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Game 36: Devils @ Dallas

The last game for the Devils in 2008 will take place in Dallas in American Airlines Center. And this will not be easy for three reasons:

1) It's the second game in a back-to-back on the last day of the year. On the road, no less. Who knows how the Devils will perform after a hard-battling night like last night.. Will they be as strong? Will the Devils be more fatigued? And who will start in net? We've seen games where the Devils look better in the second game (e.g. Pittsburgh-Rangers from last week) and others where the Devils did not (Rangers-Buffalo back on Dec. 12/13). How the Devils will come out and play will determine whether we will celebrate a win into 2009 or grumble about a loss.

2) Dallas has been pretty good as of late. Check out their last 5 games:


San Jose Mon 12/29 L 1 - 3
Anaheim Sat 12/27 OT - W 4 - 3
@ Toronto Tue 12/23 W 8 - 2
@ Ottawa Sat 12/20 OT - L 4 - 5
Columbus Thu 12/18 SO - W 6 - 5

That's 7 points out of a possible 10, and the only loss in regulation has been to the best team in the league. Definitely not bad at all. They are not the doormats they were back in October and they are going to want to put up a strong performance before they go on the road to start 2009.

3) Dallas would like some revenge for the last time they played the Devils. That game featured a shutout from Martin Brodeur, the Devils picking on the Stars all game long, and a ton of booing of one Sean Avery. Well, Avery's out, and the Stars have discovered how to play winning hockey (sometimes) since then. When you lose 5-0 to someone, wouldn't you feel like a little revenge? Especially when it's the biggest loss this season? I'm sure the Stars do, and that they haven't forgotten about October 22.

The Devils' official site has a preview here and notes that Dallas' main weakness has been the fact they've been a goal-sieve. If the Devils play smarter hockey than they did last night while continuing to go to the net, they should find themselves on the scoreboard several times. The idea is to be aggressive to a point - it means pinching in a little less, but it also means forechecking with vigor. So it's also important that the Devils' defense takes care of Mike Ribiero, Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, and Mike Modano - the leading scorers for Dallas - to make sure they don't have too many opportunties to score. Especially after the initial save from Clemmensen or Weekes (who knows who's playing). Especially on Eriksson, who leads the team and is tied for eighth in the league in goals.

2008 - Loui Eriksson 35 18 8 26 4 6 2 0 3 1 71 25.4

Still, the Devils should have the talent to beat the Stars. The big question will be will they have enough in them to take on an in-form opponent in their house who didn't play a hard-fought game last night? I certainly hope so, but that's up for the Devils to decide.