Heading into New Jersey to face the Devils for the second game of a back-to-back isn’t ideal. If you haven’t been paying attention to the Eastern Conference, you might be surprised to find the Devils sitting atop the Metropolitan Division standings.
This is a team that opened the season with a losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. During introductions, Lindy Ruff was greeted with boos, and by the end of the opening game, chants of “Fire Lindy” echoed down from the rafters of Prudential Center.
Lindy Ruff seemed a bit surprised by the boos from the crowd tonight pic.twitter.com/YSlUgSbLRJ— Devils Red Alert (@DevilsRedAlert) October 15, 2022
A month later, the chants were back.
Ruff’s had ups and downs over this stint with the Devils - and until this year, it was mostly downs. This year, the moon and the stars have aligned. The offense features fast, skilled forwards, and the defense can move the puck and contribute offensively.
Most importantly, the team has been getting enough netminding to turn goals into wins. MacKenzie Blackwood started the season off on a good note, and when he went down with a knee injury, Vitek Vaněček took over the top spot and improved on Blackwood’s numbers.
The Devils have three players over thirty on their active roster and long term contracts in place for a good number of their young core. If you haven’t been following the team this year, it may be time to start.
The Devils have used 17 different forward lines for over 10 minutes this year.— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) December 11, 2022
None of them have been outscored.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Mason Marchment (27) – Tyler Seguin (91) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Denis Gurianov (34)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Luke Glendening (11) - Radek Faksa (12)
Miro Heiskanen (4) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Ryan Suter (20) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)
Riley Tufte was recalled from the Texas Stars for the road trip. The last Dallas call-up, Fredrik Karlström, didn’t see any action. Tufte has been playing a fourth-line role with Texas (although that fourth line has been hitting the score sheet on a regular basis), so if he draws in, it will likely be with the bottom line.
New Jersey Devils Lineup
Tomas Tatar (90) - Nico Hischier (13) - Jesper Bratt (63)
Erik Haula (56) - Jack Hughes (86) - Dawson Mercer (91)
Miles Wood (44) - Michael McLeod (20) - Fabian Zetterlund (49)
Yegor Sharangovich (17) - Jesper Boqvist (70) - Alexander Holtz (10)
Jonas Siegenthaler (71) - Dougie Hamilton (7)
Ryan Graves (33) - John Marino (6)
Brendan Smith (2) - Damon Severson (28)
Vitek Vaněček (41)
Akira Schmid (40)
Certainly sounds like some significant line changes are coming today for #NJDevils based on the way Lindy Ruff talked this morning.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) December 13, 2022
Said he needs all four lines going, that’s when they’re at their best.
Interesting note - the Devils’ six defenders have all played in every game so far this season.
Keys to the Game
Bounce back. Both teams lost on Monday evening on the road - although Madison Square Garden isn’t that far from the Prudential Center. Both teams also could have easily won their game. Time to hit reset and move on.
Backups? With the back-to-back sets for both teams, this could be a battle of the backups. Oettinger and Vaněček have both been solid this year, but a Wedgewood vs. Schmid matchup should favor the Stars.
Finishing. Both teams are stacked with high-skilled, fast young players. There will be opportunities to score, and the team that takes advantage of their chances will come out on top.