A few things you may need to know before the Devils and Phantoms take to the ice at Times Union Center tonight:
-This is the 5th meeting between the teams in the 2nd annual Time Warner Cable Cup, won by Albany as the River Rats last year. It’s a 2-2 series so far, each team is 1-1 at home. Counting tonight, there are 7 more head to head matchups, the next coming February 20th in Albany.
-Looking at the standings, Albany checks in with a 13-19-0-2 record, good for 28 points and 7th place in the East Division. Adirondack has a 10-25-2-0 record, good for 22 points and 8th place. Basically it’s a basement battle, the Phantoms are trying to escape after a horrific stretch that saw 2 coaching changes along with 2 double digit losing streaks. The Devils on the other hand have not fared so well at home, only 4 wins, 3 on actual home ice (the 4th came in Atlantic City against the Phantoms in early December). With a home heavy schedule this month, the Devils look to rebound or they may just find themselves in the same position as their bretheren in New Jersey…last in the league.
-Matt Anderson is currently leading all Devils skaters with 22 points (11 G, 11 A), followed by the red-hot Michael Swift with 20 points (12 G, 8 A). For Adirondack, rookie Erik Gustaffson (recently sent down by the parent Flyers) leads the way with 26 points (4 G, 22 A) followed by veteran Denis Hamel with 23 points (12 G, 11 A).
-The goaltending situation in Adirondack recently got a little crowded with the demotion of Stanley Cup her0 (and former River Rat) Michael Leighton yesterday. Rookies Brian Stewart (the newly crowned AHL Player of the Week) and Nic Riopel (recently demoted to Greenville in the ECHL) were sharing time with regular Johan Backlund out due to injury. Now Backlund is almost ready to return, and with Leighton now joining the team Stewart’s future with the club is in question. I would assume Stewart gets the call this evening with Leighton not due to play till the weekend road trip in Abbotsford.
-The Devils have no such issues. Mike McKenna and Jeff Frazee (in between serving time in New Jersey during Martin Brodeur’s time out of the lineup due to his “bruised” elbow) are splitting the goaltending duty. I’m thinking it’s Frazee’s turn this evening with both playing every other game recently.
-Injury report: per The Post-Star, Hamel may be out up to 2 weeks with an injury sustained in Sunday afternoon’s game in Rochester. MA Bourdon is still out after being knocked out in a fight with Albany’s Dan Kelly on Saturday at the Civic Center (and I had a good view of it…brutal). Stefan Legein (only the BizNasty of the AHL with his Twitter account…hilarious) will return to the lineup next week. For the Devils, Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond (or PL3) is due to return this week from I believe a hand injury. Brad Mills is also expected back shortly as well.
Game time 7 PM. I will be there tweeting it (and getting photos as well).