When last these teams met on November 21st, the recipe to beat them was as follows: 2 goals and 2 assists from Stephane Robidas, a very injured Devils team, and their backup netminder. I have a feeling the Stars will need to find a different method this go around. At 29-10-1, the Devils have the best points percentage in the league. They boast a good penalty kill and an even better power play (4th in the league), and are 8-2-0 in their last ten games.
The 5 goal outburst against the Devils in November followed a stretch of games that saw the Stars score 2 or fewer goals in 7 of their previous 8. Dallas put the November goal scoring doldrums behind them in December and finished the year with back to back 5 goal performances, but faltered in their last outing against the Canucks. The combination of strong defensive play by Vancouver and an elite goaltender held the Stars to only one tally. Strong defensive play and an elite goaltender is exactly what they can expect tonight as well as they try to get their offense jump started again.
After enjoying six of seven at home, the Stars begin a busy month on the road tonight. A strong road team to start the season, the Stars are a miserable 1-4-3 in their last 8 games away from the American Airlines Center.
Of course we'll also have one eye on the WJC Final featuring Canada and the United States (NHL Network) during the game tonight, and don't forget the Defending Big D Live Post Game Show starting at 9:00pm CST, or earlier, pending the end time in Newark.
After the jump, a look at the Devils from "In Lou We Trust" and an injury report...
Dallas has scored 2.4 goals per game in their last 10 on the road, and that number is bolstered significantly by their 6-5 loss in Atlanta. (Which by the way, is the Thrashers ONLY win in their last 10 games. Go us?)
I had intended on putting a real downer of a stat in this next space, but I found something different. The Devils are 15-6 at home this year, but the Stars next 4 road opponents are a combined 36-36-12 at home. A nice .500 home mark evenly distributed amongst the Rangers (9-10-3), Montreal (9-10-2), Columbus (9-7-5) and Philadelphia (9-9-2). So at least there's a bright side to counterpoint the overwhelmingly bad Dallas Stars road trends: They have a chance.
Loui Eriksson was named the NHL's third star of the week. Coincidentally Jamie Langenbrunner of the Devils was the #1 star of the week. Oh, and for some reason, the Devils will honor their 2000 Stanley Cup winning team tonight before the opening face off. Thanks, guys.
The reports from Monday practice revealed nothing new from recent games:
Some combination of Petersen-Sutherby-Modano-Barch
Coach Marc Crawford said he still is trying to figure how he will use his goalies. My guess is he will split them, but he was no declaring who would start against the Devils, so I guess anything is possible right now.
The Goal: Be a little more selfish with the puck, be a little smarter in passing the puck. Against the Wild, the Devils hurt themselves by trying to force outlet passes to rushing forwards through the neutral zone, only for the pass to miss, get deflected wide, or go right to a Wild forward. And when they did get the puck on offense - especially on an offensive rush - the forwards clearly showed the Wild that they would pass first. Sure, if the pass was good, it'd be a great chance at a goal. Yet, they didn't and in fact there were multiple 2-on-1s that were turned into offensive chances for the Wild; including the first goal of the game for the Wild, when Travis Zajac's pass was easily intercepted.
The other main task for the Devils is to avoid a lull. This is a bit weird for a team that hasn't lost two games in a row since mid-November; but the performances of the last two games weren't what you would call "solid." The defense hasn't stepped up positionally, the movement of the puck in a transition offense has been inconsistent at best, and while the power play scored twice against Minnesota, they did give up a shorthanded goal and were miserable against Chicago. Good teams don't stand for this sort of play. According to Tom Gulitti, Jacques Lemaire isn't standing for this.
Can I emphasize that Lemaire is far more candid about the team than Brent Sutter ever was and likely ever will be? Well, I just did with that leading, hypothetical question. Anyway. To this end, I'd also fully expect a more, well, energetic performance from the Devils tonight.
The Devils are so good that their fans and coaches are talking about their latest win (in which they scored five goals) as if it were a demoralizing defeat. They have quite a different perspective than we do, don't they? Winning sure is fun...I bet.