There's not many players who have their jersey number retired by the New Jersey Devils, but Scott Niedermayer will become just the third when the club honors him tonight before taking on the Dallas Stars.
Niedermayer will join Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko as the only Devils with retired numbers when his No. 27 is hoisted to the rafters during a pregame ceremony. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was ecstatic for his former teammate.
"It's a great day for the organization to be able to retire a jersey from a future Hall of Famer and a guy that did a lot of good things for this organization as far as his winning and paving the way for other players to be who they are," Brodeur said. "I think it's a great honor to have him in the rafters of our building."
Brodeur and Niedermayer celebrated three Stanley Cup championships together with New Jersey, which enters tonight's game winners of two straight and four of five games. The Devils will play five of their next seven games at home and are 6-5-1 at the Prudential Center this season.
New Jersey completed a Florida sweep with back-to-back wins over the Lightning and most recently the Panthers. In Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers, Ilya Kovalchuk scored the winner in the shootout and both Zach Parise and Patrik Elias lit the lamp in regulation. Kovalchuk added two assists in the win.
"It's a long season and any team you play is not going to be easy," said Elias. "We just have to stay true to the system we play and hopefully things will work out."
Brodeur stopped 24 shots and both skaters he faced in the shootout. The Devils are expected to have center Travis Zajac back on the ice tonight for his season debut after needing surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon. He suffered the injury in August working out and hasn't played an NHL game since April 10. Zajac began practicing with the team earlier this month.
"I'm definitely excited," said Zajac, who had appeared in 401 straight games before the injury. "A little anxious, but I think it's in a good way. It's been a while since I've been around the guys in the locker room. It's been a while since I was able to pregame nap, too, so it's definitely exciting."
Devils forward David Clarkson (personal) and defenseman Henrik Tallinder (wrist) are questionable for tonight's game. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov is expected to be activated from injured reserve after dealing with a hand issue.
Meanwhile, the Stars will put the finishing touches on a five-game road trip tonight in the Garden State and are 3-1 so far on the swing. The Stars made it three wins in a row with last night's 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders, as Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn both scored in the third period and Loui Eriksson finished with a goal and an assist.
"I don't remember if we've been blown out this year, but I don't remember a game where we've been able to take our foot off the gas," Morrow said. "They've all been down-to-the-wire, one-or-two-goal games. Still, going into the third we were still pretty comfortable where we were."
Richard Bachman made 25 saves for Dallas, which has won five of seven games and is 9-7-0 away from Big D this season. The Stars lead the Pacific Division by two points ahead of both San Jose and Phoenix, and will begin a three-game homestand Monday versus Anaheim, Philadelphia and Nashville.
Dallas defeated New Jersey, 3-1, on Oct.29 this season at American Airlines Center and has won six of the past 10 meetings between the two teams. The Stars halted a five-game road losing streak in this series with a 4-3 overtime triumph on Oct. 8, 2010.