The team said Saturday that Hughes is “really close” to playing again and that he 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 older brother Quinn of the Vancouver Canucks. He and Quinn selected one of the teams that is playing in Saturday’s tournament.
“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. This was the third season he was named an All-Star.
“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, whose younger brother, Luke, is a rookie defenseman for New Jersey, 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.