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Game Preview #44: New Jersey Devils vs Dallas Stars

The Devils put together a solid overall performance against a flagging Columbus Blue Jackets team, bumping them to fifth in the division. Now they return home to take on a very good Dallas Stars team.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils vs. Dallas Stars

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: BSSW, MSGSN

Key Takeaways

The last time the Devils played the Stars . . .

. . . was way back in January 2023, more than a calendar year ago. Though that was then and this is now, there are a few similarities to that Devils team and our present-day Devils. Notably, that game featured a come-from-behind victory as the Devils trailed 2-0 to start the period only to fight their way back and win 3-2 in overtime. Then as now, the Devils struggled to play sharp hockey in the first period. However, Vanecek outplayed Jake Oettinger and the offense showed up in a big way to secure two points in the extra period.

So much has changed since then. In that game, Jack Hughes and Miles Wood combined for the Devils’ three goals. Wood is gone. Hughes is injured. The others who showed up on the scoresheet included Damon Severson and Dougie Hamilton. Severson is gone. Hamilton is injured. And instead of a resurgent Vitek Vanecek in net, the Stars will instead stare down a young netminder named Nico Daws. . . .

The Stars are a good team

The Stars last played on Thursday, where they lost 5-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers.

We don’t see a lot of the Stars out in the Metropolitan Division, so I’ll admit that they’ve flown somewhat under the radar for me this season until I started researching for this preview. The Stars are a good team. They’ve been a good team for a while now, defying age and expectations of dropping off for several seasons to record a 22-13-5 record so far in the Central Division. Their forward corps is top-end despite not initially seeming incredibly attractive at first: Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Matt Duchene all have 40 or more points through the Stars’ 44 games, and several additional forwards aren’t that far behind. Their blueline is also headlined by two-way threats Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harley, a young 6’4” blueliner who uses his vision and skating more than his size to make plays.

The Dallas Stars are a team of depth contributions. 14 of their 20 skaters have double-digit points, with eight recording double-digit goals (and another two not far behind). Their power play ranks in the upper half at 23% and their penalty kill is third in the league at 84.6%, and they generally out-possess, out-chance, and out-score their opponents at five-on-five.

They’re also a nasty team that will hit hard, throw crosschecks and jabs behind the scenes, bog you down in the corners, and get under your skin. They are, perhaps in some ways, the kind of team that many Devils fans would like to see their team play like.

They’re not invincible, though. Despite the injection of youth that Wyatt Johnston, Jason Robertson, and Jake Oettinger have provided them, old vets like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Ryan Suter don’t skate like they used to. The Devils can’t allow the Stars to stuff them into corners, out-muscle them in front of the net, and lose the agitation game to some of the league’s best. What they need to do is stick to their game (or their ideal game): fast breakouts and transition to attack to outskate an aging team that still has enough life left to rank eighth in the league.

Without Jack Hughes, the fast transition from defense to offense has proven much more challenging to the Devils, but they’ll need to try if they want to win tonight.

As we are well aware, the Devils are 1-6-1 in the second half of back-to-back games. However, with Nico Daws, momentum on their side from the Blue Jackets game, and Timo Meier’s return to the lineup, I’m optimistic that the Devils can give the Stars a run for their money.

Your Thoughts

Do you watch much of the Stars? What’s your scouting report, and are you surprised that Matt Duchene, Seguin, and Benn are having such good statistical seasons? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading. Onward.