The New Jersey Devils are kicking off a five-game road trip this afternoon when the team faces the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. It is the final meeting of the season, and fans can hope this goes slightly better than their first contest, which resulted in a 5-1 victory for Jason Robertson and the Stars. Joe Pavelski opened the scoring 14 seconds into the first period and the Devils were only able to score one goal on the power play courtesy of Jesper Bratt. New Jersey will look to jump back into the win column after dropping their last five games.
2 Storylines: Dallas Stars (40-26-4)
A Few Friendly Foes
Both Scott Wedgewood and Marian Studenic are now members of the Stars thanks to a trade and waiver pickup. The former New Jersey goaltender has played 32 games this season with three different clubs and in three games with Dallas has a record of 2-0-1. It has not been confirmed if Wedgewood will face his former team, but adding him to the roster gives tonight’s opponent depth in the crease along with 23-year-old Jake Oettinger.
On Feb. 24, Studenic was claimed off waivers by Dallas, and it appears he has found a home on the second line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Earlier this week the Stars beat the New York Islanders by a score of 3-2, and this trio was a key reason as they combined for three points. The club’s revamped second line combined for an impressive 14 shots on goal, and ironically it is the former Devil that was the final piece to the puzzle.
“He skates really well with the puck, and he makes plays at top speed,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “A lot of guys get going full speed and they slow up to make a play, Marian doesn’t. He’s fearless. You see him go to the net with cuts in like that. When we picked him up, we were told he’s a great skater and he’s got good speed. That’s very evident. His poise with the puck is very evident, he doesn’t throw it away, he hangs on and goes to the net. He’s an easier guy to play with.”
Seguin and Benn have each had their own struggles over the past few seasons, despite their team making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. Injuries and inconsistent play has plagued the two highest-paid members of the Stars, but this season each have reached the 40-point mark, and Studenic has been the perfect complement to their play.
“I really appreciate the chance when I have an opportunity to play with them because they’re both great players,” Studenic said. “It makes it easier for me because they’ve been in the league for so long, so it’ll help me out, for sure.”
Stars Are in The Playoff Hunt
The playoff race in the Western Conference has been wild to watch these past few weeks. Coming into today’s contest the Stars are in the final wild-card spot with 84 points giving them a two-point advantage over the Vegas Golden Knights. Dallas will be playing desperate hockey as they only have 12 games left to punch their ticket to the playoffs. The club has a record of 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, and have won three straight games on home ice. Considering the Stars have points in 12 of their past 14 games against the Devils, they should be a welcome opponent for a desperate team.
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (24-41-6)
The Devils Have Eight Wins on the Road
Fans will hold their breath this afternoon, as they understand the Devils have not performed well on the road this season. The team has lost nine straight away from Prudential Center and did not win a single away game in March. New Jersey’s last road win was back on Feb. 24 when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-1. Devils’ head coach Lindy Ruff has previously stated he wants his team to treat these last few weeks as their version of the playoffs, but that has not exactly gone to plan as the team is on a five-game losing streak. As they approach this road trip, Ruff has one message to his team when it comes to finding success.
“I want the other team to know they were in one heck of a battle,” said coach Ruff. “I want them to go, ‘man, that team competes.’ Every play means something. The end result will be, if you’re that team that’s hard to play against and detailed, we will get the results and we’ll take whatever that is. Everybody wants to win. You don’t play a game to not win. Put the work in, win your battles. Be the team that the other team goes, ‘what a game they gave us.'”
A Team Plagued With Injuries
The Devils once again find a handful of players out of the lineup due to injuries. The biggest news was the team’s decision to shut down forward Jack Hughes, but there are a couple of other players missing from the team’s road trip. Miles Wood, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Jimmy Vesey will not make the trip, while Nathan Bastian is expected to join the team at some point.
As Amanda Stein reported yesterday at practice, 24-year-old defenseman Colton White practiced as a top-six defenseman and could be making his return to the lineup this afternoon. As an extra option, the team announced they recalled 6-foot-6 blueliner Kevin Bahl as well. Forwards A.J. Greer and Fabian Zetterlund should both be back in the lineup, as they were two of the Devils’ best forwards against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, March 7.
Players to Watch
New Jersey Devils: The Goaltender
If there has been a spotlight on any position this season in New Jersey, it has been goaltending. Despite the revolving door of players in the crease, the team has been unsuccessful at finding consistency. New Jersey’s newest goalie, Andrew Hammond, was pulled on Thursday and replaced by Nico Daws after giving up six goals. It has not been announced who will get the nod this afternoon, but there does not appear to be a lot of faith in any of the current options.
Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski
At 37 years old Pavelski is proving age is just a number as he leads his team with 70 points in 70 games. The last time he played New Jersey, he scored two goals and finished the game with four points. He is coming off a two-point performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs and always seems to be a thorn in the Devils’ side. Pavelski along with linemates Robertson and Roope Hintz will be threat each time they are on the ice.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.