A year ago, the New Jersey Devils learned that a fast start can build the foundation for a successful season. Looking to replicate that, the Devils seek a fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Stars at Prudential Center.
The Devils (3-0-0) won their first three games last season, as well. They also earned wins in six of their first seven games, and nine of 11, setting the stage for a 97-point campaign and the organization's first playoff appearance in six years.
"It's huge because it gives you breathing room, a bit more space, and our start last year really propelled us to maintain that strong play all season long," said Devils alternate captain Taylor Hall. "You have to bank wins whenever you can, and it's especially nice to do so right at the start of the season."
New Jersey has taken a page from last year's playbook by beating the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks in succession, so far, this season, outscoring the opposition 14-4.
Kyle Palmieri is a driving force behind the strong start, scoring two goals in all three games. His six goals place him among the early league-leaders and well ahead of last year's pace when injuries slowed him early on and he didn't score his sixth goal until December.
"I'm always confident in my shot, but I think it's fortunate they are going in for me right now," said Palmieri. "See how long we can keep that going."
New Jersey comes off a 3-2 win over the Sharks on Saturday, one in which they rallied from a one-goal deficit in the third period. Palmieri scored the tying goal and waiver-wire pickup Jean-Sebastien Dea scored the winner on a rebound.
Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, who is ably filling in for the injured Cory Schneider, stopped 37 of 39 shots Saturday and has a 1.33 goals against average, .949 save percentage and one shutout this season.
The Stars (3-2-0) started off with a four-game homestand and won three times before heading out on the road and dropping a 4-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators on Monday. John Klingberg scored a first-period power play goal, extending his point streak to five consecutive games to start the season. Alexander Radulov assisted on the goal and has points in five straight, as well. Radulov's 10 points are tied for most on the team with Tyler Seguin.
Dallas went 1-for-4 on the power play Monday and is 7-for-13 the past four games. Team captain Jamie Benn has three power play goals, while Klingberg has two.
Last year, the Stars had a decent start, winning seven of their first 12 games, but ended up missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, finishing three points out of eighth place.
"We talked about it during the offseason, during training camp, we wanted a good start this year," Seguin told the Stars' website. "We got that at home, and now we have to focus on our road record."
Winning on the road is a point of emphasis with the Stars. Last season, the Stars had only 16 road victories.
"If you want to be a playoff team, you have to be .500 on the road, at least," first-year Stars coach Jim Montgomery told reporters on Monday night. "I didn't think we managed the game (against the Senators) really well for being on the road."
Dallas will be without Martin Hanzal (back) and Stephen Johns (concussion) on Tuesday, while the Devils will play without Schneider (off-season hip surgery) and Jesper Bratt (fractured jaw). Devils center Nico Hischier is expected to play despite leaving practice early Monday with a sore foot after blocking a shot against the Sharks.
Anton Khudobin likely will start in goal for the Stars after Ben Bishop made 20 saves in Monday's loss.
Last season, the teams split the two-game season series with each club winning on home ice. New Jersey's Brian Boyle had three goals against the Stars, while Radulov netted a pair against the Devils.