Albany-Charlotte Pregame Notes #3

Before previewing the last of the 3 game series between the Devils and Checkers, time to recap game 2 from Sunday afternoon:

A few lineup changes, Mike Murphy in net for Charlotte and Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter back from Carolina (Jerome Samson and Zac Dalpe went up in their place), while J.S. Berube replaced Louis Robitaille in Albany’s lineup. Not as much rough stuff compared to the night before, although Pierre Luc Leblond took a 10 minute misconduct during the first period. Murphy and Dave Caruso were both very sharp in net, making outstanding saves and keeping the game scoreless after one period.

Second period saw the Devils get on the board first, much like the night before. Brad Mills gave Albany a 1-0 lead halfway through the period. But the Checkers tied it up late in the second on a Jon Matsumoto short handed goal. That became a momentum changer for the Checkers into the 3rd. Brett Carson gave Charlotte a 2-1 lead early in the 3rd, then new Devil Steven Zalewski continued to make an impact, scoring a game tying goal on the power play about 2 and a half minutes later. Both teams went back and forth as the period progressed, but it was defenseman Brett Bellemore who snagged the game winner with 3 and a half minutes to go in the game. The Devils pulled Caruso late, but it wasn’t to be and Charlotte held on for a 3-2 win.

Now to look ahead to the last game of the 3 game set in North Carolina:

Season: This is the 5th meeting of 6, both teams have 2 wins apiece. After tonight they square off one more time on April 2nd in Albany.

Standings: With Norfolk idle and Hershey taking a 7-1 beating from the Penguins, Charlotte now sits in 3rd place in the East Division, with a record of 30-18-2-4 and 66 points. They are 1 point ahead of Norfolk and 4 points behind 2nd place Hershey. Albany falls to a 19-29-0-3 record and 41 points, 1 point ahead of Adirondack and 1 point behind Syracuse.

Game time 7:00. Due to work obligations I will not be able to live tweet it…sorry…but will try to send updates when possible…

Albany-Charlotte Pregame Notes #2

Before moving on to the 2nd game of the weekend between the Devils and Checkers, let’s recap last night’s game 1 festivities:

First big news of the game: The scoreless streak is over! Albany took a 1-0 lead halfway through the first on a goal by Rob Davison. The streak ends at (and I did the math, hopefully right) 169:26. The Checkers came back to tie it early in the second on a Drayson Bowman tally. David McIntyre responded with an unassisted tally 4 minutes later, 2-1 Devils. Then the fun started…Zack FitzGerald (whose favorite movie is NOT The Notebook, despite what three of his teammates will tell you in the Ask the Checkers video of the day) slams Louis into the boards. Louis (being the idiot that he sometimes is) chases him down to the other end of the ice and tackles him from behind. Smart idea buddy…it was on. And Zack dominated, Louis couldn’t get a punch up if he tried. The physical stuff continued later in the period with essentially a 10 car pileup behind the Checker net and Pierre Luc Leblond and Brad Herauf trying to punch each other over the pile. The Devils killed off an ensuing 5-on-3, but just as that expires Stephen Gionta takes a tripping call and the Checkers quickly get the tying goal on the power play courtesy of Brett Carson (goal later given to Jacob Micflikier). Less than 2 minutes later with Alexander Urbom in the box, Charlotte snags their first lead of the game at 3-2 thanks to Zac Dalpe. Finally to close it out a beautiful scrap at center ice between 2 D-men, Brett Bellemore and Chris Murray. Give Bellemore the takedown on that one.

Third period started out rather uneventful…till Nicolas Blanchard is awarded a penalty shot about 5 minutes in. Dave Caruso denied the 4th and insurance goal. Then all hell broke loose at the 7:35 mark. All 10 skaters involved, the highlight being a scrap between Brad Mills and Drayson Bowman. Chris Murray, Riley Nash and Pierre-Luc Leblond all assessed roughing minors before peace was finally restored. Caruso put on a goaltending clinic, stopping every Checker shot that came into his path. With less than 4 minutes left in the 3rd, newly acquired Steven Zalewski snags the game tying goal in his Devil debut. Nothing doing the rest of the period, so off to overtime we go at 3-3. And with the point, the Devils stay in 7th place after being tied with the victorious Phantoms for a few minutes during the 3rd period.

One very important stat: Going into Saturday, the Devils had yet to lose during OT, boasting a 2-0 record (but a 3-3 SO record). That streak extended to 3-0, thanks to an unassisted goal by Adam Henrique with less than 2 minutes left in the overtime session to give Albany a 4-3 win. Dave Caruso definitely earned the win after his outstanding third period, shutting the Checker offense down. He finished with 27 saves and earned #2 star honors (Bowman #1, Henrique #3).

Looking ahead to today’s matchup:

-Fourth meeting of the season, Albany now up 2-1 in the series. One more game on Tuesday the 15th, then they don’t meet again till April 2nd in Albany.

-Standings: With a Norfolk victory last night, Charlotte falls back to 4th place in the East Division with a 29-18-2-4 record and 64 points. They are 1 point behind Norfolk for 3rd and 4 points ahead of Binghamton. Albany holds on to the 7th place slot with a 19-28-0-3 record and 41 points, remaining 2 points ahead of Adirondack and 1 point behind Syracuse for 6th. If you’re actually thinking playoff picture (you can start laughing now), they are 17 points behind Worcester for the last playoff spot (with the crossover rules in effect, Binghamton would cross over, but they have 2 more points than the Sharks). Hey with the parent club on a hot streak and inching closer to respectability, you’d think it might trickle down to the farm right? OK maybe not.

Game time 3:00. I will be following along from home (and hopefully with better audio to work with than last night…I missed half the penalty calls grrr…).

Albany-Charlotte Pregame Notes #1

NOTE: The next 2 pregame entries after this one are going to be a little different, considering the Devils play the same opponent in the same building the next 3 games. So I don’t sound redundant I’ll do my usual pregame routine with this one, then recap for the next 2.

What you need to know before the Devils and Checkers square off at Time Warner Cable Arena tonight for the first of 3:

Season: This is the 3rd of 6 meetings between the two teams this season, so far each team has one win. Albany took the first game on October 20th, Charlotte took the second meeting on January 7th, both games in Albany. After tonight, they play the next two games on Sunday and on Tuesday, then don’t play again till April 2nd in Albany.

Standings: Charlotte begins the day tied for 3rd place in the East Division with Norfolk, with a record of 29-18-1-4 and 63 points. They sit 7 points behind Hershey for the 2nd place slot. Albany sits in 7th place with a record of 18-28-0-3 and 39 points, they remain 2 points ahead of Adirondack to avoid the basement and 3 points behind Syracuse for 6th.

Scoring: The Checkers are lead by All Star Jerome Samson with 53 points (26 G, 27 A) and Jacob Micflikier with 41 points (20 G, 21 A). Along with Chris Terry (20 G), they are the only team in the AHL to boast 3 20 goal scorers. Justin Pogge and Mike Murphy split time in goal, Pogge leading with 15 wins. The Devils scoring list has changed a little with this week’s 4 player trade, but Matt Anderson remains the leading scorer with 32 points (16 G, 16 A). He is now followed by rookie Adam Henrique with 27 points (13 G, 14 A). Any kind of offensive output is welcome at this point, considering the Devils have been shut out the last two games. With Mike McKenna still on recall to New Jersey (no word on when Martin Brodeur will return to the lineup), the Trenton contingent of Dave Caruso and Jeff Lerg will be in net, Caruso being the likely starter.

Miscellaneous: As written earlier several times in this blog, the Checkers are the former Albany River Rats. The current roster of those who played at least one game in Albany stands at 17 players. They have the best offensive output in the AHL with 183 goals (an average of about 3.5/game).

Game time 7 PM. I will be tweeting from somewhere…no not North Carolina unfortunately…

Let The Changes Begin…

Wasn’t exactly planning a blog post tonight (but as you can see I gave the page a little makeover, changing colors, adding my Twitter feed and some links…more links to come as I think of them), but some breaking news just came up on my feed. Looks like the Devils are finally starting to make some changes to the roster, hopefully for the better? The Devils and Sharks just announced a 4 player deal, Patrick Davis and Michael Swift are off to San Jose/Worcester for Worcester captain Jay Leach and forward Steven Zalewski. I am assuming both players are coming here. Not a surprise to see Davis get traded, recently he had been a mystery healthy scratch for which a reason was never revealed (this is the Devils organization after all, nothing is allowed to leak out). Swift however I didn’t see coming, considering he was second on the team in scoring (very redundant stat in my pregame entries). I figure Leach won’t have problems fitting in here…he is a native of Altamont, just outside Schenectady. Every time his team came in to town (he’s played for Worcester, Providence, Lowell in the last couple seasons), the local papers always were quick to grab an interview with him (which is the norm with big name local guys, no matter what the sport). Zalewski I don’t know much about, he’s a native of New Hartford, NY (outside Utica, near where Tim Sestito and Nick Palmieri are from). He has decent stats, 21 points (4 G 17 A) in 50 games. Now if only the goaltending situation can fix itself…looks like Mike McKenna is staying in New Jersey at least through the end of the week, so the Trenton contingent will probably have at least 1 game in Charlotte. Hopefully the Devils can at least get a goal? After Monday night’s 4-0 shutout loss to the Penguins in Atlantic City, I did the math…they have gone 138:56 since their last goal, a Stephen Gionta tally Friday night against Hershey in Atlantic City. We’ll see how things go starting Saturday night in North Carolina.

In other news…no snow this week…yay! But it’s freaking cold out. Had to get my random weather rant of the week in. Once spring starts those will be few and far between…unless it’s like 2 years ago when it seemed like it rained every day.

Albany-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pregame Notes

What you need to know before the Devils and Penguins take to the Boardwalk Hall ice:

-Season: This is the 7th of 8 meetings between the two teams, with Wilkes-Barre up 6-0 so far. Last meeting on January 28th in Albany the Penguins pulled out a 4-1 win in Albany. The Devils as a franchise (including time in Lowell) still have yet to record a win against the Pens. After tonight the teams face off one more time, on March 23rd in Wilkes-Barre.

-Standings: Wilkes-Barre begins the day holding down first place in the East Division, checking in with a record of 36-14-0-0 and 72 points. Despite a recent 3 game losing streak, they still hold the best record in the AHL and have a 6 point lead over Hershey. After a shut out loss to Manchester, Albany checks in with a 18-27-0-3 record and 39 points. They are just 2 points ahead of Adirondack for the basement of the division…and the league as a whole. The Devils are on a 4 game losing streak and have lost 7 of their last 10.

-Scoring: 3 of the top 6 Penguins scorers, including leading scorer Dustin Jeffrey (17 G, 28 A) are on recall to Pittsburgh. On the current roster, winger Nick Johnson leads the way with 37 points (19 G, 18 A), followed by Brett Sterling with 36 points (17 G, 19 A). The goaltending situation may be back to normal if Brad Thiessen returns from injury as expected. If not, John Curry and rookie Patrick Killeen make up the goalie tandem, Curry more than likely getting the start. On the home side…with a shut out last game no changes at the top. Matt Anderson still leads Devils skaters with 32 points (16 G, 16 A) followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). As long as no callups to New Jersey are necessary after Martin Brodeur tweaked his knee in Montreal on Sunday, I would assume Mike McKenna gets the nod in goal.

-Miscellaneous: This is the Devils’ third appearance in Atlantic City, where they are 1-1. It is a make up game from December 12th, when bad ice conditions at Boardwalk Hall forced a postponement. The Devils play one more time in New Jersey, February 27th against Norfolk.

UPDATE: Patrick Killeen has been returned to Wheeling, meaning that Brad Thiessen should be returning to the lineup for the Penguins. Martin Brodeur is not expected to play tomorrow in New Jersey, but hopefully the parent club will hold off on recalling a goalie (looks like McKenna to me) till after the game.

Game time 7 PM. I will be tweeting and following the AHL Live feed from home.

2 Home Games. 2 States. Same Freaking Result.

Sunday morning…and I think I see the sun…is that what it looks like?

First a little recap of what was…or wasn’t. Friday night the Devils traveled to a “home” game in Atlantic City against Hershey. First it didn’t feel much like a home game…3/4 of the audience were Bears fans making the 2 and a half hour trek (I think during some of the Bears broadcasts John Walton was advertising a hotel/game deal for those interested). But I will give the guys credit, despite a 5-3 loss, they were in it for most of the game. I chose to buy the video feed for this one just incase a second war on ice broke out…this time it was a little more subdued. Pierre Luc Leblond and Joel Rechlicz had round 3, I think Joel wanted to go a 4th time (what did Lukie do to him? I think they fought when it was Lowell/Albany a couple seasons ago when Joel was first getting started, I’ll have to look it up). But the most entertaining battle was one that never got off, Sheldon Souray took a run at Louis (presuming it was retribution for Louis knocking Dany Sabourin out for most of the rest of the regular season in the last meeting), suddenly you have a pileup in the corner. You see a bunch of guys grabbing at each other…then you see a red #22 crawling out from under the pile. You may all mock Louis as being a turtle, but in that case, it worked. He got off without a penalty and Souray ended up with a double minor for roughing. But of course the Devils couldn’t capitalize on the power play. Brian Willsie had two goals, the Bears went 3 for 5 on the power play, and the Devils just couldn’t keep up.

Fast forward to last night’s real home game against Manchester, the first place team from the Atlantic Division. With the Monarchs starting their All Star goaltender Martin Jones, I pretty much knew what was coming, but at least I hoped it would be competitive. Well…3 seconds in the party got started, Louis drops the gloves with Richard Clune and comes out a winner. Yes you read that right Louis didn’t duck, he took Clune down. Other than Leblond’s heavyweight bout with Justin Johnson and a Monarch checking the ref into the glass, that was about the only good things that happened. Despite the Devils outshooting the Monarchs 26-22 (a stat that shocked me because I didn’t notice most of them), Jones was a brick wall. Manchester won it 4-0. At one point the Devils had a 4 minute power play. One shot on goal in that 4 minutes. See, yelling “SHOOT!” never works people. I watched the Monarchs PK closely during each of the Devils power plays, the defense was all over whoever carried the puck at that time. Little hard to get a clear lane to shoot. Meanwhile, earlier in the day Adirondack shut out Hamilton 4-0 on the strength of Michael Leighton (just like old times for him) and a Denis Hamel hat trick. The Phantoms are now 2 points away from climbing out of the basement…and the Devils taking the worst of the worst spot. Now it’s panic time, and it’s not about to get any easier. Back to Atlantic City on Monday for a makeup with the Penguins, then at the end of the week it’s off to North Carolina for a three game road series against Charlotte. Looking at the Phantoms schedule, they travel to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and host Binghamton next Sunday. My feeling is if the Devils don’t wake up soon, they’ll be in the basement by the time they get home from Charlotte.

After the game last night was a harrowing experience for me. First we learn that the post game autograph session with the team was just for the Scout Sleepover participants. No problem, I’ll go home early considering the wild weather pattern in the area…sleet, freezing rain, rain, even some lightning and thunder in a few locations along with hail. It took forever to get out of the parking garage, turns out it was just plain rain. Making the 10 minute commute home was no problem. Then came actually getting home. I have to park across the street from my apartment building because the two way road is so narrow you cannot park on the left hand side. So I always have to cross the street no matter where the car is. The road and sidewalks looked slushy but there was water flowing down the hill so I figured okay no problem. I step into the puddle and right on an ice patch, and start to slip. I tried to grab onto a snowbank, dropping my purse and my keys. My keys didn’t make the snowbank, instead they fell into the puddle…and the water current picks it up and starts to carry it down the hill and it wasn’t stopping. I dropped my bag onto the porch and started trying to chase the keys. Well, the sidewalk was pretty much rain slicked ice so I was slipping but not falling. I jump into the snowbanks and start marching quickly through the snowbank, furiously trying to reach the keys, fearing they would fall into the sewer drain and that would be it. Luckily a snowball in the road stopped the keys from going further. After thrashing through a pile of snow past the building, I finally caught up to the keys resting place and grabbed them. Now to go back up hill to my porch. Grabbing on to the stairs, railings, etc. I make my way back to the porch and got into my house. Worst part was as I was getting ready for bed, I suddenly remembered I had two bags from my trip to Target earlier in the day still in the trunk. Oh well it can wait till I go out to do laundry and last minute Price Chopper run.

Today is just a relaxing Sunday, as long as I can walk outside. Get my usual Sunday stuff done, maybe check in on the Charlotte game online, then pretend I care about the Super Bowl. I’m in an office Super Bowl squares pool, hoping to repeat my halftime $50 win from last year. I have my snacks ready…baking steak fries with melted cheese (yum and I don’t care how many calories it is either), some nachos and I have a 12 pack of Pepsi in the fridge (sorry not a beer person…however I do have a bottle of wine to finish if I’m so inclined). As for my pick, I don’t really have one…the Giants aren’t in it, but I seem to have more Steeler fan friends than Packer fans, so for their sake I hope Pittsburgh does well. And one of my squares lines up so I can win some money.

Albany-Manchester Pregame Notes

A few things you may need to know before the Devils and Monarchs square off at Times Union Center:

-Season: This is the second and final meeting between the two teams. First meeting came back on November 26th in New Hampshire, a 7-2 Monarchs win.

-Standings: Manchester begins the day in first place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 30-16-1-4, good for 65 points and a 2 point lead over second place Portland. Albany starts the day in 7th place in the East Division with a record of 18-26-0-3, good for 39 points. They stand 1 point behind Syracuse and 4 points ahead of Adirondack.

-Scoring: Manchester is lead by All Star defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov with 37 points (12 G, 25 A) and forward Bud Holloway with 34 points (15 G, 19 A). The goaltending duties are split between rookie All Star Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff, Jones leading the way with 17 wins and 2 shutouts. Matt Anderson continues to pace the Devils in scoring with 32 points (16 G, 16 A) followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). Mike McKenna continues to hold onto the #1 goaltender spot with Jeff Frazee on the shelf after knee surgery. Frazee however is beginning to skate again, still some time before he returns.

-Miscellaneous: Couple of promotions tonight, first another post game autograph session on the concourse with the team. It is also Scout Sleepover night, with movies on the scoreboard, post game skate, etc.

Game time 7:00. I will be onhand with all the usual fun…

Albany-Hershey Pregame Notes

What you may need to know before the Devils and Bears take to the ice in Boardwalk Hall tonight:

-Season: This is the fourth of six meetings between the two teams this season, with the Bears holding a 3-0 edge. Last meeting was January 21st in Chocolatetown, a dominating 8-3 win by the Bears that saw the teams combine for 173 penalty minutes. After tonight, they face each other two more times in Hershey, on February 26th and March 26th.

-Standings: Hershey begins the day in second place in the East Division with a record of 29-14-1-2, good for 61 points. They stand 9 points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and 2 points ahead of Norfolk. A recent 6 game winning streak has moved the Bears position from as low as 4th up to the 2nd place slot. Albany stands in 6th place with a record of 18-25-0-3, good for 39 points. They are 1 point ahead of Syracuse and 4 points ahead of Adirondack, but 14 points behind 5th place Binghamton.

-Scoring: Hershey is lead by All Star Andrew Gordon and winger Brian Willsie, both with 44 points each (Gordon 21 G, 23 A; Willsie 19 G, 25 A) and ex-Rat captain Keith Aucoin with 43 points (12 G, 31 A). All-Star selection Braden Holtby (DNP in game due to injury) and Dany Sabourin share time in net, Sabourin leading the way with 14 wins. I’m guessing Sabourin will again be in net tonight, as he has started all 3 games again the Devils (and also due to Holtby’s injury). On the home side, All Star Matt Anderson continues to pace the Devils in scoring with 32 points (16 G, 16 A), followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). I do expect Mike McKenna to be back in net after Dave Caruso’s disasterous performance against Rochester on Saturday, but I wouldn’t rule out an appearance by Caruso at some point with a 3 game in 4 day stretch.

-Miscellaneous: This is a designated “home” game for Albany in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, the second of four appearances there for the Devils. First trip on December 5th they defeated Adirondack 4-2. The second game was scheduled December 12th against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but was postponed due to poor ice conditions. They will play the makeup on February 7th. The fourth game is scheduled for February 27th against Norfolk.

UPDATE: Per Hershey beat writer Tim Leone on Twitter, Sabourin is having knee surgery and is out 2-3 months. Something tells me the injury happened when Louis Robitaille ran him in January, he did appear to favor one leg but played through it. Todd Ford, who is up from their ECHL affiliate in South Carolina, is the scheduled starter with Holtby still out. The Bears have recalled Jared DeMichiel to be the backup.

Game time 7:00. I will be tweeting this one from home, and this time I think I’m ordering the video feed, for obvious reasons…

Snow Day! Take 2

Happy Groundhog Day!

As we all know by now, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning, which predicts an early spring. To that I answer, “DID YOU EVEN GO OUTSIDE YOU LITTLE RODENT?” I’ve already put a rodent threat as my Facebook status (and 6 people agree with me). Turns out the big storm that shut most everything down, including my office, wasn’t as potent as first thought. Looking out my window, it is actually not snowing or sleeting right now. In fact, I think I cleared more snow off my car yesterday afternoon leaving in between jobs than what’s on it right now. I can even see some of my street where tire tracks would drive over. So getting the car cleaned off and shoveled around won’t take too long later today…if I can motivate myself to go outside. And the worst part is there may be not one, but two more snow events coming over the next week. I don’t know how much more white stuff I can take, we’re running out of room to put it all! We’ll probably still have snowpiles melting in June at this rate.

Checked out the AHL All-Star festivities in Hershey Monday night on TV. I’m hoping one of these years to actually travel to one of these events. Sadly with the state of things in Albany they’ll never host one, even though they have the building capacity and the accommodations to do it. Anyway on to the observations:

-No matter how hard I try, I cannot hate Andrew Gordon anymore, despite the fact he’s a Hershey Bear.

-If I have to see the Hershey Sweetest Place on Earth tourism commercial one more time…hopefully March 26th we’ll see about that. That day I am planning (if the bus trip goes) on going with the Devils Booster Club to Hershey. Chocolate World stop included.

-Very cool to see Bryan Rodney use his patented slow down shootout move in the Skills Competition. How many times during shootouts here I saw him use that with success. But the play of that was Linus Klasen’s 360 spin move…he was acting like he did it all the time.

-Almost embarassing that Devil Dawg didn’t show up for the mascot events. I mean, seriously, Hawkey from Abbotsford and Chubby from Charlotte made the trip, but ours couldn’t make the 4 hour trek? Even Dax the newbie from Adirondack showed up. Yes I’m ranting on mascots, but it’s a big marketing thing for the league.

-State of the League address is always something I like to read about. Having 2 refs for every game in the future could work…as long as you don’t pair two people who share half a brain (I’m looking at you, Chris Brown and…well, every other one with probably the one exception Jeff Smith). I’m really hoping replay does come into play soon, especially after some of the questionable goal calls I’ve seen at the TU Center over the past couple of years (thanks Nygel Pelletier and Ian Croft). And I doubt Allentown is popping up on the radar anytime soon for the Phantoms.

Looking at my February schedule…compared to January, it’s not looking too busy for me. Only hitting the TU Center 3 times this month, with 3 “home” games in Atlantic City. I do have at least one road trip planned to Springfield on February 25th (of course that’s weather permitting the way this winter is going), possibly a second depending on the work schedule. Looks like a lot of time spent on the computer for games for me (finally I found a way to work from home! haha).