The New Jersey Devils begin their four-game road trip tonight in the Lone Star State when they square off against the Dallas Stars. The Stars (20-16-4) have faced some controversy when CEO Jim Lites publicly ripped Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The team has responded since then and have gotten five of a possible six points in their last three games. Dallas also has been far better at home (12-5-2) so when you pair that with the Devils road woes (4-12-3), this is going to be very telling about how realistic the Devils recent success is.
Keys to the game
Keeping the crease clear… One trend that has stuck out with Mackenzie Blackwood in net is the number of red sweaters funneling to the front of the net to keep out high danger and rebound chances. Blackwood also has done a very solid job of rebound control and has not left very many pucks sitting right in the low slot. But a large part of the Devils road woes has stemmed from poor defensive coverage and odd-man rushes. The Stars can play a very fast game so the Devils will have to have their legs moving early and often in this one.
Not getting overwhelmed… One of the biggest issues for the Devils on the road has been letting things spiral out of control. It was never just one goal that was given up. It would become a two, three, even four goal deficit in a very short period of time. Now some of that fell on poor goaltending, but it also has to do with defensive coverage falling apart and the inability to better control line changes and matchups like they can on home ice. Blackwood has looked incredibly comfortable and has given this team a new found confidence in saves being made, but now will be the real test of getting a road victory.
New Jersey (Unofficial: Be sure to check our social media pages before puck drop for confirmation)
Bratt – Hischier – Palmieri
Quenneville – Zajac – Coleman
Wood – Zacha – Noesen
Boyle – Seney – Stafford
Greene – Severson
Vatanen – Santini
Butcher – Lovejoy
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Denis Gurianov
Mattias Janmark – Roope Hintz – Alexander Radulov
Blake Comeau – Radek Faksa – Tyler Pitlick
Devin Shore – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen – Roman Polak
Connor Carrick – Julius Honka
Players to Watch
Jesper Bratt… Bratt has been somewhat quiet for a little while, having notched his first point in their last game vs the Canucks since December 15th. His ice time has been down at times, only playing over 11 minutes in his last contest. Even with limited ice time, he still managed the second highest possession metrics of the team (73.7%CF), behind linemate Nico Hischier (88.2%CF). Bratt is a shifty enough player who sometimes gets forgotten about and will certainly be looking to get a little point streak together with Hall sidelined yet again.
Alexander Radulov… The big names that always jump out on Dallas are Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, but Alex Radulov is a player who certainly shouldn’t go overlooked. He has a very dangerous shot from anywhere on the ice and is part of an incredibly lethal powerplay. Radulov has 31 points through 30 games (13g, 18a), including four points in his last five games. If the defense gets caught watching the puck, Radulov is a guy who will make them pay in a hurry.
Where to Watch
American Airlines Center 8:30 p.m. EST
Betting Lines (All info taken from Draftkings Sportsbook)
New Jersey: +1.5 goal spread, +143 money line
Dallas: -1.5 goal spread, -175 money line
Over/Under 5.5 goals
The Devils have started to look like they did to begin this season, largely due to the play of Blackwood. The road woes are very hard to overlook, and pair that with how well Dallas plays at home, and this is looking like an incredibly difficult challenge. I am going to take a “I’ll believe it when I see it” kind of view on getting a road win, so my prediction is a 3-2 loss in a competitive game.