The Dallas Stars will kick off game #42 tonight, officially passing the half-way mark of the season. They’re currently 22-16-3, and their 47 points has them in the first wild card position in the Western Conference.
It is said that two points in the first half of the season count as much as two points in the second half, but the Stars will need all the points they can get if they want to hold onto a playoff position in one of the toughest divisions in the league.
To play spoiler to getting the second half of the schedule off to a good start for the Stars are the New Jersey Devils. The 2017-2018 Devils are a fairly pacey, offensive style team. Gone are the trap games and bore-you-to-death 2-1 affairs when the Devils come to town. The Stars should know that first hand — they were clobbered by the Devils on their east coast swing in December 5-2 at Prudential Center.
While the Devils overall have been very good on the road, posting a 10-5-4 record away from home, this four game road trip out west has not been kind to them. They’ve gone 0-1-1 so far, and haven’t recorded a win in the last three games on their schedule. It’ll be another motivated team coming in looking to end the slide, just as Dallas saw when the Columbus Blue Jackets came to town on Tuesday night.
Dallas should have some reinforcements in their lineup for this contest, as both Martin Hanzal and Marc Methot return from injuries. That could change the complexion of the team and hopefully cause a better result than Tuesday night’s contest. It will be particularly interesting to see Methot’s insertion into the lineup, as the blueline has actually played pretty well since the departure of Jamie Oleksiak and the stabilization of a top six in his absence.
Julius Honka will eat the first healthy scratch among the blueliners with the seven healthy defensemen the Stars now find themselves with. We’ll see if that becomes a trend or if this is a “show me” style game for either Pateryn or Johns to continue in the lineup.
Stars lines should be as follows based on morning skate:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Devin Shore
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Jason Dickinson - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns
The Devils will feature two Texas-born players tonight, with Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen in the lineup. This will be the first NHL game for Coleman he’s ever played in Texas, so he has to be pretty stoked. Expect there to be some Devils fans in the house with these two playing tonight.
The Devils lineup should resemble something along these lines:
Taylor Hall -- Nico Hischier -- Jesper Bratt
Marcus Johansson -- Travis Zajac -- Kyle Palmieri
Miles Wood -- Pavel Zacha -- Stefan Noesen
Blake Coleman -- Brian Boyle -- Brian Gibbons
Andy Greene -- Steven Santini
John Moore -- Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher -- Ben Lovejoy
Cory Schneider and Ben Bishop will duel in net, marking Bishop’s eighth straight start. With the team approaching their CBA-mandated five day break after the conclusion of this home stand on Saturday, I wouldn’t expect to see Kari Lehtonen in net until about mid-January at the earliest.