The Devils will look to finish off back-to-back set in Newark when they take on the Dallas Stars.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (27-35-12) vs. the Dallas Stars (30-33-11; SBN Blog: Defending Big D)
The Time: 5:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV – MSG+; Radio - WFAN 660 AM and 101.9 FM
The Last Devils Game: Last night the Devils were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after falling 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Travis Zajac had the Devils only goal with Taylor Hall picking up an assist. Cory Schneider made 25 saves as the Devils were outshot 28-27 by the Hurricanes. You can read John's recap of the game here.
The Last Stars Game: Dallas defeated San Jose 6-1 on Friday. Adam Cracknell had the hat trick while Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg had the other goals. Jason Spezza had 3 assists as he made his return to the line up. Joe Thornton was the only Shark to beat Kari Lehtonen who had 20 saves as the Stars outshot the Sharks 29-21. You can check out Taylor Baird's recap of the game over at Defending Big D.
The Last Devils-Stars Game: These teams last met all the way back on November 15 in Dallas. The Devils won that game 2-1 in overtime thanks to goals by Damon Severson and Adam Henrique (GWG). Cory Schneider made 23 saves as the Devils outshot the Stars 33-24. As John noted in his recap of the game, this was the Devils 5th straight win at the time and represented an overall good team performance. He mentioned that Beau Bennett had himself a big night in place of the injured Taylor Hall and that the defense did it's job.
The Goal: Take advantage of the Stars goaltending. The duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have both been subpar for Dallas this season. The Stars currently give up the 3rd most goals per game (3.18) in the league which has been a major downfall of their season. Dallas has also struggled mightily on the PK thanks to their goaltenders and now own a league worst 73.9 PK%. Now the Devils are far from an offensive dynamo but they should be able to get a some good opportunities tonight to put pressure on the Stars and when that happens they need to take advantage of their chances.
The Youth: Once again I'm looking forward to seeing how the Devils youth plays in this game. John Quenneville and Pavel Zacha seem to be developing some chemistry as Alex wrote about yesterday. That is certainly a great reason to watch this game between two non-playoff teams. I want to see if Joseph Blandisi can continue to carve out a role on the 2nd line and give us some encouraging signs towards his future in New Jersey. Depending on line up decisions by Coach Hynes, I want to see how Miles Wood, Blake Coleman, Blake Pietila, and Steve Santini fare in tonight's game.
The Stars Forwards: The main threats up front for Dallas are Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza (who just returned from a brief injury spell). Seguin has a 24-45-69 line in 74 games with a 50.87 CF%. Benn has a 25-41-66 line in 69 games with a 49.37 CF%. Spezza has a 12-33-45 line in 60 games with a 50.68 CF. Other notable players up front include Patrick Eaves, Radek Faksa, and Patrick Sharp. Eaves has 37 points in 59 games with a 51.31 CF%, Faksa has 31 points in 72 games with a 51.86 CF%, and Sharp has 18 points 48 games with a 51.04 CF%. Antoine Roussel had been putting together a solid season for the Stars but is likely done for the year due to injury. Stats from NHL.com and Corsica.
The Stars Defenseman: Look for John Klingberg to be heavily involved in the action. He has a 12-32-44 line in 72 games, averages 23:25 per night, and owns a 49.42 CF%. Also keep an eye out for Dan Hamhuis. He has 15 points in 71 games but averages 19:29 per night, and owns a 51.96 CF% to lead the defenseman. Esa Lindell will likely partner with Klingberg and has 14 points in 65 games, averages 21:39 per night, and owns a 49.42 CF%.
Potential Goaltending Matchup: The Stars goaltending has certainly been a weak point this season. Kari Lehtonen has appeared in 53 games (47 starts) and compiled a 19-22-7 record with a 2.82 GAA, .904 SV%, 53.2 Quality Start%, and -12.81 Goals Saved Above Average. Antti Niemi hasn't fared any better, appearing in 34 games (27 starts) with a 11-11-4 record with a 3.25 GAA, .892 SV%, 44.4 QS%, and -17.93 GSAA. I'd expect Lehtonen to get the start for the Stars. Going into last night's game, Cory Schneider hade made 55 appearances (54 starts) for a 20-23-10 record with a 2.71 GAA, .911 SV%, 46.3 QS%, and -3.53 GSAA. With Schneider starting last night, it's likely that Keith Kinkaid starts for the Devils. Kinkaid has made 22 appearances (19 starts) for a 7-11-2 record with a 2.77 GAA, .913 SV%, 47.4 QS%, and -0.54 GSAA. I think we're going to see some goals in this game. Thanks to Hockey-Reference for the QS and GSAA numbers.
Your Take: Which players do you think will make an impact tonight? What are your expectations for this game? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!