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Stars, Devils aiming to inch closer in playoff races

by Mike G. Morreale

DEVILS (22-21-11) at STARS (24-21-8)


Last 10: New Jersey 5-3-2; Dallas 4-5-1

Season series: This is the second of two games between the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils. In the first game on Jan. 9, Michael Ryder scored a goal in the second period and Cory Schneider made it stand with 26 saves in a 1-0 victory in Newark, N.J.

Big story: The Stars are one of two teams with two first-year players among the top-10 rookie scorers with Valeri Nichushkin (11 goals, 25 points) and Alex Chiasson (nine goals, 24 points) currently ranked eighth and ninth. The Tampa Bay Lightning, with Tyler Johnson (16 goals, 34 points) and Ondrej Palat (11 goals, 29 points), is the other team with two rookies among the top 10.

"They're both working hard," Stars coach Lindy Ruff told The Dallas Morning News. "For me, I think Val's case is a lot different than Chaser's case. Chaser has been here and understands the North American way. I think he immediately has better relationships with the players. In Val's case, being younger and coming from another country is a lot more difficult."

Team Scope:

Devils: In the opener of a three-game road trip, the Devils dropped a 3-0 decision to the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

The Devils, who dropped to 5-10-5 against the Western Conference, finished 0-for-3 on the power play to end a streak of at least one goal with the man advantage in four straight. New Jersey was shut out for the sixth time this season and the first time since Nov. 15 against the Los Angeles Kings. Schneider (22 saves) started for the seventh time in the last 10 games. New Jersey has scored one goal or been shut out in 12 of Schneider's 26 starts (9-10-7) this season.

"There's not many silver linings this time of year," coach Pete DeBoer told The (Bergen) Record. "We're in the home stretch here. We've got to find a way to get points."

Stars: Despite outshooting the Colorado Avalanche 44-21, the Stars had their three-game winning streak come to an end on Monday following a 4-3 loss at American Airlines Arena. The Stars overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to tie the game 3-3 in the third but it wasn't enough.

"Their goalie stole the show," Ruff said of Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov. "We had five or six point-blank chances in the second to blow the game apart. He was there, and he made some great saves."

Tyler Seguin had two goals and one assist and Jamie Benn had a goal and one assist in the loss. Ruff was pleased with the play of his top line that includes Seguin centering Benn and Nichushkin.

"On Tyler's line, I thought Jamie had a great night, Tyler really skated well and Val was in on some opportunities," Ruff said. "It was a night that could easily have been ours. I think in the last 15 minutes, we might have had five or six chances."

Who's hot: Benn has a four-game point streak for the Stars, connecting for three goals and eight points over that stretch.

Injury report: Devils defenseman Peter Harrold (foot) remains on injured reserve. … The Stars are missing defenseman Stephane Robidas (leg) who is on IR.

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