Happy New Year! Goodbye 2011, hello 2012. The long week for the Devils has mercifully come to an end, and it wasn’t a successful one, taking only 2 out of a possible 8 points and losing some ground in the division standings. Get comfortable, grab another cup of coffee (or your hangover remedy), because here comes the week that was:
12/26 at Binghamton: 8-3 L
It was right back to work for the boys as they traveled west the day after Christmas to complete the home and home with the Senators. It was kind of obvious almost from the beginning that physically the team was there, but mentally still coming back from a break. Mike Hoffman, just back from making his NHL debut with Ottawa right before Christmas, gets a partial breakaway and puts it past Keith Kinkaid (your reigning AHL Player of the Week) for a 1-0 advantage just 2:20 in. The Devils did start to show some signs of life, actually outshooting the Sens 15-10 during the first, then snagging a 2-1 lead early in the second on goals by Eric Gelinas and Mike Sislo (Sislo’s on the power play). Then the wheels came off and the Senators takeover began. Four different Senators scored 4 unanswered goals (only one was a power play goal, from former River Rat captain Tim Conboy) to take a 5-2 lead into the second intermission. The trend continued into the third as Stephane Da Costa added his second of the game early on for a 6-2 lead, prompting a call to the bullpen for newly minted backup Timo Pielmeier, making his Devil debut. He was promptly greeted less than a minute in with a Corey Cowick goal to make it 7-2 (and the extra point is good…sorry). Joe Whitney scored with 12 minutes left to make it a 7-3 game, then Da Costa finished off his first pro hat trick with less than 5 minutes left to finish off the scoring. The only good stat to come out of this? The total shots on goal. Despite the score, the Devils did manage to outshoot Binghamton 39-32.
12/27 at Connecticut: 3-2 L
The road trip continued into Hartford for a matchup against the division leading Whale. I was not around to listen in to this one (thanks to work…don’t the schedule makers know I work Tuesdays?), so here’s the boxscore. Like the night before, the Whale were quick on the board in the first period, scoring early on against Kinkaid (in an attempt at redemption…a little better than last game, but not enough for the win), then adding a second goal late in the first. By mid second period, the Devils found themselves in a 3-0 hole before starting a comeback. Eric Gelinas and Stephane Veilleux scored successive power play goals to get back to within one, but couldn’t get the equalizer. It wasn’t due to lack of chances though…Albany continued its trend of outshooting its opponent, this time it was a 37-27 advantage.
12/30 vs. Manchester: 5-4 L (OT)
The lone home game of the week against the last opponent the Devils had yet to face this year, Manchester. Once again the pattern of slow first period starts continued. Former Phantom Stefan Legein scored just 1:42 into the first on a power play for an early 1-0 advantage. The Devils didn’t even register their first shot on goal till the first period was more than halfway over. Meanwhile the Manchester offensive onslaught continued on Keith Kinkaid, adding two more goals (both power play tallies) to carry a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. The Devils did start to wake up slightly despite that, outshooting Manchester 9-3 after finally taking their first shot (for the period it was 10-9 Monarchs). Second period the Devils finally played like the team we saw last week before the break, scoring three times (one goal the first professional tally for Brandon Burlon, another a short handed goal by Vladimir Zharkov) and holding Manchester to just 3 shots on goal. But one of them did get past Kinkaid, giving the Monarchs a 4-3 advantage after 2 periods. The Devils completed the comeback in the third period on Zharkov’s second goal of the night, then staved off a 4 minute double minor very late in the period to send the game to overtime and salvage a point. But just 1:15 in, a defensive lapse allowed Manchester’s Linden Vey to score the game winner and give the Monarchs a 5-4 win. I give the team a lot of credit in this one, the game appeared pretty much over based on the first period, but they didn’t give up and actually got a point out of it.
12/31 at Adirondack: 2-1 L (OT)
The Devils finished off the week–and the calendar year–with a visit north to Glens Falls to face the Phantoms. Unlike the last matchup in November, it started off as a defensive battle. Albany managed to kill off 3 Phantom power play chances but were outshot 7-6. Second period started out with more of the same, until rookie Jason Akeson finally solved Keith Kinkaid with a power play goal 10 and a half minutes into the second. The goaltending duel between Kinkaid and Jason Bacashihua (sigh of relief from me to not have to see Michael Leighton between the pipes) continued into the third, then the Devils finally tied it up late thanks to the third goal in two days from Vladimir Zharkov. After a few very close calls towards the end, the game managed to get to overtime. In the extra session, the Phantoms dominated, outshooting the Devils 4-0 and snagging the game winner about halfway through thanks to Mike Testuwide, who then proceeded to Tebow as a goal celebration (fact: he is a Colorado native, so I would assume he’s a Bronco fan. I’ll give him the pass to do so). Despite the loss, again Albany managed to outshoot the opponent, this time 27-22.
-Only a couple of player moves this week. Harry Young was reassigned to Kalamazoo last Thursday, but wasn’t officially announced till the beginning of the week (he was actually listed as a scratch Monday night in Binghamton). Alexander Urbom returned to Albany on Thursday after appearing in 5 games with New Jersey, scoring a goal on the 23rd against Washington. Matt Taormina and Tim Sestito remain on recall.
-Injury updates: The defense corps is quite banged up at the moment, with Matt Corrente the latest to rejoin the sidelines after being injured in Tuesday’s game just as Dan Kelly returned to the lineup (sporting a full face cage). Jay Leach remains out indefinitely as well. Now Chad Wiseman is out with a lower body injury, he joins Steve Bernier (hand) as the injured forwards. Jeff Frazee came back last night to backup Kinkaid in Adirondack, it shouldn’t be long before he gets another turn in net.
Compared to last week’s 4 games in 6 days, this week is a little quieter. But not any easier. Only two games on the docket, but both on the road in Norfolk against the Admirals on Friday and Saturday night. If the first two matchups (both wins by Albany) are any indication, expect a defensive battle or a goaltending duel. Or now that I say that, complete blowouts. Only 9 games all month for the Devils, nearing the season halfway point already…it’s time to start stepping it up.