Today’s your last day to visit the NHL Centennial Fan Arena in Championship Plaza before puck drops at 5PM as the New Jersey Devils (27-35-12) meet the Dallas Stars (30-33-11) for the final time this season. Both teams are no longer in playoff contention (the Devils were officially eliminated after their loss to Carolina last night) so the only thing they have left to play for is pride, and New Jersey desperately needs to get back in the win column. Forget the first round draft pick at this point; this season has to end on a good note.
Based on Dallas’ 9AM morning skate, Kari Lehtonen (19-22-7, 2.82 GAA, .904 save percentage) will be in net for them tonight. Because Cory Schneider played yesterday, Keith Kinkaid (7-11-2, 2.77 GAA, .913 save %) will likely get the start in net for the Devils. He last played Thursday night against the Leafs (saved 26/29 shots against, .897 save %), while Lehtonen had an excellent night against the Sharks on Friday.
The Stars won a 6-1 thrashing against San Jose and Adam Cracknell had the first hat trick of his career. Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg also had goals, while Lehtonen made 20 saves on 21 shots against (.952 save %). Dallas has won two of their last three overall (both wins coming against San Jose and the loss coming in a shootout to Chicago) and three of their last five.
The Devils fell 3-1 to the Canes last night, officially eliminating them from playoff contention (although we’ve all seen that coming for a while). Travis Zajac scored the lone goal on an assist for Taylor Hall, who reached the 50-point milestone this season (joining linemate Kyle Palmieri as the only two Devils with 50). They had plenty of scoring chances but could not find a way to actually score.
Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson both skated with the team yesterday but won’t return to the lineup any time soon; Devante Smith-Pelly has not yet resumed skating. The Devils did dress 11 forwards and 7 defensemen last night so they may or may not do the same thing again this evening. Patrick Sharp will undergo season-ending hip surgery this Tuesday and will not be in the lineup; the Stars recalled center Jason Dickinson to take his place.
The two teams have not met since November 15th, a 2-1 overtime win for the Devils when they were on their Western Conference road trip. They outshot the Stars 33-24 and got a regulation goal from Damon Severson; Adam Henrique (!) had the overtime winner. Patrick Eaves scored for Dallas but is now with the Anaheim Ducks. Schneider made 23 saveson 24 shots against (.958 save %) en route to a win; Antti Niemi made 31 saves on 33 shots against (.939 save %), a good game for him.
Come out early if you’re going to the game to take part in the festivities; puck drops at 5PM.