|Devils see Stars in hope of a bounce-back effort|
DALLAS -- The New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars meet Thursday night at American Airlines Center for the second and final time this regular season with both teams looking to rebound from tough losses.
New Jersey (22-10-7) lost 3-2 in a shootout at St. Louis on Tuesday, a loss which puts the Devils' road record at a still-impressive 10-5-4.
The Devils are looking to avoid their second four-game losing streak of the season. New Jersey previously lost four straight between Nov. 3-9.
And even though the Devils lost Tuesday, coach John Hynes saw plenty of encouraging signs from that defeat.
"Yeah, I really liked this game," Hynes said postgame. "This was something we had talked about coming off the Washington game (a 5-2 loss Dec. 30) of playing with a lot more structure and understanding lots of games like this, there's a lot of 50-50 shifts where not a lot goes on, you have to do the right things consistently over the course of the game to try to find a way to win it. We were a better team tonight than we were against Washington, so that's a step in the right direction."
The Devils have already defeated the Stars once this season, 5-2 at home Dec. 16 thanks to two goals from Brian Boyle.
Based on lines and defensive pairings run during a short practice Wednesday afternoon, Hynes appears to be sticking with the same lines and pairs from the St. Louis game, which means defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who ended a string of nine consecutive healthy scratches against the Blues, should draw in for a second straight contest.
After practice Wednesday, Hynes named Cory Schneider as his starting goaltender against Dallas.
Dallas (22-16-3) lost 2-1 to Columbus at home Tuesday, a defeat which ended the Stars' short two-game winning streak.
The Stars' blue line could get a big boost Thursday with the potential return of veteran Marc Methot, out the past 26 games after having knee surgery in November, to the lineup.
Methot has been practicing with his teammates the past few days and appears ready to see his first game action since Nov. 6 against Winnipeg.
"(I feel) pretty good," Methot said after practice Wednesday. "I'm just glad that I'm finally back with the group, practicing and starting to feel like a hockey player again."
Methot has played only 15 games this season.
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock will be ecstatic to see Methot return, but also knows that with him being out more than two months, his re-acclimation to playing regularly again won't happen overnight.
"It's going to be tough for Marc. He's missed 25 games, that's a lot," Hitchcock said. "But his presence in there, he's a competitive guy. He's hard on the puck. He's going to have a tough go getting started, but we got to get him in the lineup and we got to get him playing if we're going to get better."
Dallas could also get center Martin Hanzal, who like Methot was one of its key offseason additions, back Thursday. Hanzal has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, but according to Hitchcock, both veterans could be a go against the Devils.
"They (Hanzal and Methot) both practiced full today (Wednesday), so we'll see how they feel in the morning. If they feel good, they're in," Hitchcock said. "We pushed as hard as we could, put them in every game-like situation we could and if they come through and they're not sore tomorrow morning and they're good to go, then they're both players tomorrow."
Hitchcock also said Ben Bishop will be the Stars' starting goaltender Thursday.
Defenseman John Klingberg and forward Alexander Radulov did not practice Wednesday, but both were excused for maintenance days and will the Devils.
However, young forward Remi Elie (illness) will miss another game but could return Saturday against Edmonton, the Stars' final game before their off week.
"Elie for sure is out (Thursday)," Hitchcock said. "He wasn't able to skate today (Wednesday). He will probably skate tomorrow, but that'll be the first time in four days and I don't think it's good for us to play him. I think we'll wait and play him in the last game (before the off week)."