It's Chico Night! And maybe a good time to stop a three-game winless streak, too!
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN
The Last Devils Game: Was an embarrassment from attendance to a blown lead in a 4-3 overtime loss to Our Hated Rivals. I wrote over 2,500 words about that game in my recap, it doesn't deserve anymore than that.
The Last Stars Game: On Tuesday night, the Stars hosted Vancouver. At first glance, it looked like Dallas was going to cruise past the Canucks. Ryan Garbutt scored early in the first period. Erik Cole converted a power play late in the first; in the final minute of the period, Tyler Seguin added his fifth goal of the season. Within the first 100 seconds of the second period, Jamie Benn and Cody Eakin each scored goals to chase Ryan Miller from the net. Yet, Vancouver did not just let it all happen. No, they mounted an effort that made the Stars' players and staff worry. Radim Vrbata scored not long after Eakin's goal. While Cole scored his second of the night about a minute later, Kari Lehtonen was hit with a deluge of shots. He did as well as he could, but was beaten by Zach Kassian in the second period and Jannik Hansen in the third. The Canucks would not score more than three, but finished the night with an astounding 46 shots on net. Despite a five-goal lead, the Dallas goaltender was crucial in Dallas' 6-3 win. Here's a quick reaction to the game by Brad Gardner at Defending Big D, and a follow-up report from Brandon Worley at DBD that states that the team was unhappy with the win given their "defensive" effort.
The Goal: Attack, attack, and attack some more. The Dallas Stars have been about two things this season: scoring lots of goals and giving up lots of goals. According to the team stats at NHL.com, the Stars are averaging well over three goals scored per game and over three goals against per game. In addition, they're conceding an average of 34.3 shots per game. And if you checked The Last Stars Game section, then you know that they're unhappy about a 6-3 win over Vancouver because Vancouver fought back and the team leaned on Kari Lehtonen to prevent another high-scoring close-game like they had in Washington recently. So the Devils should be able to break Dallas' defense down based on their early season performance. It's additionally important that the power play makes the most of their opportunities. While not as bad as the Devils, the Stars' PK success rate isn't so hot. It's something a team coming off a three power play goal performance can look forward to. Nevertheless, if the Devils take the initiative on offense and fire away when in a good position, then they'll be able to hang with a powerful Dallas offense.
Assisting the Dallas' D: Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday that Alex Goligoski did practice and should be available for tonight. This is actually a boost for a very young defense. Look at this post by Brandon Worley at Defending Big D. Their defense is relatively inexperienced, which is a reason why they have conceded so many shots. So having Goligoski, who wasn't in the Vancouver game, is a benefit if only for his experience. He's also very good on the puck and can add an additional dimension to an already-successful offense. I still think the Devils should challenge them though. Goligoski and Trevor Daley have been on the wrong side of CF% to start this season per War on Ice. I'm not expecting them to suddenly shut down a top line (maybe the Zajac line?) on the Devils over and over.
They Take Meteor Showers: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The realest guys on the team. Certified G and A scorers and bonafide stud forwards. They are among league leaders in scoring early on in this season and they are both the biggest threats up front for Dallas. They take a lot of shots, their sticks are hot given shooting percentages over 20%, they create plenty of offense, and they have been good in possession - especially Seguin. The pairing of Andy Greene and Damon Severson have faced plenty of top players so far this season. Expect their challenge continues with the
Lindy Ruff has been using that duo with Jason Spezza as a center recently, which made for a killer line. Curiously, Heika reported a change at Wednesday's practice. he switched it up in practice; moving Spezza down to center Erik Cole and Ales Hemsky while Seguin moved to the middle and Colton Sceviour was moved up to their wing. Normally, I would think Valeri Nichushkin would take that spot but he's been out hurt so it's not as bad as it could be. Yet, that new Spezza line looks dangerous - Cole brings the beef (he's got 3 goals on 8 shots, so also maybe heat), Hemsky brings the skill - and the top line still has Benn-Seguin to making guys look sawfter than they actually are. Good luck against that duo, Devils. And be careful not to concede.
By the by, as far as who for the Devils to try and pick on, the Corsi percentages at War on Ice suggest it should be Antoine Roussel, Ryan Garbutt, and Cody Eakin. Not a bad idea.
You Wanted a Change? Well...: Jordin Tootoo will not play tonight. Tom Gulitti reported on Thursday at Fire & Ice that he will definitely not play tonight or tomorrow as he's still waiting for the reports for his X-rays on his foot. He blocked a shot in the Rangers game and was visibly stunned, hobbling off the ice. He would take another shift or two but he was clearly in pain. Given that it's been over a day and he hasn't been told anything may not bode well. We'll see.
Similarly, Martin Havlat also did not practice on Thursday. Gulitti's report has a detailed reason as to why: the sweat developed from playing a sport irritates the cuts on his face. So he got some time off to let the cuts heal further. That would at least partially explain why he seemed so off at times on Tuesday. Since those who don't practice tend not to play, it appears that Damien Brunner will be next to Patrik Elias, Tuomo Ruutu will draw back into the lineup, and it is likely that Jacob Josefson will make his season debut tonight. If Havlat does play, then it'll be a toss up between Ruutu not being scratched and Josefson playing that first game.
Cheering for injuries is a terrible thing that won't be tolerated here, but those who wanted some different looks among forwards will appear to get them. As I stated prior to Brunner's and Larsson's debuts, it's on Josefson to make a case for himself assuming he'll get to do so. The coach isn't required to give anyone minutes just because they're young and somehow getting young players minutes will magically make their game's better on its own. Josefson providing the energy and even some good play that hasn't been seen from the fourth line will help his argument in getting those minutes.
As for the top six, Brunner has been doing good so far. Curiously, Mike Cammalleri still lined up with Elias and Brunner instead of with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. I will say that given Havlat wasn't so good, it's possible that combination would yield better results tonight. If not, Peter DeBoer can make a simple switch between Cammalleri and Dainius Zubrus.
On the Back End, No Changes: No, Marek Zidlicky isn't sitting for making an awful error. Again, he's the main distributor from the blueline; sitting him would kneecap the offense and that's not something to do ahead of playing an opponent who's been bleeding shots against all season. He just needs to be less aggressive. No, Bryce Salvador isn't sitting for the same reason he hasn't been a healthy scratch last season. Yes, he's bad, no one is arguing otherwise; but it is what it is. No, Andy Greene isn't sitting because the Devils aren't tanking.
Surprisingly, Adam Larsson was initially paired with Jon Merrill in practice per Gulitti's report on Thursday. I didn't think much of Larsson's performance on Tuesday. But it appears he'll get another look. Unless he does rather well, I think we're going to see Eric Gelinas return soon.
In net, Gulitti confirmed on Thursday that Cory Schneider will start tonight but it's not clear whether he'll start tomorrow too. Starting the same goalie back-to-back doesn't usually bode well in the second game. However, the question is whether that is significantly worse than starting Scott Clemmensen in Ottawa. Keep that in mind for tomorrow's preview. Per Heika's Thursday report, Ruff is more secretive by not naming who will play the first of Dallas' back-to-back set either. Based on the early stats at NHL.com, Devils fans should be pulling for an Anders Lindback appearance.
Promotional Note: I answered some questions for Defending Big D about the Devils. Look for those questions and answers there in this early afternoon.
Watch The Rock be More Full Tonight Than a Devils-Rangers Game: Tonight's game wasn't as obscenely priced as Tuesday's. Watch the spin of "it was a Friday night" or "it was a crucial night." I'm hoping for a legitimate sellout if only because of a certain figure getting honored tonight.
Chico!: Glenn Resch, long time Devils color commentator will be honored tonight. The game will start closer to 7:30 than 7:00 because of it. Gulitti noted that Resch has been allotted five minutes for a speech, which will be a real challenge for him. It should be a great night. Doc is the emcee. For those of you not attending the game, you'll get a real treat: a little bit of Doc & Chico! Savor it! Eat something when it happens too! I'll have a little something else on Chico later today.
Your Take: The New Jersey Devils are mired in a three-game winless streak and will be honoring a beloved broadcaster. Will that plus a Dallas team concerned with their 'D' help them break that slide? Or will they fall, earning no wins in this three-game homestand, and heading to Ottawa with another reason to feel bad? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.