New Jersey Devils say Jack Hughes is ‘really close’ to returning from injury

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TORONTO (AP) — Jack Hughes is nearing a return to the New Jersey Devils lineup after missing the past month because of an injury.

The team said Saturday that Hughes is “really close” to playing again and decided to return home to New Jersey on Friday night to begin his preparations for the second half of the NHL season. He voiced optimism about an imminent return earlier in the week.

“Hopefully I come out of the break here and feel good and can finish the year off really strong,” Hughes said.

He participated in some All-Star Weekend festivities anyway to spend time with brother Quinn of the Vancouver Canucks.

“I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to do this again with Quinn, so it definitely was important to both of us for me to come and show up,” Hughes said.

Hughes, the face of the Devils franchise and their second-leading scorer with 45 points in 32 games, has not played since suffering an upper-body injury Jan. 5. The league held out hope of him taking the ice for the All-Star skills competition and 3-on-3 tournament, but Hughes was ruled out last week.

“Obviously a bummer but no one’s fault, just tough timing and just the way she went,” he said. “Still fortunate to be here with Quinn and stuff.”

Hughes and the Devils sit five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after reaching the second round of the playoffs last year.

BIEBER TAKES WARMUP

Justin Bieber was one of four celebrity captains, along with fellow Canadians Michael Bublé, Will Arnett and Tate McRae, and he also got to take the ice for warmups before the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament Saturday.

“It’s been a minute — it’s so fun, though,” Bieber, who was mic’d up, said on the ice. “This is a dream.”

Bieber took a photo with reigning MVP and skills competition champion Connor McDavid, chatted with Elias Pettersson and even got asked by Sergei Bobrovsky if he was actually playing. That would be a bit too far.

“No, just for warmups,” Bieber said. “Otherwise I’ll get hurt.”

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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