Two of the NHL's top teams will look to enter the midseason break on a high note when the New Jersey Devils visit the Dallas Stars on Friday.
With the NHL All-Star break looming, both New Jersey and Dallas will be playing their last game until Feb. 6.
If the Stars win on Friday, they would ensure themselves of remaining in first place in the Western Conference until their return to the ice. Meanwhile, the Devils need to keep winning to stay close to the Carolina Hurricanes for the Metropolitan Division lead.
The Stars couldn't provide any help to the Devils in the Metro race Wednesday as they dropped a 3-2 result in overtime to the Hurricanes. It was the Stars' second consecutive overtime defeat, as they had an identical 3-2 setback to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
These consecutive non-regulation defeats have continued a frustrating trend for the Stars this season. Dallas is only 3-9 in games decided in overtime or shootouts.
"I think the overtime thing is a little bit of self-fulfilling prophecy right now," Stars coach Peter DeBoer said. "We just don't have a lot of confidence for whatever reason in overtime, so we've got to find that swagger again. ...
"(In overtime) you want to hold onto possession, you want to be patient, you want to wait out the other team a little bit. And for whatever reason, we just haven't executed at that time of the game."
DeBoer also noted the somewhat random nature of overtime/shootout results, and Dallas hasn't had much of a pattern in that regard. The Stars were an excellent 15-6 in non-regulation games last season, 6-14 during the 2020-21 season and 11-8 in the 2019-20 season.
New Jersey is 7-4 in overtime/shootouts this season and had gone beyond regulation play in each of its past four games heading into a Thursday road date with the Nashville Predators. That run ended when the Devils took a 6-4 regulation loss, ending New Jersey's points streak at eight games (7-0-1).
It wasn't a sharp night for New Jersey's defense, as the Predators capitalized on multiple turnovers and had 41 shots on net -- the second-highest total by a Devils opponent this season.
Devils captain Nico Hischier felt his team "didn't deserve to win that game" given all of the defensive mistakes.
"It's rule number one, nobody gets behind you," Hischier said. "We can't do it (against Dallas), we can't do it ever. It's just not acceptable. You're not winning hockey games like that."
Even with the loss in Nashville, the Devils still have the NHL's best away record (18-3-2).
New Jersey's Jack Hughes, who registered a goal and an assist on Thursday, has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) over the course of a seven-game points streak.
Since Mackenzie Blackwood started in goal for the Devils on Thursday, Vitek Vanecek will likely face the Stars on Friday. Vanecek is a perfect 8-0-0 with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in his past eight games.
Jake Oettinger is likely to be Dallas' starting goalie on Friday, though the Stars might opt to give backup Scott Wedgewood some action. Wedgewood hasn't played since Jan. 19, and his layoff would be extended by the Stars' upcoming break in the schedule.
In the teams' first meeting of the season, the Stars recorded a 4-1 win on Dec. 13 in Newark, N.J.
--Field Level Media