019, tried to take another shift later in the period, he eventually skated off on his own and went right to the locker room.
New York coach Barry Trotz, who was visibly upset with Subban’s reaction, said in his postgame media availability that Wahlstrom played through the check and that Hughes turned into the hit. Trotz was more interested in speaking about Subban’s decision than Wahlstrom’s.
“He was very fortunate he probably got kicked out of the game,” he said of Subban.
In his third season, Hughes has blossomed into the star many predicted he’d become at the time of his selection. He has 26 goals and 56 points, and authored one of the headlining performances of All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. He has been slowed by injury and a COVID-19 pause, playing in only 49 games, but is still the team’s second-leading scorer.
“I think we’re sitting there feeling sorry for ourselves because of what happened, and you’ve got to get by that, you’ve got to be able to play, you’ve got to focus on the game,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said after the loss. “And for the most part, I don’t think we were moving our feet.”
It’s possible that Hughes, who signed a long-term extension with New Jersey late last year, is shut down for precautionary reasons. The team was officially eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference last week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.