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Home Sweep Home

Remember last weekend?  It was a pretty much wasted one, with only 1 out of 6 points earned.  Fast forward to this weekend, three games, all on home ice.  And it was a perfect one, as the Devils swept the homestand and moved to within one more win of clinching a coveted playoff berth.  Time for a happy recap of the week:

Tuesday: Two new amateur tryouts were signed just in time for the annual end of season party for the season ticket holders downtown.  Earlier in the day, it was reported that Wisconsin defenseman and 2010 draft pick Joe Faust had signed on.  He appeared in all 37 games for the Badgers this season, posting 2 goals and 12 assists.  The second one I learned about when I walked into the ballroom at the Hilton and took my seat next to him.  He turned to me and introduced himself (a rarity, usually I’m the one having to make the introductions), it’s Graham Black.   The 2012 5th round draft pick just completed his third full season with Swift Current (WHL), picking up 97 points (34 goals, 63 assists) in 69 games.  And he’s probably one of the most interesting people I’ve met in the organization through the first four years.

4/11 vs. Bridgeport: 2-1 W

The big home weekend kicked off Friday evening with the fifth and final visit of the season from the Sound Tigers, a team Albany had gone 4-0 against on home ice.  An uneventful first period ended on a good note, as the puck bounced off Kelly Zajac and into the net, and video replay confirmed it.  Dan Kelly was originally awarded the goal, but it was changed to the younger Zajac as the second was getting underway.  One of many newcomers on the Sound Tigers (pretty much half the roster is up on Long Island helping the Islanders play out the string), Jesse Graham, would score his first professional goal during a 5 on 3 advantage late in the second to tie the game up.  But Zajac would come through again in the third, breaking the tie 5 minutes into the period for a 2-1 Devil lead.  And Keith Kinkaid took care of the rest, stopping all 7 Bridgeport shots to get the win.  He finished with 22 saves and #2 star of the game honors.  Seth Helgeson and Stefan Matteau had the lone assists.

Lines:

Harri Pesonen-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher-Joe Whitney

Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Cam Janssen-Darcy Zajac-Ben Johnson

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Mike Hoeffel, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Brandon Burlon

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Reece Scarlett, Curtis Gedig, Joe Faust

Saturday: The first of the reinforcements have arrived, as Eric Gelinas was officially reassigned to Albany.  His last appearance in an Albany uniform was back on February 22nd.  He finishes his New Jersey season with 7 goals and 22 assists in 60 games.  He did not make it back in time to get in the lineup for Saturday’s game.

4/12 vs. Providence: 2-1 W (SO)

Another big matchup as the 6th place Bruins came into town for their only visit.  Despite Albany outshooting the visitors 11-6 in the first, it was Providence up 1-0 on a late power play goal by Zach Trotman.  Defense and goaltending on both sides took over in the second, as Albany only allowed 3 Bruin shots but was unable to get anything of their own past Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg.  Third period the Devils would finally solve Svedberg, as Harri Pesonen scored his 14th 3 minutes into the period to tie things up at 1.  Providence had a great chance to end things late and going into overtime when Albany ended up shorthanded, but the Devils killed off the penalty.  The game would end up going to a shootout…Keith Kinkaid would stop the first three Bruin shooters.  In the third round, Stefan Matteau would connect, but in the fourth round Seth Griffith would tie it up.  Joe Whitney scored in the bottom of the fourth round, then Kinkaid stopped Justin Florek in the fifth round to seal the victory, the 6th win out of 14 shootouts for Albany this season.  Kinkaid had another outstanding performance, stopping 18 of 19 Bruin shots (some acrobatic ones included).  Seth Helgeson had the lone assist.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Rod Pelley-Harri Pesonen-David Wohlberg

Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac-Ben Johnson

Extra: Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Brandon Burlon/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Raman Hrabarenka/Alexander Urbom

Urbom/Burlon and Kelly/Hrabarenka other pairings

Extra: Eric Gelinas, Reece Scarlett, Curtis Gedig, Joe Faust

Sunday: Tim Sestito was placed on waivers by New Jersey so he can return to Albany.  He did play in the season finale at The Rock, a 3-2 win over Boston (hey, an organizational sweep!) that may possibly be the end for Martin Brodeur in a Devil uniform.

4/13 vs. Syracuse: 4-0 W

The Devils finished off the homestand with one last visit from the Crunch, who escaped with a 1 goal win in their last meeting in central New York.  But this time would be different, with newcomer Charles Lavigne making his first AHL start with Olympic hero Kristers Gudlevskis up in Tampa.  After a relatively quiet first period, the Devils turned up the offense in the second, scoring 4 times in a span of 6:12.  Reid Boucher would start things on a power play, with a beautiful breakaway shot.  He would add his second goal 3:24 later.  Chris McKelvie would get in on the fun with his 9th goal 45 seconds later.  Finally Reece Scarlett would score his second of the season on a power play.  And that was all Scott Wedgewood would need, as he went on to stop all 20 Crunch shots in picking up his 4th shutout of the season and complete a perfect 3 for 3 weekend.  Harri Pesonen added three assists and finished a +2.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen

Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen-Chris McKelvie

Extra: Mike Hoeffel, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Raman Hrabarenka

Dan Kelly/Reece Scarlett

Extra: Alexander Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Curtis Gedig, Joe Faust

Monday: As expected, Sestito cleared waivers and was reassigned, along with Mike Sislo, Jon Merrill, and Adam Larsson.

Conference Standings:

The perfect weekend all but ensured that the Devils would get a playoff spot.  But there’s still some positioning to get settled first:

5. Binghamton–91 points

6. ALBANY–89

7. Providence–89

8. Hershey–86

9. Norfolk–86

As of right now, Albany is looking at a first round matchup against the Penguins.  But with the East Division so close, that could change depending on the week’s events.  With a good week they could even move up to 5th and draw St. John’s (there’s a daunting travel schedule).  The magic number is down to 2: a win in Portland on Wednesday, or an OT/SOL and a Norfolk regulation loss will clinch it.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Sit back and enjoy Darcy Zajac taking on a SNL Killer Bee…I mean, a Providence Bruin…

My Player of the Week:

Out of all the outstanding performances on the weekend, I’m actually splitting it between both goaltenders, as Keith Kinkaid won twice and only allowed two goals (and one in the shootout on Saturday, but that doesn’t really count) followed up by Scott Wedgewood’s fourth shutout of the season.  Honorable mention does go to Harri Pesonen and his four point (1 G, 3 A) effort.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Mike Sislo (23)

Assists: Joe Whitney (31)

Points: Joe Whitney (52)

+/-: Corbin McPherson (+16)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (100)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (23)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.30)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.912)

Elmira/Orlando Update:

The Jackals finished the season with a 1-2 road trip in Gwinnett and South Carolina, finishing 2013-14 with a 24-40-3-5 mark, good for 56 points and a 12th place finish in the Eastern Conference (also 3rd place of 3 teams in the Atlantic Division).  Riley Boychuk had 5 PIM in Friday’s loss to South Carolina.  Final Elmira stats can be found here.

Meanwhile, down south, Orlando finished up the regular season with a pair of home wins and a shootout loss, finishing with a 43-24-2-3 record and 91 points, finishing 4th in the Eastern Conference.  Maxime Clermont started all three games this week, beating Greenville twice (20 saves in a 3-2 win on Thursday, 35 saves in a 5-4 win on Sunday) and losing to Reading 1-0 in a shootout.  He finishes his regular season with a 5-3-0-1 mark and a 3.35 GAA for the Solar Bears (6-9-0-1, 3.34  with Elmira).  Orlando will take on Cincinnati in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs beginning on Thursday night in Florida.

This Week’s Schedule:

Two games left to close out the regular season slate.  Wednesday night the Devils travel to Maine to take on the Pirates (rescheduled from Friday), the earliest a playoff spot can be in the books.  Then they close it out on home ice Saturday afternoon against Springfield.  After that, we wait to see where the postseason will take them.

As for my end of season review…I may do the first part next week, which is a recap of the regular season stats-wise.  Parts 2 and 3 will likely be whenever the postseason wraps up.  And still figuring out how to cover the first round.

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Wasted Opportunities

A very busy week to start the month of April for the Devils, which unfortunately culminated in a 0-2-1-0 road weekend (for one point out of six) that put a dent in getting closer to a playoff spot.  And losing players to callups after injuries struck in New Jersey didn’t help either.  How things went down this week:

Monday: With Jon Merrill out after taking a puck to the face in Saturday’s loss to the Islanders, Adam Larsson made his triumphant return to New Jersey after an extended stay in Albany.  In 32 games, he posted 3 goals and 16 assists.  He made his first New Jersey appearance since November in Monday’s win over Florida.

Tuesday: With Ryane Clowe sitting out Tuesday and both Tim Sestito and Stephen Gionta still out with assorted injuries, Mike Sisl0 was recalled for the third time this season and played in the Devils shootout loss to the Sabres in Buffalo.  He even got a chance to extend the shootout in the 9th round, but was stopped by rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen to seal the victory for Buffalo.  All this while he was cleaning up at the Awards Banquet (ask Darcy Zajac, who was the lucky one to carry everything home).

Wednesday: Congratulations go out to Dan Kelly, who was selected as the Albany representative for the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award.  Heis now eligible for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, which will be announced at a later date.

Thursday: Listed in AHL transactions but no official announcement…the first amateur tryout has finally arrived, in the form of 2012 draftee Ben Johnson.  The 19-year-old center just completed his third season with Windsor (OHL), posting 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists) in 59 games and 6 points in 4 playoff games.

Friday: Just after I arrived in Syracuse, another amateur tryout agreement popped up on the transaction wire, as 2009 7th rounder Curtis Gedig signed on.  The defenseman just completed his senior season at Ohio State, where in 33 games he posted 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists).

And now we can finally start on the weekend action!

4/4 at Syracuse: 2-1 L

The weekend road trip started out west in Syracuse, against a Crunch team just barely hanging on in the playoff race.  After a scoreless first period, Harri Pesonen would get the visitors on the board in the second with a power play goal.  Cedric Paquette would tie the game up at 1 late in the second.  Things would stay tied until Evan Rankin broke the tie midway through the third to put Syracuse ahead.  And that was all Kristers Gudlevskis would need, as he shut down the Devils offense the rest of the way.  Scott Wedgewood was the hard luck loser in net, stopping 23 of 25 shots and even picking up an assist on Pesonen’s goal.

Lines:

Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau-Mattias Tedenby

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-David Wohlberg

Harri Pesonen-Reid Boucher-Rod Pelley

Cam Janssen-Darcy Zajac-Mike Hoeffel

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Ben Johnson

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Brandon Burlon

Extra: Reece Scarlett, Curtis Gedig

4/5 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 1-0 L (OT)

The road trip continued south down Interstate 81 to Wilkes-Barre, for a crucial matchup against a Penguins team that not only was in the middle of the playoff race, but fighting Binghamton and Norfolk for first place in the East Division.  Good news came before the game when it was announced that no one would be recalled after New Jersey lost three forwards to injury Friday evening.  The Pens thought they had taken an early 1-0 lead in the first, but the goal was waved off due to the puck being kicked into the net.  What no one knew then was that was the closest anyone would get to scoring for quite a while, as both Keith Kinkaid and Peter Mannino started on a goaltending duel.  The Pens dominated in the first, not allowing the Devils a shot on goal till more than halfway into the period.  But Albany would turn the tide in the second, holding the home team to just 4 shots and sending 11 of their own at Mannino, but he stopped every one.  It was the same song in the third, as the visitors would lead in shots 9-5, but still no one could get the puck in.  The game would go into overtime, where on an offensive turnover former Devil Tom Kostopoulos would pass it to Nick Drazenovic, who would score the game winner just 1:02 in.  Kinkaid played outstanding despite defeat, stopping 17 of 18 shots.  Ben Johnson would make his AHL debut, playing on the fourth line.

Lines:

Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau-Mattias Tedenby

Scott Timmins-Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher

Harri Pesonen-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Cam Janssen-Darcy Zajac-Ben Johnson

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Alexander Urbom/Brandon Burlon

Extra: Reece Scarlett, Curtis Gedig

4/6 at Adirondack: 4-3 L

A chapter of local hockey history came to a close on Sunday afternoon, as the Devils made their final visit to Glens Falls to take on the Phantoms.  Mattias Tedenby was a late scratch due to an ankle injury in warmup, forcing Albany to go with an 11 F/7 D lineup for the first time since early February.  There was a scare in the first when Scott Wedgewood was knocked into his net by his own teammate Reece Scarlett and was shaken up.  It was pretty obvious when just after he got back on his feet…er, skates…Jason Akeson would score for a 1-0 lead.  Rod Pelley would then answer with his 13th of the season.  But Akeson would strike again during the Devils first power play chance, taking advantage of a turnover and scoring shorthanded for a 2-1 advantage.  Second period things started turning against the Devils, despite outshooting the Phantoms 23-11.  Wedgewood would be taken out in favor of Keith Kinkaid to start the period, and then the lone referee of the game would start to get whistle happy against the visitors.  On their second penalty kill of the period, Petr Straka would extend the lead to 3-1.  But Scarlett would answer with a power play goal of his own minutes later to cut the lead to 3-2.  But with Harri Pesonen in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after a Phantom tripped him (Koharski logic, got to love it), Akeson would complete the hat trick for a 4-2 lead.  Scott Timmins would score a power play goal in the third to get to within 4-3.  But despite a season high 53 shots on goal on third string netminder Carsen Chubak, and a 6 on 3 opportunity late in the period with a chance to tie it up, the Devils just could not get the job done, and Adirondack held on for the win.  Kinkaid would get tagged with the loss after stopping 23 of 25 shots in relief of Wedgewood, who stopped 5 of 7 before coming out.  Alexander Urbom and Joe Whitney had two assists apiece.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins

Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau-Harri Pesonen

Ben Johnson-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen-Boucher/Matteau

Johnson-Whitney-K. Zajac

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Mike Hoeffel, Mattias Tedenby

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Dan Kelly

Reece Scarlett 7th D

Conference Standings:

When the weekend began, the Devils stood in 6th place in the conference.  After the weekend, they’re lucky to be in 7th.

5. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton–88

6. Providence–86

7. ALBANY–83

8. Hershey–82

9. Norfolk–81

Albany is on pace for 88 points, with the max points they can get is 93.  This would put them in either the 7th or 8th position depending on how the Bears and Admirals fare.  The two teams do play each other twice in Virginia on April 16th and 18th, so this race may not be decided till the last day.  The magic number to clinch a spot is down to 10.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Finally making its triumphant return after a couple weeks…here’s the captain mixing it up Friday night:

My Player of the Week:

Well, um, where to begin?  Not a lot of offense (just 4 goals in 3 games), I’m kind of leaning towards both Scott Wedgewood and Keith Kinkaid, who played well in the first two games despite losing.  Not fully to blame for Sunday in Adirondack either.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney (21)

Assists: Joe Whitney (31)

Points: Joe Whitney (52)

+/-: Corbin McPherson (+14)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (93)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (21)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.37)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.910)

Elmira/Orlando Update:

Elmira finished off their home schedule this week with a 1-2 record, the lone win coming against Maxime Clermont and Orlando on Friday evening.  Riley Boychuk finally scored his first ECHL goal of the season (he had one during his callup with Albany in November) against Clermont on Friday.  Artem Demkov and Harry Young have both been placed on injured reserve.  The 23-38-3-5 Jackals finish the season on a 3 game road swing through Gwinnett and South Carolina.

As for Orlando…the Solar Bears officially clinched a spot in the Kelly Cup playoffs on Wednesday, despite a 1-2 record for the week.  Clermont appeared in all three games, picking up the win on Saturday in Wheeling after giving up a six spot to Reading on Wednesday and five to his former Elmira teammates on Friday.  Orlando’s record stands at 41-24-2-2, and sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference.  They close the regular season this week on home ice against Reading and Greenville.

This Week’s Schedule:

Yet another 3 in 3 weekend, but the good news out of this one is it’s all on home ice.  Friday night Bridgeport comes in for its final visit.  Saturday afternoon sees the only trip for Providence to the Capital Region on the year.  Finally on Sunday afternoon one last visit from Syracuse.  Then it’s down to the final week already, with the regular season ending on the 19th.

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Springtime Rally

The last non 3 in 3 weekend before the end of the regular season…and it had a little of everything, from two third period rallies (one successful) to an offensive explosion, resulting in a 5-6 point week for the Devils, keeping them in the thick of things for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.  Recapping this week’s events:

Tuesday: With Ryan Carter nursing an upper body injury, Tim Sestito was recalled to New Jersey and took Carter’s place on the fourth line in the Devils loss to the Bruins.  He left the game Thursday night after taking an elbow to the head against the Wild, no timetable has been given on his return.

3/19 vs. Binghamton: 2-1 W

Albany closed out a 3 game homestand with a visit from the Senators, who began the night in first place in the East and holding down #3 in the conference with Wilkes-Barre and Norfolk very close behind.  Scott Wedgewood drew the start, looking to extend a personal scoreless streak of 126:50.  He added 20 minutes to it, as both teams went scoreless through the first.  Second period saw Albany outshoot Binghamton 9-2.  But one of those 2 shots, off the stick of Matt Puempel, would find its way past Wedgewood while on a power play to give the Senators a 1-0 lead…and stop Wedgewood’s streak at 162:44.  Third period the Devils would start a comeback, as Reid Boucher would score on a power play to tie the game up with just over 7 minutes to go in regulation.  Then with under 3 minutes remaining, Mike Sislo would take the pass from Harri Pesonen and score a beautiful breakaway goal, his 22nd of the year, to give Albany a 2-1 lead.  The Senators would pull the goalie with less than a minute to go while killing a late power play, but were unable to tie it up, and Albany skated away with its third straight win, moving them up to 6th place in the conference.  Another relatively easy night for Wedgewood, as he stopped 18 of 19 shots.  Pesonen and Scott Timmins each added assists.

Lines:

Harri Pesonen-Rod Pelley-Mike Sislo

Scott Timmins-Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher

Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Mike Hoeffel-David Wohlberg-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Cam Janssen, Chris McKelvie

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Reece Scarlett

3/22 at Syracuse: 6-2 W

The Devils headed west on the Thruway to Syracuse on Saturday evening to take on the Crunch for the second time in 6 days.  The visitors came out flying in the first period, scoring three times.  But what’s interesting here is where the three goals came from.  Raman Hrabarenka opened the scoring with a shot from the blue line 3:28 into the game.  Adam Larsson followed with a goal of his own from near the same location 5 minutes later.  Alexander Urbom capped off the scoring with his first of the season, almost in the same spot, late in the period.  Reid Boucher padded the lead with his 18th early in the second.  Syracuse finally got on the board on a Brett Connolly power play goal to cut the lead to 4-1.  But Kelly Zajac would follow with a nice breakaway goal just after an expiring penalty kill to regain a 4 goal lead.  Mike Sislo would add his team leading 23rd goal on a power play early in the third to make it 6-1.  The Crunch would get one back on a 5 on 3 advantage late in the third, but that was all they could muster as the Devils won their fourth in a row.  Another strong outing from Scott Wedgewood as he stopped 22 of 24 shots.  Joe Whitney had two assists, while four others, including Cam Janssen in his first game back since February, added one helper.  And everyone finished at worst a +1, Urbom finished a +3 on the night.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins

Rod Pelley-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Darcy Zajac-David Wohlberg-Cam Janssen

Extra: Mike Hoeffel, Chris McKelvie

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Reece Scarlett

3/23 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 3-2 L (OT)

It was back to Atlantic City for one last time as the Devils played host to the Penguins, a team they were tied with points wise, but the Penguins held the tiebreaker due to more ROW (regulation/OT wins).  Chuck Kobasew put the Penguins on the board nearly halfway through the first on a power play goal.  After a scoreless second, the Devils would mount a rally in the third, similar to Wednesday night against Binghamton.  Adam Larsson scored his second goal in as many days42 seconds in to tie the game up at 1.  Darcy Zajac would follow that with his first goal of the season to put Albany up 2-1.  But unlike Wednesday, when the Devils held on to win, the Penguins would spoil the comeback bid.  Brendan Mikkelsen would put one past Keith Kinkaid (in his first appearance in 9 days) to tie the game at 2 with 1:04 to go in regulation.  It was on to overtime, where just 1:22 in the Penguins would chip away and Kobasew would poke it in the net for the game winner and the all important extra standings point.  So in a span of 2:26 the Devils went from having a regulation win and a jump into 5th place to just gaining one point and staying put in 6th.  Kinkaid stopped 19 of 22 shots, while Scott Timmins picked up the lone assist of the day.

Lines:

Mike Sislo-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Scott Timmins-Joe Whitney-Harri Pesonen

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Mike Hoeffel-Cam Janssen-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Reid Boucher (personal), Chris McKelvie

Defense Pairings:

Corbin McPherson/Seth Helgeson

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Raman Hrabarenka/Alexander Urbom

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Reece Scarlett

Conference Standings:

After Sunday’s action, well, still a logjam for spots 5-9 in the Eastern Conference:

5. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton–80 points

6. ALBANY–79 points

7. Norfolk–77 points

8. Providence–77 points

9. Hershey–72 points

If I did the calculations right, the magic number to clinch a playoff berth stands at 16.  And something else to keep an eye on: with the regulation point and a loss by Springfield, the Devils are 5 points behind the Falcons for first place in the division.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

One fight, but still waiting on the video evidence.

My Player of the Week:

This was a hard one, with a few candidates to choose from.  But I have decided to split it between Mike Sislo and Adam Larsson, both with two goals and an assist on the week.  Honorable mention to Scott Wedgewood who has been on a roll with a 4 game winning streak.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Mike Sislo (23)

Assists: Joe Whitney (29)

Points: Joe Whitney (50)

+/-: Corbin McPherson (+16)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (91)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (21)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.38)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.909)

Elmira/Orlando Update:

Not a good weekend series for the Jackals, as they were swept in a pair of games in Cincinnati to see their record fall to 22-33-3-5.  Riley Boychuk had one assist in a 4-1 loss on Saturday.  Harry Young was a little busy, compiling 11 penalty minutes in the two games.

As for the Solar Bears…they went 2-1 on a road swing through Fort Wayne and South Carolina.  Maxime Clermont made one appearance, a Saturday night shootout victory in South Carolina, stopping 33 of 36 shots in regulation/overtime and 4 of 5 shootout attempts.  Orlando stands at 38-21-2-2 on the season, good for 4th place in the Eastern Conference.

This Week’s Schedule:

Another 3 in 3 weekend to finish out the month of March.  Friday night the Devils travel to Hershey to take on the Bears, who are just on the outside looking in.  Saturday it’s back on home ice to take on the suddenly surging Sharks in their only visit to the Capital Region.  Finally on Sunday afternoon Binghamton pays their second visit in 11 days.

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Staying in the Race

Looking back on a week that saw the Devils go 1-1-0-1 in their latest 3 in 3 weekend, a swing through New England, and hang on to a postseason playoff berth:

Wednesday: To ensure AHL eligibility for the rest of the season and a potential playoff run, Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill were sent down and recalled on paper.  New Jersey’s regular season ends April 13th, so if they do not get into the Stanley Cup playoffs, Albany could have both back no later than the final two games of the regular season.

3/7 at Portland: 4-3 W (SO)

The New England 3 in 3 weekend began north in Portland…oops I mean Lewiston…as the Devils made their first of two visits to Maine to take on the Pirates.  It looked like it was going to turn into one of those nights when Jordan Martinook scored just 26 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead.  Scott Timmins would even up the game at 1 halfway through the period.  Albany took the game over in the second, scoring twice and outshooting Portland 16-5.  Reid Boucher broke the tie early on with his 15th of the season.  Then on a fluke play, right off a faceoff Tim Sestito shot it towards the Pirate net and it trickled in, putting Albany up 3-1.  Brendan Shinnimin took advantage of a Adam Larsson misplay of the puck, broke away shorthanded, and made it a one goal game.  Despite a 7-3 shot advantage for Albany in the third, a new problem popped up yet again.  With Alexander Urbom in the box on a questionable interference call, Tobias Rieder would tie the game up at 3 with 4:13 remaining in regulation.  That makes the third straight game with a blown third period lead, something you could not imagine happening with this team earlier in the season.  Nothing across the rest of the period and in overtime (as a matter of fact, not one team took a shot on goal in the extra frame), so for the second straight game it was on to a shootout.  Boucher and Joe Whitney connected in the first four rounds, while Andy Miele and Brandon Yip scored for the Pirates.  In the fifth round, Daine Todd missed, so it was up to Stefan Matteau to either end it or send it to extra rounds.  And he would come through, giving the Devils the win and the much needed extra standings point.  Not a bad night overall for Keith Kinkaid in net, as he stopped 18 of 21 shots in regulation (none faced in overtime) to pick up the win.  Adam Larsson and Mattias Tedenby had the lone assists.

Lines:

Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau-Joe Whitney

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Mattias Tedenby

Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo-Tim Sestito

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Extras: Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Adam Larsson

Extras: Dan Kelly, Raman Hrabarenka

3/8 at Hartford: 4-3 L

It was on to Connecticut’s state capital on Saturday for a matchup with the Wolfpack.  After a scoreless first period, Brandon Burlon would get the visitors on the board halfway through the second on a power play goal.  Jesper Fast and Bretton Stamler would score 2:34 apart late in the period to put Hartford up 2-1.  J.T. Miller would add a goal early in the third for a two goal lead.  But the Devils would rally and tie it up as Mike Sislo (with his 19th) and Joe Whitney (with his 20th) would score 29 seconds apart.  But Ryan Bourque would score the go ahead goal with 7:35 to go in regulation.  The Devils had their chances at the very end, getting a late power play opportunity, but could not get it in net (one shot actually rang off the inside post and out), and fell to 8th in the playoff race.  Scott Wedgewood stopped 17 of 21 shots in taking the loss.  Kelly Zajac added two assists, while two other Devils had one helper each.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Mattias Tedenby

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Extras: Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Adam Larsson/Brandon Burlon

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Extras: Dan Kelly, Reece Scarlett

3/9 at Worcester: 4-3 L (SO)

The Devils finished off the weekend with their only visit of the season to Worcester to take on the Sharks.  And a very interesting matchup in net, as two former Union teammates squared off: Keith Kinkaid for Albany and Troy Grosenick for the Sharks.  Despite a 15-3 shot advantage by the Devils in the first period, it was the Sharks with the 1-0 lead on a Marek Viedensky goal.  Rylan Schwartz doubled the lead midway through the second.  Reid Boucher would get Albany on the board late in the second with his 16th of the season.  Third period saw an early goal from John McCarthy to put the Sharks back up by two.  But Albany would rally back and tie the game on goals from David Wohlberg and Harri Pesonen.  Nothing across for the remainder of regulation or into overtime, so it was off to the second shootout of the weekend.  And this time it didn’t go so well, with Mike Sislo the only Devil out of five to connect on Grosenick.  Kinkaid gave up a goal in the first round, then gave up the winner to Freddie Hamilton in the fifth round to give the Sharks the extra standings point.  Kinkaid stopped 19 of 22 shots in 65 minutes of work.  Five Devils each had an assist.

Lines:

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Reid Boucher-Mattias Tedenby-Scott Timmins

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Extra: Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Adam Larsson/Brandon Burlon

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Dan Kelly, Reece Scarlett

Conference Standings:

The bottom half of the Eastern Conference remains pretty tight:

5. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-72 pts

6. Providence-72 pts

7. Binghamton-71 pts

8. ALBANY-70 pts

9. Hershey-67 pts

At this point, the Devils are on pace to finish at 90 points, which would put them 7th in the conference.  The magic number to clinch a playoff berth sits at 32.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

We interrupt this Portland goal celebration for a quick one by Chris McKelvie:

My Player of the Week:

Add another accomplishment to Joe Whitney’s resume for the season.  With his 20th goal of the season on Saturday (one that tied up the game in Hartford), he tied Stephen Gionta for the franchise lead in career points with 140.  And give some credit to the skaters…despite the record and goals allowed, on the weekend they outshot the opposition by a 112-65 margin.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney (20)

Assists: Joe Whitney (25)

Points: Joe Whitney (45)

+/-: Corbin McPherson (+12)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (87)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (21)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.26)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.914)

Elmira/Orlando Update:

The Jackals split a 2 game weekend on home ice, defeating Evansville on Friday and dropping a OT decision to Wheeling on Saturday.  Artem Demkov was the only prospect to hit the scoresheet, notching an assist in Saturday’s game.  Riley Boychuk was quite busy on Friday, amassing 15 penalty minutes.  Meanwhile down south, the Solar Bears went 1-3 (with one loss in OT) on the week, but no appearances at all from Maxime Clermont, not even as a backup.

This Week’s Schedule:

Another 3 in 3 weekend awaits, but at least it’s a mostly home schedule.  Friday night the Devils finish off the New England road swing with a visit to Springfield to take on the Falcons.  Saturday it’s real home ice for the first time since February 23rd to take on Hartford (and it’s the annual Pucks and Paws day).  Sunday afternoon Syracuse comes in to finish the weekend off.

And no photo gallery this week…because guess who forgot to pack the camera when she went to Worcester? (raises hand…sorry.  I blame Daylight Savings).  I do have a few photos on my Instagram page if you want to check those out (click the link on the right hand side of the page).

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In Like A Lamb

The month of March is upon us.  A month I usually dread.  Not only is it closer to the end of the season, but it’s normally during March the Devils schedule gets so crazy thanks to many events taking over the Times Union Center.  And it takes its toll on the team, as they usually start to slump, burn out, etc.  But this is a different team from years past, and as the weekend began Albany still found themselves in playoff position.  Earning one out of four standings points against two teams right in the race may or may not come back to haunt them, but the way the games finished will.  Recapping this week’s events:

Monday: False alarm on the goaltender rumors, as Maxime Clermont was sent to Orlando of the ECHL.  Per rules, in order to send him from Elmira to Orlando, he had to be recalled to Albany first, then reassigned to Orlando.  In 17 games with the Jackals, he was 6-9-0 with a 3.35 GAA and a .892 save percentage.

And after a near month long stay in Albany, Eric Gelinas was recalled and rejoined New Jersey for practice.  He appeared in 5 games, only getting 2 assists (he was working on his defense during his second stint of the season here).

3/1 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 2-1 L

Saturday saw the third trip of the season to Atlantic City to take on the Penguins on “home” ice.  Despite a slow start on both sides–shots were 5-4 in favor of Albany in the first period–it was the Devils with the early 1-0 lead, on a Mike Sislo power play goal.  After an uneventful second period, the Penguins rallied in the third.  After killing off a four minute power play and a delay of game consecutively, Brendan Mikkelsen tied the game up with 6:24 left in regulation.  Then with Corbin McPherson off for a tripping call, former Devil Tom Kostopoulos would score the go ahead goal on the ensuing power play for a 2-1 Penguin lead.  Despite an empty net and a late flurry at the end, the Devils could not get the equalizer and got saddled with another blown lead, their first loss in regulation when leading after 2 periods.  Keith Kinkaid took the hard luck loss in net, stopping 12 of 14 shots.  Adam Larsson and Kelly Zajac had the lone assists.

Lines:

Harri Pesonen-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher-Mattias Tedenby

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie-David Wohlberg

Extras: Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac, Mike Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Raman Hrabarenka

Adam Larsson/Dan Kelly

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Reece Scarlett

3/2 at Providence: 3-2 L (SO)

While myself and about four buses full of season ticket holders were in New Jersey (more on that to come), the A-Devils were making their first and only visit of the season to Providence to take on the Bruins.  Tim Sestito gave the visitors a 1-0 lead late in the first on a power play goal.  Craig Cunningham would tie the game 5 minutes into the second.  David Wohlberg would give the Devils a 2-1 lead with his third of the season.  Once again, the Devils let a one goal lead slip away in the third, as David Warsofsky would tie the game at 2 halfway through the third.  Nothing across for the remainder of regulation and into overtime, leading to the shootout.  Not one Devil shooter–Mattias Tedenby, Mike Sislo, Reid Boucher, or Stefan Matteau–could score on Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban.  Keith Kinkaid gave up goals in the first and third rounds to take the loss, the Devils’ 6th of the season in the shootout.  He did stop 36 of 38 Bruin shots in regulation and overtime.  Four Devils each had an assist.

Lines:*

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Chris McKelvie-David Wohlberg-Mike Hoeffel

Rod Pelley-Reid Boucher-Mattias Tedenby

Extras: Scott Timmins, Darcy Zajac, Cam Janssen

*-the last line is purely a process of elimination guess based on the gamesheet

Defense Pairings:*

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Adam Larsson

Dan Kelly/Reece Scarlett

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka

*another case of process of elimination

Conference Standings:

So how close is the Eastern Conference’s bottom half?  Take a look for yourself:

1. Manchester-80*

2. Springfield-74*

3. Binghamton-70*

4. St. John’s-72

5. Norfolk-70

6. Providence-69

7. ALBANY-67

8. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-67

9. Hershey-65

The Devils own the tiebreaker over the Penguins in this case, with one less game played (56 to 57).  The magic number to clinch a playoff berth is at 37.  With a current pace to end the season at 90 points, all signs at this juncture point to no worse than a 6th place standing in the conference.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

No face punching or glove dropping this week.

My Player of the Week:

Well…not one player stood out, as the offense was quite spread out.  So for this week…all those who scored can share the award: Mike Sislo (PP on Saturday), Tim Sestito (PP on Sunday), and David Wohlberg (even strength on Sunday).

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney (19)

Assists: Joe Whitney (25)

Points: Joe Whitney (44)

+/-: Corbin McPherson (+10)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (80)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (20)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.22)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.917)

Elmira/Orlando Update:

Let’s start west in Elmira, where the Jackals had a 3 in 3 weekend on home ice against Wheeling and South Carolina, and managed to go 1-1-0-1 to put their record at 21-27-2-5.  A very good weekend for Artem Demkov, as he registered at least a point in all 3 games and scored Sunday in a 3-2 Jackal win.  Harry Young was busy with 7 penalty minutes, and Riley Boychuk sat out the weekend, not sure of the reason.

Meanwhile in Orlando, Maxime Clermont did not get in any games with his new team, but did backup on Tuesday in the Solar Bears’ OT win over South Carolina.

This Week’s Schedule:

Another 3 in 3 weekend, with all games away from home and in New England.  Friday night the Devils make their first trip to Portland-I mean, Lewiston-to take on the Pirates.  Saturday it’s south to Hartford to take on the Wolfpack.  Finally Sunday afternoon they travel east to Worcester for their first matchup of the season against the Sharks.

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February Sweeps

Three games.  Three days.  Three wins.  Not a bad weekend for the Devils, who went from being just outside the playoff picture to being in the middle of it.  But after Sunday’s events, it could be a very interesting week in the organization as New Jersey gets back to work after the Olympic Break.

Tuesday: With Keith Kinkaid returning to practice, Johan Hedberg was released from his PTO after filling in for the weekend and even getting in some game action on Sunday.

Wednesday: Jon Merrill was recalled to New Jersey after not even making one appearance during his 9 day stay on the roster.  In fact, I don’t even recall seeing any uniform number assigned to him while he was here (his #5 was taken over by Adam Larsson and Reece Scarlett wears his New Jersey #34).

2/21 at Adirondack: 4-2 W

It was back north to Glens Falls for a rematch from last weekend with the Phantoms, who were quite shorthanded after their end of game brawl against Portland on Sunday.  And the visitors came in and took advantage.  Despite only 3 shots in the first period, it was Albany with the 1-0 lead on a Stefan Matteau goal.  Kyle Flanagan would tie the game at 1 just 30 seconds into the second period on a fluke bounce that Keith Kinkaid never saw coming.  But the Devils would take control after that, via the special teams route.  While in the midst of killing off a Matteau double minor, Mike Sislo broke away and scored a beautiful shorthanded goal for a 2-1 lead.  Rod Pelley would also score shorthanded late in the period for a 3-1 lead.  Sislo would score his second early in the third for a 4-1 advantage.  The Phantoms would get to within 4-2, but Kinkaid and the Devils would shut it down from there, getting two very important points that put them back in the playoff hunt.  Kinkaid played stellar in his return to the lineup, stopping 30 of 32 shots.  Adam Larsson added two assists and finished a +2.

Lines:

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Mattias Tedenby

Mike Hoeffel-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Extras (all injured): Chris McKelvie, Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Alexander Urbom

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

2/22 vs. Norfolk: 4-1 W

It was back on home ice Saturday afternoon as the Devils played host to the Admirals in a crucial game for both teams; they were tied for 8th place in the Eastern Conference with a chance to move up the list on the line.  Much like the night before, Stefan Matteau kicked off the scoring on the Devils’ first shot of the game, going up 1-0 4 and a half minutes in.  Norm Ezekiel would tie the game at 1 late in the period.  Second period Albany took over, scoring twice and outshooting the Admirals 15-6.  Mike Sislo would score his third goal in two days on a power play to break the tie, then Reid Boucher added his 13th less than 4 minutes later for a 2 goal cushion.  Norfolk tried to make a comeback in the third, but Keith Kinkaid was up to the challenge, stopping all 9 3rd period shots.  Kelly Zajac added an empty netter late to seal the Devils second straight win.  Kinkaid finished with 25 saves on 26 shots in another stellar performance.  Four Devils added assists.

Lines:

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau-Joe Whitney

Reid Boucher-Scott timmins-Mattias Tedenby

Mike Hoeffel-Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg

Extras: Chris McKelvie, Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Alexander Urbom

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Sunday: Just as the first period was getting underway, Elmira announced that goaltender Maxime Clermont, just off the injured list, had been recalled to Albany.  Here’s the fun part: Nobody knew the transaction took place, not even the coaching staff.  Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood are both fine, so the only other possibility is something is going on in New Jersey.  Stay tuned as this unfolds.

2/23 vs. Utica: 2-1 W

To close out the weekend and the month of February, the Devils played host to the Comets, who were on a streak of their own after wins in Syracuse and Binghamton.  After a scoreless first period, Albany would get on the board in the second.  Mike Sislo tipped in a Reece Scarlett shot from the blue line for his 4th goal of the weekend to put the Devils up 1-0.  Reid Boucher would add a power play goal less than 2 minutes later for a 2-0 advantage.  Jeremy Welsh would cut the deficit in half for the Comets with 5 minutes to go in the second period.  Things would get interesting in the third when Tim Sestito was called for a late penalty with less than a minute to go in regulation.  But the Devils managed to kill off the 6 on 4 chance (empty net as well) to hold on for the win, their first on a Sunday all season and a clean sweep of the weekend.  Scott Wedgewood drew the start and didn’t have to do a whole lot, stopping 15 of 16 shots.  Scarlett and Scott Timmins each had an assist.

Lines:

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Joe Whitney-Stefan Matteau-Kelly Zajac

Scott Timmins-Mattias Tedenby-Reid Boucher

Rod Pelley-David Wohlberg-Mike Hoeffel

Extras: Cam Janssen, Chris McKelvie, Darcy Zajac

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Reece Scarlett

Corbin McPherson/Seth Helgeson

Raman Hrabarenka/Alexander Urbom

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

UPDATED 2/24: One scrap this week, and it was a quick one:

My Player of the Week:

A pretty easy choice this week…have to give it to Mike Sislo.  Goals in all 3 games (2 in Friday’s win), increasing his season total to a career high 17.  Honorable mention goes to the penalty kill, going a perfect 16 for 16 and even scoring shorthanded twice.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney (19)

Assists: Joe Whitney (24)

Points: Joe Whitney (43)

Plus/Minus: Scott Timmins/Corbin McPherson (+10)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (78)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (20)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.24)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.917)

Elmira Update:

The Jackals had a 3 in 3 weekend of their own, all on home ice and all against Wheeling.  They took the first game on Friday evening before dropping both Saturday and Sunday’s games to the Nailers, putting their record at 20-25-2-4.  Harry Young was rather busy on Saturday and Sunday, racking up 12 penalty minutes.  Maxime Clermont backed up on Friday and Saturday but did not see any action.  Riley Boychuk sat out all three games.

Injury Report:

Alexander Urbom returned to the lineup Friday after sitting out last weekend due to illness.  That just leaves three forwards out: Chris McKelvie (lower body), Darcy Zajac and Cam Janssen.  Janssen seems to be the closest of the three to returning.

This Week’s Schedule:

A quick two game weekend to begin the month of March.  Saturday afternoon the Devils travel to Atlantic City to “host” Wilkes-Barre.  Then it’s off to Providence on Sunday afternoon for their first matchup of the season against the Bruins.

Also on Sunday: I’ll be coming back to New Jersey for the San Jose game!

And starting with Saturday’s pregamer: the return of Conference Standings.  Yup, it’s getting to be that time of year already!

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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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Coming Up Zeroes

Good news and bad news for the Devils in looking at this week’s games: all 3 involved shutouts.  But it’s not so good when you’re on the losing end of two of those games.  Reviewing the events of the week:

2/4 at Springfield: 4-0 L

The New England road swing continued into Springfield on Tuesday night for a matchup against the first place Falcons.  Alex Aleardi would put Springfield on the board early in the first period with an unassisted goal.  Then the Falcons took over the game in the second period and never let up, scoring three times and outshooting Albany 14-9.  Spencer Machacek and Frederic St. Denis each had power play goals, while Jonathan Marchessault would close out the scoring late in the second with an even strength goal.  And that was all former Devil Mike McKenna would need, as he stopped all 25 Albany shots in picking up the shutout.  It was the fourth time this season the Devils have been shutout, and the first since January 4th in Adirondack.  Scott Wedgewood stopped 27 of 31 in taking the loss, while Eric Gelinas lead all skaters with 7 shots.

(Note: I was not around for this one, so no notes on lines/defense pairings.)

2/8 at Bridgeport: 3-0 W

It was off to southern Connecticut on Saturday night to take on the Sound Tigers, in their 1,000th game as a franchise.  Stefan Matteau scored his 8th of the season in the first to get the visitors on the board.  Chris McKelvie had a chance to double the lead via a penalty shot, but was denied by goaltender Anders Nilsson.  Kelly Zajac (on a power play) and McKelvie would each get their seventh goals 2:51 apart late in the second period to go up 3-0.  But the story of the game was in goal…Keith Kinkaid started, but had to leave the game late in the second due to an apparent injury.  Scott Wedgewood took over and completed the shutout the rest of the way, stopping 12 Bridgeport shots (Kinkaid stopped 16 before exiting).  Alexander Urbom added two assists and finished at a +2, while Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas (also a +2 on the night) and Mike Hoeffel added assists.

Lines:

(Again not around for this one; all lines/defense pairings via the Bridgeport blog Soundin’ Off)

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Joe Whitney

Stefan Matteau-Kelly Zajac-Mike Hoeffel

Harri Pesonen-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Cam Janssen

Extras: Mattias Tedenby, David Wohlberg

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Alexander Urbom/Eric Gelinas

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Sunday: With Keith Kinkaid not able to go and Maxime Clermont still on the injured list in Elmira till at least Valentine’s Day, who would be backing up Scott Wedgewood in New Hampshire?  Enter Anthony Felice.  Who?  He is a 40-year-old (just turned 40 in late January) Bronx native who served as an emergency backup goaltender during the Devils run in Trenton.

And Jon Merrill was reassigned to Albany for the Olympic break, making the roster just a little more crowded.

2/9 at Manchester: 3-0 L

A challenge awaited the Devils as they made their only visit to Manchester of the season in the form of Martin Jones, the same goaltender who was recalled to Los Angeles to fill in for Jonathan Quick in December and won his first eight starts in a row.  Sean Backman put the Devils in a hole very early on, scoring just 1:08 into the contest for a 1-0 Monarchs lead.  It was all Manchester after that, as the Devils cut their first two power plays short with penalties and continued to get into trouble…and not giving Jones much work, just putting 4 shots on goal.  Manchester would put the game away in the second via goals by Andy Andreoff and Jordan Weal for a 3-0 lead.  Jones would take care of the rest, stopping all 19 Devil shots in picking up the shutout, the second against the Devils in 5 days.  Scott Wedgewood stopped 26 of 29 shots.  Reid Boucher and Mike Sislo each had 4 shots on net.

Lines:

Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie-Mattias Tedenby

Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher-Joe Whitney

Mike Hoeffel-Stefan Matteau-Kelly Zajac

Tim Sestito-Harri Pesonen-Mike Sislo

Extras: Cam Janssen, David Wohlberg

Other lines: Zajac-Matteau-Sislo, Sestito-Hoeffel-Matteau, Whitney-Pelley-Tedenby

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Alexander Urbom/Reece Scarlett

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Raman Hrabarenka

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

A nice little bout from Chris McKelvie Tuesday night in Springfield.

My Player of the Week:

Don’t look now, but the third Zajac brother in the organization (that would be Kelly) is climbing up the stats chart.  He had a goal and an assist on Saturday night in Bridgeport, earning #1 star of the game honors.  He’s moved to second on the team in scoring behind Joe Whitney and recently cracked the top 20 among league rookies in points as well.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney (17)

Assists: Joe Whitney (21)

Points: Joe Whitney (38)

Plus/Minus: Reece Scarlett/Corbin McPherson (+9)

Penalty Minutes: Chris McKelvie/Seth Helgeson (72)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (18)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.30)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.914)

Elmira Update:

The Jackals completed their Midwestern swing with a shootout loss in Kalamazoo on Wednesday, followed by a pair of wins in Evansville on Friday and Saturday.  The only Devil to appear on the scoresheet all week?  Harry Young.  He scored his second goal of the season in Kalamazoo on Wednesday evening.

Notes:

After a one man injury update (Darcy Zajac) for quite a while, there may be a couple of additions after the weekend games.  No word as of yet on how long Kinkaid will be out after leaving Saturday’s game due to a lower body injury.  Adam Larsson disappeared after the first period in Manchester, no idea of the situation there.

This Week’s Schedule:

While Joe Whitney heads up to St. John’s for the AHL All Star Classic Tuesday and Wednesday, everyone else gets a 4 day break.  But it’s back to work on Friday and the start of a hard 3 in 3 weekend.  Friday night Albany travels to Atlantic City to play Hershey “at home”.  Then a quick turnaround back to the Capital Region on Saturday afternoon to take on Adirondack.  Finally it’s back to Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon to face the Sound Tigers.

And the Photo Gallery is taking a week off.  Back next weekend!

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Blown Perfection

Doing things a little differently this week…with quite a few news items before the games even got started (with my schedule I didn’t have time for a full post), I’ll do a timeline…mixing in all the news and notes with the game recap as we go.

Monday: A wrong was officially righted, as Joe Whitney (along with 2 others) was added to the AHL All Star roster.  Not a bad few days for Joe…he makes his NHL debut, gets his own bobblehead, and now his first AHL All Star appearance.

Wednesday: With so many extras on the roster, someone had to go sooner or later.  Surprisingly, it was Artem Demkov leaving, as he was sent back to Elmira.  He did very well during his stint here, appearing in 21 games and notching 11 points (6 G, 5 A).  After coming to Albany’s training camp as a tryout, he came back on a PTO on December 4th when everyone seemed to be getting recalled to New Jersey.  He did so well during his first week he was given a standard AHL contract 9 days later.

Friday: Before Albany took the ice that night against Bridgeport, another surprising transaction: Eric Gelinas was reassigned to Albany, while Mike Sislo was recalled for the second time in a month as insurance incase Dainius Zubrus couldn’t go in Nashville (Zubrus played; Sislo did not).  Gelinas was sparingly used in his last appearance for New Jersey, seeing just 2:50 of ice time in an overtime victory against Dallas.  Not sure how long he’ll stay, considering that he is not eligible to play here during the Olympic Break.

1/31 vs. Bridgeport: 2-1 W

Now to game action!

One more game to finish out a tough month of January and the homestand, as the Devils welcomed the Sound Tigers.  Unlike the weekend before, Albany clamped down and dominated the first period to start, not even allowing a shot on goal for the first 13:04 of the game (and getting 11 shots of their own).  Joe Whitney thought he had a goal early on, but despite the puck being clearly over the line (per a few witnesses by the net), referee Chris Brown would wave it off.  Just as the Sound Tigers finally showed up for the game, Reid Boucher would score his first since returning to Albany for a 1-0 lead.  Less than 2 minutes later, Alan Quine would tie it up on a power play goal.  Bridgeport would outshoot Albany after that, but Keith Kinkaid was in redemption mode after his 0-3 performance on Sunday afternoon.  The game remained tied (and also quite uneventful) till the third period, when Tim Sestito scored his 9th to put Albany up 2-1.  And the door was shut from then on.  A nice rebound performance from Kinkaid in net, as he set aside 27 of 28 shots and earned #1 star honors.  Four Devils each had an assist.

Lines:

Mattias Tedenby-Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac

Rod Pelley-Harri Pesonen-Tim Sestito

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Stefan Matteau

Cam Janssen-Chris McKelvie-Mike Hoeffel

Extra: David Wohlberg

Other line combinations: Whitney-Timmins-Boucher; Sestito-McKelvie-Hoeffel

Defense Pairings:

Alexander Urbom/Reece Scarlett

Adam Larsson/Dan Kelly

Corbin McPherson/Seth Helgeson

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Eric Gelinas

Saturday: In a not so surprising move, Mike Sislo was sent back down.  When did I figure this out?  When he took the ice in Hartford for warmups.

2/1 at Hartford: 4-3 L (SO)

The Devils started February–and a four game (well, technically five if you count Atlantic City at “home”) road trip–in Hartford against the Wolfpack.  An uneventful first saw Hartford outshoot the Devils 11-4, but Keith Kinkaid was again up to the challenge.  The game remained scoreless till Mike Sislo scored his 13th unassisted for a 1-0 lead.  Harri Pesonen was awarded a goal just over two minutes later despite a replay showing the puck went off his skate.  The referee that allowed the goal?  Chris Brown.  Atoning for last night, I guess?  So a 2 goal lead for a team who is 20-0-0-2 when leading after two periods shouldn’t be a problem, right?  Well…Hartford had a little rally in them as the third period got underway.  Micheal Haley would break up the shutout 98 seconds in for a 2-1 advantage.  Joe Whitney would score less than a minute later for a 3-1 lead.  Darroll Powe would cut the deficit to 3-2 halfway through the period.  Then T.J. Hensick would complete the comeback with just 3:56 left in regulation and tie the game at 3, sealing yet another third period collapse, the fourth one in 5 weeks for the Devils.  This was Hartford’s period from beginning to end, as they outshot the Devils 14-1.  Yup, the one shot got in, and that was all Albany could do.  It was on to overtime, where Albany managed 3 shots to Hartford’s 1, but nothing across.  It was on to the shootout, where it nearly resembled the parent club’s struggles.  Mattias Tedenby scored in the first round, but Reid Boucher, Sislo and Whitney could not get anything by David LeNeveu.  Kinkaid gave up three straight to Hensick, J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast to give Hartford the extra point and seal their comeback.  Outside of beyond the third period, Kinkaid played well again, and finished with 33 saves on 36 shots in 65 minutes.  Four Devils had one assist each, while Eric Gelinas returned to the lineup and finished a +3.

Lines:

Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo-Rod Pelley

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Stefan Matteau

Kelly Zajac-Reid Boucher-Mattias Tedenby

Chris McKelvie-Cam Janssen-Harri Pesonen

Extras: Mike Hoeffel, David Wohlberg

Other line combinations: McKelvie-Sislo-Pesonen; Zajac-Pesonen-Janssen; Whitney-Boucher-Timmins; Zajac-Boucher-McKelvie

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Alexander Urbom

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Adam Larsson/Eric Gelinas

Extras: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Other pairings: Kelly/Helgeson, Gelinas/Helgeson, Urbom/McPherson, Larsson/Urbom, Gelinas/Urbom

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

No gloves dropped or faces punched this week.

My Player of the Week:

Well…again not a lot of standout performances over the two games.  I was leaning towards Keith Kinkaid before last night’s third period/shootout collapse.  And Eric Gelinas also had a good showing in his return to the Albany lineup as well.  So I’ll split it between those two.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Whitney (17)

Assists: Joe Whitney (21)

Points: Joe Whitney (38)

Plus/Minus: Corbin McPherson (+11)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (65)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (17)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.35)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.912)

Elmira Update:

A very good week for the Jackals, as they extended their win streak to 4 games with a home win against Kalamazoo and two road wins over Fort Wayne and Toledo.  Artem Demkov jumped back into the lineup on Wednesday and played very well, with 2 goals and 4 assists for the week.  Harry Young scored his first goal of the season Saturday night in Toledo.  And Riley Boychuk was, well, busy: 14 penalty minutes from one altercation on Saturday.

This Week’s Schedule:

Three games with no 3 in 3 weekend to deal with.  Albany travels to Springfield for a rare Tuesday night matchup against the first place Falcons, who have been struggling as of late.  Saturday night they travel south to Bridgeport to take on the Sound Tigers.  Then it’s up to New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon for their only visit to Manchester this season.

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Getting a Little Crowded

Quite a few roster moves over the last couple days before another 3 in 3 weekend gets underway.  Just to get everyone up to date:

-Cam Janssen was placed on waivers on Monday (making once again for celebrations on my Jersey portion of my Twitter feed) to make room for the return of Damien Brunner to the lineup.  He cleared on Tuesday and was reassigned to Albany.  He appeared in 24 games for New Jersey after his recall on November 6th, scoring 3 goals (?!?).

-With the Olympic break looming, there was a question on who, if anyone, would be sent down to play in Albany over the two week layoff. (Side note: In Lou We Trust covered the very topic earlier yesterday.)  Last night came one answer: Reid Boucher was sent down.  He had appeared in 23 games for the parent Devils, with 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) and being the only Devil to convert a shootout goal all season.

-Then this morning, a surprise guest hit the ice for New Jersey’s practice…Joe Whitney has finally received the callup.  All he’s done is lead Albany in scoring (also tied for 9th in the AHL in points).  He practiced on the first line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr, and all signs point to him making his NHL debut tomorrow night at The Rock against Washington.

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