We have reached the first quarter-pole of the 2011-12 season. So far I have seen a variety of ups and downs from this Devils team: the struggles out of the gate, soaring to first place in a tight division for example. The latest 3 in 3 over Thanksgiving weekend saw a lot of ups and downs and showed the guys won’t quit. Let’s look back at the weekend that was:
11/25 at Rochester: 4-2 L
The second game of the road trip took the Devils out west on the Thruway for the first of 4 matchups with the Amerks. Things got off on the right foot for the visitors with an early Alexander Urbom goal (his first of the season). Rochester would tie it up on the power play late in the period. Following last week’s back and forth theme, Darcy Zajac gave the visitors the lead back 6 minutes into the second period. But that was all for the offense as the Amerks took over after that. Jacob Lagace tied it up at 2 with less than 3 minutes left in the period, then Colin Stuart and Derek Whitmore added goals in the 3rd. Jeff Frazee made 30 saves in a losing effort, including a penalty shot in the 3rd period from Rochester’s Matt Mackenzie.
11/26 at Adirondack: 4-3 L (OT)
Saturday came Game 2 of the Time Warner Cable Cup series (the Sestito Cup will have to go on the backburner until Tim comes back from New Jersey), the first of 5 visits to the Glens Falls Civic Center this season. And for the first time since the River Rat days (dare I say back to the Red Wings days? You know, in the 90′s when hockey like this mattered in the Capital Region), we had ourselves a good old fashioned back and forth battle. The festivities got started just 6 seconds into the game, when Darcy Zajac and Ben Holmstrom just went at it right after the puck drop. Then Garrett Roe scores 49 seconds after that to give the hosts an early advantage. The story of the period was the Devils penalty kill, who despite being near the bottom of the league, successfully killed off 2 5-on-3 advantages (a combined 3:19). Albany tied things up just as the second period got underway on Stephane Veilleux’s first goal of the season (in his first game back since the end of October). Keith Kinkaid settled down quite nicely after being rattled during the first minute of the game (he took an unsportsmanlike conduct after allowing the first Adirondack goal; did not see what he did to warrant a penalty), stopping all 11 Phantoms shots in the period. Adirondack took the lead back on the first short handed goal allowed by the Devils this season, off a Jon Kalinski breakaway (the second one of the game; first time Kinkaid stopped him, this time the puck just went over the line). Brayden Schenn added what looked like a sure insurance goal 3 minutes later. But the Devils were not done just yet. After tempers flared and another Darcy Zajac fight (this time Matt Walker was on the receiving end), Joe Whitney brought the visitors back within one. Then Nick Palmieri, playing his second game since being sent down from New Jersey, tied it up with 2 and a half minutes remaining, silencing the crowd (good, they were annoying me with their go home chants). The game went to overtime…but no completed comeback, Jon Kalinski got his second of the game 1:01 into the extra frame giving the Phantoms a 3-2 win and a 1-1 tie in the season series. Kinkaid made 25 saves in a losing effort.
11/27 at Springfield: 3-2 W
For the last road stop, the Devils traveled east on the Mass Pike for another divisional battle, this one against the Falcons. Ryan Garlock gave the hosts the lead 5 minutes into the game, then the Devils tied it up on a power play tally by Steve Zalewski just 7 seconds into the man advantage. Stephane Veilleux scored his second in as many games with just over 2 minutes left in the period to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. Matt Anderson had a chance at a 2 goal cushion when he was awarded a penalty shot, but the puck went just over the top crossbar. That was basically it for the offense on either side, as both Keith Kinkaid and veteran Manny Legace settled in. The real fun began late in the third period…first Stephen Gionta scores into an empty net for a 2 goal lead. Little did we know how important that goal was…Matt Calvert scores with 50 seconds left on the clock to bring the Falcons back within one. After a Springfield timeout and a few tense moments, the Devils held on for the 3-2 win. Kinkaid stopped 36 of 38 shots and earned #1 star honors.
Several roster moves this week:
-Eric Boulton was sent to Albany on Tuesday to start a conditioning assignment. He appeared in two games without registering any points. He was recalled to New Jersey this morning.
-Tim Sestito (on Wednesday) and Alexander Urbom (today) were also recalled to the parent club. Urbom is up as an extra defenseman incase Andy Greene is unable to go during the upcoming western road swing (Colorado, Minnesota, Winnipeg).
-J.S. Berube was assigned to Trenton (ECHL) on Wednesday.
-Nick Palmieri was sent down to Albany on Thursday.
-On the injury front, Stephane Veilleux, Mike Hoeffel, and Stephen Gionta all returned to the lineup over the weekend. Only Jay Leach and Matt Corrente remain out.
Another 3 in 3 weekend to kick off the month of December. Friday night the Devils start a home and home series with Bridgeport, with Friday night in Albany and Saturday night in southern Connecticut. Then the Devils return home on Sunday afternoon for a matchup with Rochester. With the division standings still very tight-just 5 points separate the first and last place teams, with teams 2-4 just one point apart-Friday and Saturday are huge games.