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Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ New Jersey Devils (7:00pm CST)

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Game 31: Dallas Stars @ New Jersey Devils

Friday, December 16th, 2011, 7:00 PM CST
Prudential Center

Local TV, Radio: FS SW HD, KTCK 1310 The Ticket

Opponent SB Nation Blog: In Lou We Trust

The Stars conclude their sojourn through the North East tonight in New Jersey, where the Devils stand in their way of a fourth win on a five game trip, and a flight home to their own beds after ten days away.

Richard Bachman continues to be the surprise story of the trip, winning his third consecutive start in Long Island last night as the Stars took down the Islanders by a score of 3-2. The come from behind win made Bachman the first goaltender in Stars history to win his first three career starts.

"I think tonight the D really did a great job helping me out," said Bachman. "I didn't feel like I had control of all the rebounds, I left a few laying out there but they did a great job clearing out in front of me. It was one of those nights where you have to battle through it."

Dallas has now won as many games on the road as at home (nine in each locale) and run their record to 18-11-1, good for first place in the Pacific Division and the fifth best points percentage in the West.

New Jersey comes into this one 6-5-1 at home. They've won two straight and four of five overall. They'll honor long time Devil (and Duck) Scott Niedermayer by retiring his #27 before this one.

The Stars are 0-5-0 on the second half of back to backs this year.

Please note that tonight's game was originally scheduled for 6:00pm Central and it may say that on your schedule magnets, pocket schedules and other various media, but it has been pushed back an hour to 7:00pm in DFW.

A closer look at both teams after the jump...

The Stars:

Dallas keeps rolling, doing little to change the lines from game to game but Glen Gulutzan has tweaked things from shift to shift within the games after starting the familiar combinations. Last night he put Dowell out with Ribeiro and Ryder following a tv timeout. Later Wandell was out for a full shift with Benn and Eriksson.

None of it stuck and the lines came down the stretch like you'd expect them to, with the fourth line all but taken out of the game in the third with the score close and Tomas Vincour lost to injury. It's all something to just keep an eye on tonight.

Speaking of the fourth line, Toby Petersen will play tonight and Vincour will sit with a knee injury that is said to not be very serious. The real question is: Who starts in net?

This preview is being written late Thursday night and there has been no word. Bachman has shouldered the load well, obviously, but now they have to decide whether or not they want to see him for the fourth straight game in a back to back situation. Riding the hot hand is a popular sentiment from Stars fans but there's Andrew Raycroft to consider. If Bachman is not in the club's plans for the remainder of the season (and there's no way to know that right now), does it behoove them, with an eye on the season as an 82 game marathon, to show confidence in Raycroft and give him the start?

Then again, Raycroft's first five outings this season were back to back starts and they didn't turn out so well. That must be considered as well.

The Stars have scored four power play goals in their last six games. They've allowed just four goals in their last three games, all wins. They scored at least three goals for the first time since the last time they faced the Islanders at home two weeks ago. It was the first time the Benn line scored multiple goals since the Washington game, unless I am very much mistaken.

The Devils:

In classic New Jersey form the Devils enter the night 26th in the league at 2.40 goals per game, but with a solid defensive mindset. (This despite having famously overpaid for offense. Their roster is quite talented).

New Jersey has the league's #1 penalty kill by far with an absurd 92.9% number on the year. Recently they had a streak of allowing ZERO power play goals in 17 of 18 games. In three of their last four games they have allowed opposing power plays to strike, but the Stars ailing PP will be hard put to get any healthier tonight.

According to Stars PR, Dallas has defeated all 3 (NYR, NYI, NJ) on the road in same season once: 1996-97, playing the NY teams in Oct and NJ in Dec that year.

The Devils are 4-4-1 against the West this year, a good mark for an Eastern Conference team. The thing that really stands out when looking at their stats is their league leading shootout numbers and their SHGA tally. They've allowed opponents to score nine short handed goals already, just 30 games in. Their 12.7% PP is 27th in the league. They've taken eight games (out of 30, a significant percentage) to the shootout and won seven of them, padding their record to 16-13-1. At just nine regulation/overtime wins, they're tied for last in the Eastern Conference.

Our friends at In Lou We Trust recently looked back at their first 30 games this season...

The Devils are fourth in the Atlantic division, but the top three teams in the division are also three of the top five teams in the Eastern conference. However the Devils are only eight points out of first in the Atlantic division and 8 points out of the lead for the Eastern Conference lead. The Devils are winning 55% of the points available to them, only 0.4% lower than the league average. In order to make it into the playoffs, the Devils will want to increase their points percentage slightly, but I am confident they will do that over time.