The Dallas Stars started January with a big bang in the Cotton Bowl, and ended it with a whimper in American Airlines Center. A road trip could be the perfect post-All Star reset, and the team looks to get back on track against the New Jersey Devils tonight in Newark.
Under interim head coach Rick Bowness, the Victory Green Gang has shored up a good reputation as one of the NHL’s better defensive teams. But Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs demonstrated once again that the Stars have surrendered their identity as high-flying scorers to teams like, well, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But can they reclaim it? Tyler Seguin turned 28 yesterday, and it would be great if he could celebrate with a goal or two in tonight’s game. His current 6.2 shot percentage is pretty anemic, especially by his career standard of 10.9 with the Stars. If anyone is due for some positive regression, it could be Segs.
Meanwhile, Joel Kiviranta has been called up due to Justin Dowling’s injury during the Toronto game. The native of Vantaa, Finland has shown some scoring flair with the Texas Stars and could provide a kick in the pants for the Stars’ sluggish offense.
The Stars have shown a marked tendency to play down to the competition, and fans may be forgiven for dreading the trap-game profile this match presents. But with their 10-5-2 road record since November, there are plenty of good reasons for optimism.
For convenience, New Jersey fans have divided this year’s Devils into BT (Before the Taylor Hall Trade) and AT (After the Taylor Hall Trade). They’re a team that began the year stocked to the gills with brand-name talent and were still, somehow, shockingly bad. (Stars fans can probably identify.)
The Devils were also one of the three NHL teams who fired a head coach in December. John Hynes got his pink slip on December 3 after a gruesome couple of months that left the team third-worst in the league in all-situations scoring and second-worst in goals against.
Under Alain Nasreddine, they remain dreadfully inconsistent, and rookie prodigy Jack Hughes has not provided the shot in the arm the team may have expected. But with the Hall trade finally accomplished, the forward corps has opened up, their scoring chances have gotten better, and talents like Nico Hischier, Nikita Gusev and Plano native Blake Coleman are still capable of goosing the team to victory.
The Devils’ lot earlier this season was compounded by the near-complete collapse of Cory Schneider, who has suffered a demotion to the AHL that would have been almost inconceivable as recently as the preseason. (Again, Stars fans can remember what it’s like to have a talented goaltender who consistently outperformed a mediocre team and whose confidence finally gave out at exactly the wrong moment.)
Here, too, there are signs of new life with the emergence of MacKenzie Blackwood as a true NHL starter. The rookie netminder has posted 15 victories and a fairly respectable .904 save percentage in 37 games. That said, tonight’s starter appears to be Louis Domingue, whose 3.66 goals-against average and .883 save percentage aren’t as promising.
The Stars’ road roster, as reported by Sean Shapiro:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Joe Pavelski - Joel Kiviranta
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak - Roman Polak
New Jersey Devils
The home starters as reported by Amanda Stein:
Jesper Bratt - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Nikita Gusev
Pavel Zacha - Jack Hughes - Wayne Simmonds
Miles Wood - Kevin Rooney - John Hayden
Andy Greene - P.K. Subban
Damon Severson - Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher - Connor Carrick
Puck drop: 6 p.m. CST (Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
TV: MSG+, FS-SW+
Radio: KTCK 1310 AM / 96.7 FM The Ticket
Online: FOX Sports Go app / theticket.com