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Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ New Jersey Devils (6:00pm CDT)

The stingy Devils, who swept Dallas last season, offer a stiff test for the new-look Stars forward group this evening.

Bruce Bennett

The Dallas Stars doubled up the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night, exploding for six goals that made for a pretty box score- Yet they were unhappy with the effort.

"We sat back a little too much and we just weren't playing a real sound defensive game as a five-man unit," Erik Cole told media after the game. "In the D-zone we were giving up just too much. There was one play where Kari had to make three or four great saves right at the top of his crease and we need to work at it and get better at it."

They're allowing shots to the tune of 6th most in the league at over 34 after allowing Vancouver 46 and Philadelphia 37. They'll try to start turning that around against what some would call a typically "low event" (shot attempts) opponent in the New Jersey Devils this evening- Losers of three straight after a hot 3-0-0 start.

"Jersey, history shows, is one of the toughest places to go in and scrape out some goals and get some offense," Lindy Ruff opined Tuesday night. "They're a very diligent club, they've been good offensively this year and their goaltender has been really good."

Fox Sports Southwest tonight on the TV side, as usual. Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket for an audio stream.

The Stars:

Dallas used Jason Spezza with Tyler Seguin at home to great (offensive) effect in two extremely productive home games, but left many asking questions. Why take the supposed "one-two" punch and shrink it back to the one of last season?

But it worked. At home. Ruff gave indications that the plan for the road might be a bit different, however, as Spezza resumed centering his own line this week in practice- Prudent planning for a Devils team that will go all-in to stop the Stars' top unit.

Lines could look as they have in Dallas, but these were seen in practice this week and it could be where things end up if chances are few and far between- As the Devils intend.

Benn-Seguin-Sceviour
Cole-Spezza-Hemsky
Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt
Horcoff-Fiddler-McKenzie/Eaves

Defensive pairings will likely be these. Or will they?

Goligoski-Daley
Jordie Benn-Dillon
Connauton-Oleksiak

Oleksiak could come out in favor of rookie Jyrki Jokipakka's season debut.

"I would really like to," Ruff said of working Jokipakka in. "I've weighed putting him in because of the camp he has had. We're going to meet on that today, but I would like to get him in one of the two."

Lindy Ruff told media Thursday that he does indeed have a plan for his goaltenders in back-to-back games, and then declined to share it. So check back here later today for tonight's starter.

A note from Mark Stepneski on what will probably be an unusual start time- "*Friday's game in New Jersey is slated for a 6 p.m. start, but the actual puck drop is expected around 6:26 p.m. New Jersey is honoring former Devils goalie and long-time Devils broadcaster Glenn "Chico" Resch prior to the game. The pregame show on Fox Sports Southwest will start at 6 p.m."

From Stars PR:

Center JASON SPEZZA tallied his seventh assist of the season on Tuesday against Vancouver, extending his current point streak to three games (1-6=7). SPEZZA currently shares second in the NHL with a team-leading seven assists, while his eight points (1-7=8) are tied for 10th in the League. The Toronto, Ont. native also leads the Stars and shares 12th in the NHL with four power play points. SPEZZA comes into Friday's contest having posted 10 points (2-8=10) in his last eight games against the Devils.

The Devils:

Back and forth affairs against the Flyers and Canucks were adventerous- Get ready for the slow down.

New Jersey wants to bring the pace down. They want to clog the neutral zone. They want to force the dump in. It was a pretty good way to slow the Stars down when last they visited the, err, Garden State. Frustrate and counter-punch. Will it work tonight?

About the only way to beat their frustration game plan, as they've seen in recent outings, is to take advantage while on the power play. The Devils surrendered two power play goals to the Rangers, two to San Jose and one to Washington- All losses.

They opened the season scoring well with 6-4 and 5-1 wins but have since seen their offense fizzle a little, recording 3, 2, 2, and 2 since. They will attack, when not gumming up center ice, with this group, featuring a former (one time) Stars legend: (no, not Michael Ryder)

Zubrus-Zajac-Jagr
Cammalleri-Elias-Brunner
Clowe-Henrique-Ryder
Josefson-Gionta-Ruutu

Greene-Severson
Salvador-Zidlicky
Larsson-Merrill

Martin Havlat is questionable with facial lacerations. Jordin Tootoo will be out with a foot injury.

Cory Schneider is expected to start, as he has all six Devils games to date, though he was pulled in Washington in the third period last week. He is 7-3-0 against the Stars with a 2.11 GAA and a .930 save percentage.