Devils host Stars on Niedermayer Night
Friday, 12.16.2011 / 9:01 AM
STARS (18-11-1) at DEVILS (16-13-1)
MSG PLUS (HD) RADIO:
WFAN 660 AM
Dallas 6-3-1; New Jersey 5-5-0
Dallas won the first meeting 3-1 at American Airlines Center on Oct. 29. These two teams have met twice in every season since the schedule matrix was changed before 2008-09 -- each club plays only three teams in the other conference each campaign.
It is Scott Niedermayer Night at Prudential Center as the Devils will raise his number in the rafters before the puck drops.
Dallas is looking to make it a clean sweep of the New York City-area teams after defeating the Rangers 1-0 on Tuesday and the Islanders 3-2 on Thursday. Goal prevention and a magical start for a rookie goaltender has fueled a three-game winning streak for the Stars.
They had yielded five goals in back-to-back losses, but Richard Bachman was perfect in the third period of a 5-2 loss to San Jose and has been spectacular ever since. He's yielded three goals in three starts as Dallas has regained control of the Pacific Division.
"He's a calm and steady goalie back there, and we have lots of confidence in him," said forward Jamie Benn, who scored the go-ahead goal on Thursday. "He's shown that he can play at this level. It's nice to have a backbone back there, and he's playing great hockey right now."
Give New Jersey some credit for keeping in the playoff race without center Travis Zajac
and a stretch without Martin Brodeur
. Still, more than half of the team's victories have come in overtime or the shootout, including a remarkable 7-1 record when tied after 65 minutes.
Whether this pace in the shootout can be maintained, the Devils should receive a boost from Zajac's return. That, coupled with Adam Henrique
's emergence this season, gives New Jersey a nice one-two punch at center and could allow coach Peter DeBoer to split up Ilya Kovalchuk
and Zach Parise
to establish two scoring lines.
Trevor Daley has a goal in two of the past three games for the Stars, but Bachman has been the big story. A fourth-round pick in 2006, he spent two years at Colorado College and most of 2009-10 with Idaho in the ECHL. He has stopped 96 of 99 shots to begin his NHL career.
The reason for Bachman's breakout opportunity is a groin injury that has sidelined starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Forward Adam Burish is also out with a broken hand. … New Jersey is expected to have Zajac in the lineup for the first time after he missed the first 10 weeks of the season recovering from an Achilles tendon injury. Both Anton Volchenkov
and Henrik Tallinder
could be back to shore up the defense corps. Defenseman Andy Greene
and center Jacob Josefson
remain out for the Devils.
Dallas has thrived without Brad Richards, but the surprising Stars have been very dependent on strong goaltending. Lehtonen was 13-4-1 with a .930 save percentage before he got hurt, but backupAndrew Raycroft has a .900 save percentage in nine appearances and the Stars are 2-7 in this games.
Niedermayer had an amazing career, collecting championships at every level and in every competition he entered. He lifted the Stanley Cup four times (three with New Jersey), but also collected two Olympic gold medals and won the World Junior Championship, the Memorial Cup, the World Cup of Hockey and World Championship.
His number will be the third retired in New Jersey's history, joining Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko (Martin Brodeur
will obviously be the fourth honoree shortly after he retires).
"Going to the rink tomorrow, it's going to be a little emotional in that sense, because for them to feel that highly of what I did here, even considering that I decided to play somewhere else [at the end of my career], makes it to me more special," Niedermayer said Thursday on "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman." "So I'm looking forward to that and I expect to feel a little emotional with that being the case, for sure."