Dallas Stars (18-11-1, 37 pts) @ New Jersey Devils (16-13-1, 33 pts)
7:00 PM CT, December 16, 2011
Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
The Stars' cross-country, five game road-trip comes to an end tonight as Dallas takes on the New Jersey Devils. The two teams are both running hot coming into this game with Dallas having won three in a row and the Devils winning four of their last five games.
Dallas has been riding the hot hand of Richard Bachman in their run. The rookie has been spectacular in his NHL debut week, stopping 85 of the 88 shots he's faced while going 3-0-0. He's stabilized a team that looked lost while Andrew Raycroft was in net. Tonight is the second night of a back-to-back though, so Raycroft could get the call as Bachman has started the last three games.
The Devils, meanwhile, have been rotating their goalie situation. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg have been alternating starts since the beginning of December and it doesn't look like it will change. Since Brodeur started the Devils last game (a 3-2 SO win over the Florida Panthers on Dec. 13), Hedberg will be getting the start tonight. He was the starting goalie in the previous meeting this season, a 3-1 win for the Stars.
Hedberg would be the guy that the Stars want to face. He's won two of his three starts this month, but they haven't been very convincing. Hedberg has allowed four goals in each of three starts in December. The Devils lost one of those 4-2 but have managed to conjure up enough offense to win the other two games by a 5-4 score. If the Stars score four goals tonight, I would feel confident that they could get the win tonight (That's if Raycroft isn't like his usual self if he starts).
The Devils are an average team overall, but boast one unit that has been incredible this season, their penalty-kill. Overall, they have the best PK unit in the NHL (92.9%) and are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for the league lead in short-handed goals with six. On home ice, they've somehow been even better. They been on the penalty-kill 49 times on home ice this year and have only allowed 2 power-play goals (A PK percentage of 95.9%). Those two goals have actually come in the last two home games for the Devils. Hopefully that can continue tonight.
The PK unit has been great because of the skill of the players that they have on it. Zach Parise leads the team with three short-handed goals. Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk also have points on the penalty-kill. The Stars power-play has been on the up lately but I would be shocked if they scored on it tonight. It will be important for them not to get too aggressive on the PP or they could quickly find themselves on the wrong side of an odd-man rush.
Dallas has injuries to three players: Forwards Tomas Vincour (knee) and Adam Burish (broken hand) are out while goalie Kari Lehtonen (groin) is also out. Vincour suffered his injury last night in the 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. His injury isn't serious but he could miss a few games.
The Devils will be missing two players for tonight's game, defensemen Andy Greene (fractured toe) and forward Jacob Josefson (fractured clavicle).
Edit: It's been confirmed by Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) that the Stars will start Bachman tonight.
- The game will be delayed for a bit because the Devils are retiring Scott Niedermayer's jersey tonight.
- Devils forward Travis Zajac will be making his season debut tonight. He has been out all year with an Achilles injury. They also get a boost to their defense as Anton Volchenkov returns from a broken hand tonight. He has missed the past three games for the Devils.
- Elias has a point in five of his last six games. Parise has at least a point in eight of his last nine games and Kovalchuk also has at least a point in eight of the last nine. The Stars need to stop these three guys if they want a win tonight.
- While the percentage might not look great (4 of 23, 17%), the Stars have scored a PP goal in four of their last six games. That's pretty much an explosion considering how it's been the past month. The return of Goligoski, Morrow and the play of Larsen have done wonders.
- The Stars PK unit has been perfect in its last four games, going 13 of 13. The Devils have been 1 of 15 in their past four games with the man-advantage so PP goals might be a bit rare tonight.
- Brenden Morrow has been pretty good since resting for a few games. In his four games back, he has 2 goals and 2 assists. He's still racking up the PK minutes though, so he needs to get a handle on that.