Tag Archives: AHL

New Divisions, New Rules

The AHL just wrapped up its annual meetings in South Carolina this week…and with it, came a few big changes for the 2014-15 season:

-Yesterday, the divisional alignment for the season was announced, and with Lehigh Valley joining the lineup and Abbotsford moving east to Glens Falls, it’s an interesting setup:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic: Manchester, Portland, Providence, St. John’s, Worcester (no change)

East: Binghamton, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Norfolk, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Northeast: Albany, Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield, Syracuse

WESTERN CONFERENCE

North: Adirondack, Hamilton, Rochester, Toronto, Utica

Midwest: Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Milwaukee, Rockford

West: Charlotte, Iowa, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Texas

The Phantoms move from Adirondack in the Northeast to the East Division, Syracuse moves from the East to the Northeast Division.  Abbotsford leaves the West with Adirondack going to the North.  Lake Erie moves from North to Midwest, and Iowa moves from Midwest to West.  Got all that?

Now, with Albany and Adirondack in different conferences, I’m hoping this means there’s a slight reduction in the season series.  Yeah, who am I kidding, I’ll still see them 20 times…

The playoff format remains the same from last season: Division winners will comprise the top 3 seeds, while the top 5 non division winners earn a spot.

Also from the meetings came some rule changes:

-Overtime periods are extended from 5 minutes to 7 minutes, starting as a 4 on 4 for the first three minutes, then going to 3 on 3 for the rest of the session.  If it gets to a shootout, it’s 3 rounds instead of 5 (like in the NHL).  Teams will change sides before the period begins, and also a full dry scrape of the ice surface will precede the start.

-If a player assesses two major penalties for fighting or three non-fighting majors in a game, they will receive a game misconduct.

-If a player loses his helmet during play and does not leave the ice immediately or put the helmet back on properly, they will receive a minor penalty.

And finally, mark your calendars: This year’s home opener will be on Saturday, October 18th.  With the season beginning on October 11th, it appears Albany will begin the season on the road for the second straight year.

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News of the Week

Yeah, it’s about time I updated this thing…

-The 2013-14 hockey season officially ended on Wednesday evening in St. John’s, as the Texas Stars took the Calder Cup title by finishing off the IceCaps in overtime, winning the series 4 games to 1.  There was one River Rat connection to the new champs, and it’s actually off ice: broadcaster Owen Newkirk, who was in the booth for the River Rats (during the Carolina days) for 2 seasons.

Meanwhile, in Devils land:

-Two unrestricted free agents returned to the fold, as Mike Sislo signed a 2 year, 2 way deal on Wednesday.  A well deserved contract for the 3rd year pro, who made his NHL debut back in January and lead Albany in goals this past season.

Then early Friday morning it was announced that Cam Janssen had signed a new 1 year, 2 way contract, which made everyone on my Devils Twitter feed curse under their breath.

And a third Devil has left for Europe, as Mattias Tedenby has joined Lev Praha of the KHL.  Not surprised by that move at all, unfortunately.

-Earlier today New Jersey announced their 6 game exhibition schedule…and sadly no games in Albany again this season.  Their only home game on neutral ice comes September 26th against the Islanders at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

-The annual rookie camp will take place July 13-18.  More info on that to come.

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Quick Saturday Morning Updates

Just a couple of notes to pass along:

-Last time I wrote, the AHL Conference Finals were just getting started.  Tomorrow, the Finals begin in Austin, Texas, where the Stars will be taking on St. John’s for all the proverbial marbles.  So how did they get there?

(4) St. John’s eliminated (6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4-2

(1) Texas eliminated (3) Toronto 4-3

Again, oh what could have been.  A few people had told me they thought Albany would be a dark horse in the Eastern Conference, but the IceCaps probably should have got more credit.  It’s going to be an interesting matchup between these two teams.

Side note: unless Texas gets amazing attendance figures this round, Albany will win the playoff attendance wars, averaging just shy of 7300 for the two home games.  Considering this team’s regular season attendance history, this is an awesome feat.  Even though it was just two games.

-And another Devil has moved on, as defenseman Alexander Urbom has signed a 2 year deal with the KHL’s Severstal Cherepovets.  No truth to the rumor that I was doing this upon hearing the news.

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Pre Holiday Updates

After a little, oh, two week break from any writing, time to get this thing updated.

Let’s start with a few signing announcements:

-On Tuesday a pair of 2012 draft picks, both names familiar in Albany, agreed in principle to entry level deals.  The first announcement was for forward Ben Johnson, a 3rd round selection who appeared in 5 games as an amateur tryout at the end of the regular season after finishing his third year with Windsor in the OHL.  The second is fourth round choice Ben Thomson, who participated in Albany’s training camp in September before returning to Kitchener in the OHL.  Thomson split the season between Kitchener and North Bay, scoring 45 points in 55 games and adding 14 points in 22 playoff games for North Bay.  There is a chance Johnson could return to Windsor next season for his overage year.  In Lou We Trust posted a scouting report earlier today on both Bens and also Graham Black.

-We have our first A-Devil moving on, as earlier this week forward Harri Pesonen signed a two year deal in Switzerland, for Lausanne in the NLA.

-As for the Calder Cup…we are down to the final four teams, as the Conference Finals get underway tomorrow in the West and Saturday in the East.  Here are the second round results:

Eastern Conference:

(4) St. John’s eliminated (8) Norfolk 4-2

(6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton eliminated (7) Providence 4-3

Western Conference:

(1)Texas eliminated (4) Grand Rapids 4-2

(3) Toronto swept (2) Chicago 4-0

With the Griffins out, there will once again be a new Calder Cup champion.  All four remaining teams are looking for their first Cup, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton being the closest, finishing as runners up in 2001 (Saint John), 2004 (Milwaukee), and 2008 (Chicago).  Toronto finished as the runner up to Norfolk in 2012.  Texas and St. John’s are looking for their first ever Finals appearance.

And to think, if only things had gone differently in the first round, Albany could have had home ice once again…

-Meanwhile over in Belarus, there is one A-Devil participating in this year’s World Championships.  Raman Hrabarenka (well, Roman Graborenko according to the official roster) has appeared in 7 games for the host country, posting 2 assists.

 

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Playoffs Recap, Week 2: The Final Act

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Sadly this week, that came true for Albany, who saw their first round series with the IceCaps go off the tracks once they reached Canada, only managing one goal in their final two games.  On with the final recap of the season:

Game 3: St. John’s 1, Albany 0

The series shifted to Newfoundland on Wednesday night, where a sold out whiteout was in effect.   The Icecaps dominated in shots during the first period, outshooting the Devils 17-6.  But Keith Kinkaid was up to the challenge, making quite a few big stops early on.  But off a Darcy Zajac turnover, Kael Mouillerat would breakaway and score with 2:10 left in the period for a 1-0 lead.  And that goal would stand up for goaltender Michael Hutchinson, as he only had to stop 8 Devil shots in the second period.  Third period Albany would outshoot St. John’s 10-5, but with still nothing getting past Hutchinson, it was too little too late.  Hutchinson would stop all 24 Albany shots, and the Devils found themselves in a 2-1 series hole.  Kinkaid was outstanding in net, stopping 34 of 35 shots.  The penalty kill was a little busy thanks to 3 minors in a span of 8 minutes from Jon Merrill, among others, but managed to go 6 for 6.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen

Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Darcy Zajac-Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley

Extra: Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, David Wohlberg, Cam Janssen, Graham Black, Ben Johnson

Defense Pairings:

Jon Merrill/Alexander Urbom

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Adam Larsson

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett, Dan Kelly (inj.)

Game 4: St. John’s 4, Albany 1

Throw in all the must win cliches you want and they all would describe the Devils situation going into Friday night’s Game 4.  Unlike the night before, Albany outshot the hosts 12-6 in the first period.  But it was former River Rat killer Andrew Gordon (who was a key cog in sweeping the River Rats in their last ever playoff series while with Hershey) who got the IceCaps on the board 3:47 into the first.  He would then add a shorthanded goal 8 minutes into the second for a 2-0 lead.  Jon Merrill would answer less than 2 minutes later with a goal of his own, cutting the lead to 2-1.  But that was all the offense the Devils could muster.  Gordon would singlehandedly put the nail in the proverbial coffin by completing the hat trick on a power play late in the second for a 3-1 advantage.   John Albert would add a goal to make it a 3 goal lead.  And Michael Hutchinson took care of the rest, stopping 39 of 40 Devil shots on the night, and in turn ending the Devils season with a 3-1 series win.  Keith Kinkaid stopped 29 of 33 shots, but had no help offensively over the last two games.  Eric Gelinas was the only Devil to finish above even in plus/minus, but he was forced to leave in the second due to injury.

Lines:

Stefan Matteau-Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby

Harri Pesonen-Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Mike Sislo-Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito

Extra: Cam Janssen, David Wohlberg, Mike Hoeffel, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Jon Merrill/Alexander Urbom

Eric Gelinas/Adam Larsson

Extra: Dan Kelly (inj), Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Around the League:

Upset specials all over the Eastern Conference, as all 3 division champions are out. The top 4 seeds in the West all advance.

East: (1) Manchester eliminated by (8) Norfolk 3-1

(2) Springfield eliminated by (7) Providence 3-2

(3) Binghamton eliminated by (6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-1

West: (1) Texas sweeps (8) Oklahoma City 3-0

(2) Chicago eliminates (7) Rochester 3-2

(3) Toronto sweeps (6) Milwaukee 3-0

(4) Grand Rapids eliminates (5) Abbotsford 3-1

The second round gets underway tomorrow in St. John’s.  To think, if Albany had made it out of the first round, they would have been the top seed remaining in the East and have home ice.  Oh what could have been…

Playoff Stat Leaders:

Goals: Six tied with 1

Assists: Kelly Zajac (2)

Points: 4 tied with 2

+/-: 3 tied with +1

Penalty Minutes: Jon Merrill (10)

Keith Kinkaid final stats: 1-3, 2.26 GAA, .932 Save Percentage

Orlando Update:

Unfortunately for the Solar Bears, they saw their season come to an end Tuesday night on home ice against Cincinnati, falling in Game 6 2-1 and losing their first round series 4 games to 2.  Maxime Clermont did not play in the final game due to injury.  He finishes his season with a combined 11-12-2 record and a 3.35 GAA , and 1-2 with a 2.03 GAA and one shutout in 3 appearances in the postseason.

What’s Next?

The season may be over, but I have some unfinished business: the other two parts of my season review.  Look for those later this week.

I will also be bringing back the Free Agent Tracker in July and recapping this year’s NHL Draft class.

And keeping up to date with signings, schedule hints, and any other newsworthy items as the summer goes on.

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Playoffs Recap, Week 1: Heartbreak and a Split

For the first time in 4 years, I finally got to experience playoff hockey without having to drive 2+ hours away and live vicariously through other teams.

And if the last two days are any indication, I want to do this for, oh, three more rounds, if possible.

Looking back at the beginning of a very intense first two games between the Devils and St. John’s, which ended in a split as the best of five shifts way north this week:

Game 1: St. John’s 2, Albany 1

The series began Friday night on home ice, but it was the visitors who drew the first strike.  Eric O’Dell would put the IceCaps up 1-0 4:29 into the first period.  Albany would respond early in the second on a power play goal by Joe Whitney to tie things up at 1.  It then turned into an offensive struggle as both teams locked in defensively and the intensity grew as the game carried into the third.  And not to mention quite a few questionable calls from the referees (which is standard for Chris Brown, but more so now in the postseason).  Just as all 6500 in the building were expecting the battle to carry over into overtime, Keith Kinkaid would misplay the puck by the net and Ben Chiarot would score with just 23.1 seconds left in the third period, giving St. John’s the win and a 1-0 series lead.  Kinkaid stopped 30 of 32 shots in the loss.  Jon Merrill and Mike Sislo had the lone assists.

Lines:

Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac-David Wohlberg

Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher-Harri Pesonen

Joe Whitney-Mike Sislo-Tim Sestito

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Jon Merrill

Extra: Alexander Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Game 2: Albany 4, St. John’s 2

It was a quick turnaround for the Devils in Game 2, as they faced a virtual must win situation.  Much like in Game 1, it was the IceCaps who got the early lead, this time from Brenden Kichton 10 minutes into the first period.  But Reid Boucher would answer a minute later with his first postseason goal to tie the game at 1.  Stefan Matteau would then give Albany their first lead of the series with a power play goal late in the period for a 2-1 advantage.  Kichton would tie the game at 2 on a power play goal early in the second.  But less than 3 minutes later Mattias Tedenby would give the Devils the lead for good with a power play goal of his own.  Scott Timmins would add an insurance power play marker halfway through the third to seal the win for Albany, and in the process tying the series up at 1 apiece.  Keith Kinkaid got the start again and stopped 30 of 32 shots (that sounds like a pattern) and picked up #1 star honors.  Kelly Zajac added two assists.  And the power play finished at 3-for-9 (and there could have been more power play opportunities but the refs missed a few yet again).

Lines:

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac

Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen-Reid Boucher

Extra: Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, David Wohlberg, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Adam Larsson/Eric Gelinas

Alexander Urbom/Jon Merrill

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Around the League:

So how are the rest of the conference quarterfinals going?  Here’s a quick update:

East: (1) Manchester-(8) Norfolk: tied at 1

(2) Springfield-(7) Providence: Springfield leads 2-1

(3) Binghamton-(6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: tied at 1

West: (1) Texas-(8) Oklahoma City: Texas leads 2-0

(2) Chicago-(7) Rochester: tied at 1

(3) Toronto-(6) Milwaukee: Toronto leads 2-0

(4) Grand Rapids-(5) Abbotsford: Grand Rapids leads 2-0

We could have our first team heading to the semifinals as early as Tuesday.

Orlando Update:

The Solar Bears are not done yet.  After falling 3-0 in their Kelly Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinal series vs. Cincinnati, they have won their last two to send the series back to Florida for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  Maxime Clermont played a huge role in extending the series by shutting out the Cyclones 2-0 on Friday evening, stopping all 25 shots.  He did not play in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win.

This Week’s Schedule:

The series shifts 1600 miles to the northeast to Newfoundland.  Game 3 comes on Wednesday night at the always sold out Mile One Centre, with a 6 PM EST start (reminder: NST is 1 and a half hours ahead).  Game 4 follows on Friday evening, and if needed Game 5 on Saturday.  I will not be around for Game 3 due to work, but will have tweets for Game 4 and if needed, Game 5.

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Getting Defensive

A very interesting week for Albany, in their latest 3 in 3 weekend.  What started out as possibly a long weekend finished off with two dominating performances, and warranting some attention from the league.  More importantly, the 4 out of 6 points earned kept the Devils in playoff contention, lowering the magic number to finally break into the postseason further.  And a few new names making their way onto the team leaders list!

3/14 at Springfield: 6-4 L

The end of the 5 game New England road swing came Friday night in Springfield, with a matchup against the first place Falcons.  Jean-Francois Jacques put the hosts on the board midway through the first.  Then some franchise history less than four minutes later…on a power play, Joe Whitney scored his 21st to tie the game at 1, and give him the franchise record for career points with 141, passing Stephen Gionta.  He added point #142 with an assist on Harri Pesonen’s 10th goal less than two minutes later for a 2-1 Devil lead.  Former Devil Matt Taormina would re-tie the game on an early second period power play.  Mattias Tedenby and Tim Sestito would then score less than five minutes apart to give Albany a 4-2 lead heading into the third period.  That’s when the wheels completely came off and the train derailed off the tracks.  Patrick McNeill scored on a power play 4:28 in to cut the deficit to 4-3.  Trent Vogelhuber would tie things four minutes later.  Then while on a 4 on 3 opportunity (Sestito off for roughing and then Raman Hrabarenka took a costly hooking call while trying to stop a breakaway), Jacques would score his second of the night to put the Falcons up 5-4.  Ryan Craig would add an insurance goal late for a two goal lead.  Keith Kinkaid took the loss, stopping 22 of 28 shots.  Six Devils would add assists.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins

Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo-Tim Sestito

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-David Wohlberg

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Mike Hoeffel

Extras: Stefan Matteau, Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac

Defense Pairings:

Raman Hrabarenka/Alexander Urbom

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Adam Larsson/Brandon Burlon

Extras: Dan Kelly, Reece Scarlett

3/15 vs. Hartford: 2-0 W

Finally back on real home ice for the first time since February 23rd, the Devils played host to the Wolfpack.  After an uneventful first period that saw a combined 8 shots (4 on each side), the Devils locked it in for the second.  Harri Pesonen scored his 11th of the season to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.  As for the Wolfpack?  They only managed 3 shots on goal…that they didn’t get until 1:30 was left in the period.  Rod Pelley would add an insurance goal (one that was almost disallowed after the net was pushed off around the time the puck went in) with just over 6 minutes to go in regulation.  And Hartford finally remembered how to shoot the puck, throwing 16 shots at Scott Wedgewood in the period, but nothing would get by.  Wedgewood finished with 23 saves for his second shutout of the season and a #1 star.  Three Devils added assists.

Lines:

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Extras: Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Adam Larsson/Dan Kelly

Alexander Urbom/Brandon Burlon

Extras: Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

3/16 vs. Syracuse: 3-0 W

The weekend concluded with a visit from the struggling Crunch, a team Albany had not seen since way back on November 16th.  Much like the day before, it was quite an uneventful first period…until Raman Hrabarenka scored on a power play late in the period for a 1-0 advantage.  After a scoreless second that saw Albany outshoot the visitors 15-4, the Devils locked it down in the third.  Mike Sislo would score an insurance marker, his 20th of the season, with 5 minutes left in regulation, then added an empty netter with 22 seconds to go.  Scott Wedgewood barely broke a sweat in posting his second straight shutout, only facing 13 Syracuse shots.  Kelly Zajac added two assists.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins

Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau-Mattias Tedenby

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Darcy Zajac-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Extras: Chris McKelvie, Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Raman Hrabarenka/Alexander Urbom

Extras: Reece Scarlett, Brandon Burlon

Conference Standings:

Still a tight race in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference:

5. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton–76

6. Providence–75

7. ALBANY–74

8. Norfolk–74

9. Hershey–70

The Devils get the nod over Norfolk due to 3 more regulation wins.  The magic number to clinch a playoff berth stands at 25.  They are at a pace to finish at 90 points, which would put them no higher than sixth place.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

While waiting for my actual choice to hit YouTube…here’s a quick one from Tim Sestito from Friday evening:

My Player of the Week:

Back to back shutouts (the first Devil goaltender to do it in franchise history and the first in Albany since 2009), a scoreless streak at 126:05 and counting…yeah, Scott Wedgewood was a pretty obvious choice this week.

And the AHL agreed, as earlier today he was named the CCM AHL Player of the Week.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney/Mike Sislo (21)

Assists: Kelly Zajac (27)

Points: Joe Whitney (47)

+/-: Corbin McPherson (+15)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (89)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (21)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.37)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.910)

Elmira/Orlando Update:

Not a good week for the Jackals, as they dropped all three games to Reading (twice) and Cincinnati.  Riley Boychuk and Artem Demkov missed all three due to injuries.  Harry Young amassed 7 penalty minutes against Reading in Wednesday’s loss.  Going into this week they stand at 22-30-3-5 on the season, good for 12th in the Eastern Conference.

And finally, a Maxime Clermont sighting!  He made a relief appearance for Orlando on Friday evening in Evansville during a 7-1 loss.  He played the second and third periods, stopping 15 of 19 shots.  He backed up in Saturday’s win over the IceMen.  Overall he stands at 6-9-0-1 with a 3.46 GAA.  The Solar Bears start the week 36-19-2-2, 4th in the Eastern Conference.

Injury Update:

Finally, Darcy Zajac returned to the lineup on Sunday after sitting out since October 19th.  Reece Scarlett (soreness?) sat out the weekend after taking a hit last Friday night in Portland.  Cam Janssen (unknown) hasn’t been seen since February 8th.

This Week’s Schedule:

Three games, but not back to back to back for a change, and two games with some serious playoff implications.  Wednesday the homestand ends with a visit from Binghamton.  Saturday night the Devils travel west for a rematch with Syracuse.  Then one last trip to Atlantic City on Sunday afternoon to take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

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Snowed In Thursday Update

While waiting out the latest snowstorm to hit the area (I’m looking at, oh, at least a foot by tomorrow morning…sigh), time to get everyone up to speed as the season resumes tomorrow night in Atlantic City:

-While his teammates were enjoying a three day vacation, Joe Whitney was up in St. John’s to take part in the AHL All Star festivities, going up against Farjestad BK of the SEL.  Tuesday night the AHL contingent won the Skills Competition 18-17, needing a shootout to clinch the win.  Whitney took part in the second round of the Puck Control Relay, teaming with Cody Goloubef (Springfield) and Brenden Kichton (St. John’s); teamed up again with Goloubef and Frederic St. Denis (Springfield) in the Pass and Score competition; and scored on Farjestad netminder Frederik Pettersson-Wentzel in Round 3 of the Breakaway Relay.

-In the actual game Wednesday night, the AHL All-Stars beat Farjestad BK 7-2.  Rockford’s Brandon Pirri (also a former RPI Engineer for one season) took home MVP honors with two goals and an assist.  Whitney was his linemate for a good portion of the night, he and Binghamton’s Mike Hoffman each notched two assists.  Farjestad’s player of the game?  None other than former Albany River Rat Christian Berglund, despite being held scoreless (he did lead Farjestad with 5 shots on goal).

-Thursday it was back to work for the remaining Devils, and there were two somewhat new faces on ice: Darcy Zajac, who hadn’t been seen since October after getting hurt during the Norfolk trip, was back on ice for the first time since then.  And with Keith Kinkaid out for at least the weekend, another backup goaltender was brought in…and he’s a familiar face to Devils fans.  Johan Hedberg (otherwise known as MOOOOSE), who had been working as a special assignment coach (sitting with goaltending coach Dave Caruso for a handful of games), was signed to a PTO agreement, and there is a chance with the 3 in 3 schedule this weekend that he may get into a game.  His last on ice appearance was back on April 27th, a 4-0 loss to the Rangers.  After that, he was bought out after Cory Schneider’s acquistion, and even had a stint in Rangers training camp before coming back to join the Devils staff.

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2013-14 First Half Review: By the Numbers

Friday night in Utica marked Game #38, the official halfway point of the 2013-14 season.  Before kicking off the next 38 games, let’s take a look at the Devils’ progress so far this season:

Record: 22-11-3-2, 49 points.  2nd place in Northeast Division, 4th place in Eastern Conference, 7th in AHL

Home: 12-6-2-0
Away: 10-5-1-2

Team Leaders (Top 3):

Goals: Joe Whitney (16); Reid Boucher*/Mike Sislo (10); Scott Timmins (9)
Assists: Joe Whitney (20); Kelly Zajac (17); Scott Timmins (13)
Points: Joe Whitney (36); Mike Sislo/Scott Timmins/Kelly Zajac (22); Reid Boucher* (18)
+/-: Reece Scarlett (+11); Dan Kelly/Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson (+10); Mike Sislo/Scott Timmins (+9)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (63); Dan Kelly (53); Chris McKelvie (47)
Power Play Goals: Joe Whitney (5); Reece Scarlett (4); 2 others with 3
Power Play Assists: Joe Whitney (11); Kelly Zajac (7); Reid Boucher (6)*
Shorthanded Goals: 4 tied with 1
Shorthanded Assists: 3 tied with 1
Game Winning Goals: 3 tied with 3
Shots on Goal: Joe Whitney (108); Harri Pesonen (80); Reid Boucher (69)*

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (15)
GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.22)
Shutouts: Keith Kinkaid (4)
Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid, .915

Team Stats (with league rankings):

Home Attendance: 2,906 (28th)
Penalty Minutes Average: 15.21 (21st)
Power Play: 16.8% (16th)
Penalty Kill: 81.6% (19th)
Goals For: 121, 3.18 (5th)
Goals Against: 97, 2.55 (5th)
Shots For: 28.26 (22nd)
Shots Against: 26.08 (2nd)

Comparing last year at this time to now?  Let’s take a look:

-Obviously in the win column.  7 more wins with 6 less shootout losses, for starters.

-Attendance is down by about 800, but last year there was the lockout to contend with.  And not a lot of big home dates early on.  But next weekend at home…and continuing play, and hopefully some better marketing, may change that.

-Much improved power play numbers, up 6 percent (I haven’t had to break out the power outage jokes in quite awhile).  But the penalty kill is down about 3 percent.

-The one thing I was worried about at the start of the season?  Goal production.  An increase of 22 goals over this time last season has calmed those fears down.  Goals against continues to improve over the years, as goals against has gone down by 8 thanks to Keith Kinkaid’s surge.

Second half begins tonight in Adirondack.  And the real test of whether this resurgence continues on begins.

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Feeling Defensive and Snubbed

Before the second 3 in 3 weekend of the season commences, how about a little update?  Okay, a big one:

-On Tuesday the Washington Capitals placed former Devil defenseman Alexander Urbom on waivers.  Cue the speculation!  Is he going to clear and end up in Hershey?  Would another team take a chance on him?  Or do the Devils correct their pre-season error and take him back?  On Wednesday, we got our answer: New Jersey picked him up, and since no other team put in a claim, per the CBA they were able to reassign him to Albany.  After being claimed by the Capitals before the season, he appeared in 20 games and registered a goal and an assist.  He last appeared in a game on November 29th, and had been a healthy scratch since.

-Earlier today, another roster surprise: New Jersey announced that 2011 first round pick Adam Larsson had also been reassigned to Albany.  He has not appeared in game action since November 23rd in San Jose, when he went down with a knee injury.  He had appeared in 20 games and posted 3 points (1 G, 2 A).  It doesn’t say if it’s a conditioning assignment, so I wonder if it’s just another creative roster move (as Lou has done a lot of lately; see Gelinas, Eric) to get someone off injured reserve, or if he’s staying here for an extended period.

With the additions of Urbom and Larsson, the roster now stands at 9 defensemen.  So something has to give with the current defensive corps.  We shall see as we go into tomorrow night.

UPDATE: A little clarification of why Larsson is here…and why Joe Whitney has yet to get a callup.

-And finally, earlier today the AHL announced its 20 man All Star roster that will take on Farjestads BK in St. John’s on February 12th.  With the number of All Stars reduced from its normal number of 48 (under the normal East vs. West theme) to one team of 20, there was a very good chance that not only would all 30 teams not have representation, there would be quite a few snubs.  In a year where if it were the normal routine, there easily could have been at least one, if not two, Devils (namely Keith Kinkaid and Joe Whitney) on the roster.  But not this time.  Not one Devil was named to the squad, one of 14 teams shut out.  You can see the full list here.

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