After the excitement of the new CBA being agreed upon subsided, it was time to face reality this week. With the inevitable loss of a good chunk of the roster upcoming and a 3 in 3 weekend looming, the Devils had to keep up the momentum of a weekend sweep. And things didn’t go exactly as planned, only earning 2 of 6 points in those three games. Time to look back:
The weekend started off with the Devils only visit to New Hampshire this season to take on the Monarchs. It was a rather uneventful first period as both teams mostly stayed out of the box (just one penalty call on the Monarchs), but Manchester took a 1-0 lead with 6 and a half to go. Steve Zalewski would tie the game late in the period, and the Devils outshot the Monarchs 10-9. Second period the Devils had a chance to take advantage after receiving near back to back power play chances, but could not capitalize. Second half of the period was all Monarchs as they scored three times in 5 minutes (the last goal a rare power play marker) to take a commanding 4-1 lead after 40 minutes. But the Devils were not quite done yet. Adam Larsson scored his fourth (and on the power play) to cut the deficit to 4-2. But Brian O’Neill would score just 15 seconds later to restore Manchester’s 3 goal cushion. Not to be outdone, Mattias Tedenby and Harri Pesonen would score two minutes apart during an extended power play stretch (3 Monarchs sitting in the box at one time at one point for various infractions, including the ever popular embellishment call) to get to within 5-4. But that was all they could muster, as Jordan Weal would score a power play marker 2 and a half minutes later to make it 6-4, then Tyler Toffoli would add an empty netter with 22 seconds left to finish it off. Not a very good night in net for Jeff Frazee, as he allowed 6 of the 7 goals and stopped 28 shots. The offense was actually going on this night, as they went an impressive 3 for 7 on the power play while Matt Anderson added three assists.
The Devils returned to the Capital Region for their lone appearance at home on the weekend, an afternoon tilt against the Sharks. Despite the Devils getting off to a stronger start, it was Worcester who got on the board first, scoring 7 minutes into the first. Harri Pesonen thought he had tied the game at 1 when the puck bounced in and out of the net, but after a long video review it was called off. Eventually that tying goal did come to pass, via Steve Zalewski just before the end of the period. Second period was all Devils, as they only allowed one Shark shot for the first half of the period and they even got another power play goal. Mattias Tedenby scored his 9th to break the 1-1 tie. Eric Gelinas added his 3rd goal of the season (actually not on the power play) late in the period for a 2 goal advantage. A relatively quiet third period saw Darcy Zajac add to the Devil lead. Keith Kinkaid had a solid yet quiet day in net, only having to stop 16 of 17 shots. Bobby Butler and Chad Wiseman each added an assist, while Gelinas and defense partner Alexander Urbom both finished a +3. Off ice, it was a successful day, with a season high 7300 on hand thanks to GE Kids in Free Day…and our old friend N.J. Devil was in the house for Devil Dawg’s birthday (along with Finz the Worcester mascot) and to get some, shall we say, practice in before the season starts?
After the inevitable exodus of players going to New Jersey to start NHL training camp (see below for more on that), the remaining members of the roster made the trek to Atlantic City for the second of 4 trips this season to take on the Sound Tigers. Bridgeport took a 1-0 lead halfway into the period after the Devils killed off a brief 5 on 3 chance, but couldn’t kill the second penalty. The Devils responded with a power play goal of their own very late in the first, off the stick of Phil DeSimone, making his first appearance of the calendar year (took an NHL lockout ending to finally get this guy in the lineup). The seesaw battle continued into the second period as Nino Niederreiter scored 3 and a half minutes in for a 2-1 lead. But the Devils again responded, as Kelly Zajac’s first AHL goal tied the game at 2 (also the first AHL point for the other Trenton recall, Bryan Haczyk). Third period things got very interesting on both sides. First the Sound Tigers took the lead back again, just 2 minutes into the period. Then while Chris McKelvie sat on a tripping call, Niederreiter scored his second of the game for a 4-2 cushion. A scary moment happened just after that, when a Sound Tiger ran Keith Kinkaid into his net. Kinkaid would be okay and stay in, but yet no penalty called…keep this in mind. It was just after this incident that the Devils would rally, scoring twice in a 1:32 span to retie the game. First Joe Whitney scored on a 5 on 3 advantage to cut the deficit to 1. Then McKelvie scored his first of the season even strength to tie it at 4 (assisted by the brothers Zajac…I was hoping Darcy and Kelly would be on the same line at some point). But just after the tying goal, Matt Anderson ends up running into Sound Tigers goaltender Kevin Poulin…and yet he gets called for interference. On the ensuing power play, Matt Donovan scored the go ahead goal with just 1:16 left in regulation for a 5-4 Bridgeport lead. The Devils tried to get that tying fifth goal, but just ran out of time. Despite the loss, it was not a bad performance by the new look roster…they finished 2 for 6 on the power play, but only 2 for 5 penalty kill, another rare bad day. The reinforcements from Trenton and the healthy scratch list contributed quite nicely, combining for six points (1 goal and assist for Kelly Zajac, 2 assists from Brandon Burlon, 1 assist from Haczyk, 1 goal from DeSimone). Kinkaid stopped 24 of 29 shots in the loss (and took his fair share of run ins as well).
-Saturday night came the official mass exit of players heading to Newark for the start of New Jersey training camp. It was pretty easy to figure out…if a player got on the bus, they were headed to Atlantic City. If they had their sticks shrink wrapped and they were carrying their gear, it was off to camp. As expected, Adam Larsson, Bobby Butler, Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, and Stephen Gionta are headed to Jersey, but joining them are Tim Sestito and Harri Pesonen. Josefson and Gionta both sat out Friday and Saturday with injuries and had already departed. You can see the full list here.
-To help fill out the roster, Albany recalled forwards Kelly Zajac and Bryan Haczyk from Trenton.
-Injury front: Scott Parse and J.S. Berube are both still out indefinitely. Parse was the only player not heading south to New Jersey on Saturday evening. Joe Whitney returned to the lineup Friday night after sitting out the last two weeks, but reinjured himself late in the game and sat out on Saturday, but then returned to the lineup on Sunday.
The Week Ahead:
A similar pattern awaits the Devils this week: a 3 in 3 weekend, with 3 different buildings in 3 different states. Friday night they travel north to Glens Falls to resume the Time Warner Cable Cup series against a depleted Phantoms roster (they lost Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, but may have gained the services of goaltender Brian Boucher). Then it’s east to Springfield on Saturday evening to take on the Falcons for the second time this month. Then it’s right back to Boardwalk Hall and Atlantic City on Sunday afternoon for another faceoff with the Phantoms (where I can guarantee a chunk of Philadelphians will be in attendance along with quite a few members of the Devils Booster Club). By the weekend, there is also a good chance a couple of players will come back down from New Jersey as the parent Devils finish off a short training camp and begin their abbreviated season on Saturday in Long Island.