Another pretty successful weekend in the books for the Devils. For the second week in a row, they snagged 5 out of a possible 6 points and played strong hockey to boot. Time to rewind…
11/11 vs. Norfolk: 2-1 W
The Admirals came calling for the second Friday in a row, and it was yet another goaltending/defensive battle. And unlike last week, the scoring came early. Late in the first period, Stephen Gionta and Matt Taormina scored 1:16 apart on goaltender Jaroslav Janus to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. Keith Kinkaid turned in another outstanding effort, stopping 24 of 25 shots (the only blemish courtesy of a Cory Conacher power play goal with just under 4 minutes left in the second period). Unlike last week where only one penalty was called the entire evening (thank you Jeff Smith), this matchup was, shall we say, a little more chippy. Quite a few incidents of pushing and shoving at the net, at the bench, in the corner…but only one outright fight, a good bout between Darcy Zajac and Radko Gudas (just out of the box for an interference call after a pileup in the corner). Kinkaid was even getting a little feisty towards the end of the game…but he kept his gloves on.
11/12 at Syracuse: 1-0 W
For only the fourth time this season, the Devils hit the road, heading west on the Thruway for the first of 10 matchups against the Crunch. At the last minute I decided to make the trip out there…and I am very glad that I did. The story of the night was the goaltenders duel between Jeff Frazee (I was a little surprised to see him start to be honest, especially after Kinkaid’s performance the night before) and Crunch rookie Iiro Tarkki. Very quiet first period, only one penalty called and Albany outshot their hosts 9-5. Second period was all Albany, as they outshot Syracuse 20-8 and figured out how to get one past Tarkki. Nathan Perkovich scored his first of the year on a power play with about 9 minutes left in the second period. And Frazee made it stand up, as he stopped all 20 shots en route to his first shutout of the season. But Tarkki was no slouch in defeat either…he stopped 36 of 37 shots, some of the acrobatic variety. He was actually awarded the #1 star of the game despite taking the loss.
11/13 vs. Toronto: 4-3 L (OT)
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Marlies visited the Times Union Center. Unlike the last two days, the Devils got off on the wrong foot on this one. Toronto took an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal by Ryan Hamilton. The rest of the period was filled with some chippiness and a few missed calls by Jamie Koharski (stop me if you’ve heard that story before). Second period the Devils picked up the pace…Steve Bernier scored his second goal of the season (both shorthanded by the way, the only two Devil SHG scored so far) to tie it up at 1. Hamilton scored his second of the day less than 2 minutes later to give the visitors the lead right back. About 3 missed Koharski calls later (I tweeted Toronto must have paid him off with Tim Hortons), Nathan Perkovich scored his second goal in as many days to retie the game. Less than 3 minutes later Matt Anderson gave the Devils a 3-2 lead going into second intermission. Third period the Marlies retied the game on a Marcel Mueller goal…and Koharski missed more calls. The Devils couldn’t take the lead back, sending the game into overtime. 2 minutes into the extra session, prospect Nazem Kadri took advantage of a defensive turnover, took off on a breakaway, and banged it past Keith Kinkaid (who had another solid outing in stopping 31 of 35 shots) to give Toronto the OT victory. However, with the point earned for the overtime loss, and with Adirondack being idle and Connecticut losing in regulation to St. John’s, the Devils claimed sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division. I don’t think I can remember the last time an Albany team held on to first place…but trust me I am definitely not complaining.
-Friday morning Vladimir Zharkov was recalled to New Jersey to fill in for Ilya Kovalchuk, out with a leg injury. With the goaltending situation returned to normal, Maxime Clermont was sent back to Kalamazoo.
-Tim Sestito returned to the lineup on Saturday after finishing up his 5 game suspension. And so far he’s behaving, only one minor penalty in 2 games.
-The defensive corps has taken a slight injury hit…Jay Leach sat out the weekend with an undisclosed injury, and now Matt Corrente is out with a shoulder injury. This finally gave rookie Brandon Burlon some playing time, he appeared in all 3 games and didn’t miss a step. Stephane Veilleux and Mike Hoeffel remain out of the lineup.
After so many home games to start out, the Devils hit the road for the next 4 games. But only 1 game on the schedule this week, a Saturday night matchup in Hershey against the Bears. This game will be a big test to see how far this team has come from its early struggles. If they can continue their strong defensive play of late, this could make for a very good night.