The Devils continued their season long 5 game road trip this week with a tough 3 in 3 stretch, in two different states and leaving the country. Unlike last week’s 0-fer, this weekend was the exact opposite, a perfect 6 for 6 in standings points. Let’s rewind:
2/10 at Hamilton: 4-2 W
For the second time this season, the Devils ventured into Canada, this time to face the Bulldogs. First period was all Devils, as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a power play goal by Steve Zalewski and a 4 on 4 goal by Chad Wiseman. Nathan Perkovich padded the Devil lead with another power play goal 3 minutes into the second. Then the Bulldogs started a rally against Keith Kinkaid, scoring twice in a span of 2:01 to get Hamilton back to within one. The saying I always see is “a 3 goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey.” On this night, it almost looked like that could happen. But Kinkaid shut the door on the Bulldogs, stopping all 5 Hamilton shots in the third (including some possible game changers). The Devils special teams came up big late, killing off a 5 on 3 with about 2 minutes left in the game. Nick Palmieri sealed the win with an empty net goal with 45 seconds left. Kinkaid stopped 26 of 28 shots in the win, while Zalewski and Peter Harrold contributed two assists.
2/11 at Syracuse: 4-1 W
The North American tour continued Saturday night in Syracuse against the Crunch. Timo Pielmeier earned his first Devil start of the season against his former team…and started out on the wrong foot, er, skate. Just 1:33 into the game Kyle Palmieri (no relation to Nick) scores for the early 1-0 Crunch lead. Usually a quick start by the opponent dooms the game, but not on this night. The Devils got on the board thanks to a fluke play while on the penalty kill. Syracuse goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers went to play the puck and left the net, but the puck bounced right to Vladimir Zharkov who tapped it in the empty net. About five minutes later, while on the power play, Stephane Veilleux gave the Devils a 2-1 lead. Third period Albany took over, as Mattias Tedenby scored his first AHL goal of the season on a breakaway for an insurance goal, and Nathan Perkovich sealed it with an empty netter with 32 seconds left. Pielmeier was outstanding in net despite the early goal, stopping 37 of 38 shots and earning #2 star of the game honors. Nice sendoff for the #3 goalie with Jeff Frazee’s imminent return from New Jersey.
2/12 at Providence: 3-1 W
To finish the weekend, the Devils traveled east to Rhode Island for their second matchup of the season against the Bruins. And things started in a hurry for the boys in red. 14 seconds into their first power play opportunity and 3:30 into the game, Stephane Veilleux put the Devils on the board with his second power play goal in as many games. About three minutes later, the Devils caught a lucky break, as the puck bounced off a Bruin’s skate and somehow got past goalie Anton Khudobin for a 2-0 lead (goal ended up credited to Tim Sestito). Despite being run into his net, Keith Kinkaid recovered nicely and stopped all 11 Providence shots in the first. Second period was mostly incident free…no goals across and the Bruins outshot the Devils 14-6…but then the chippiness took over, as Kinkaid was again run into his own net, then Brad Mills and Dan Kelly had bouts less than two minutes apart late in the period. Third period the Bruins tried to make things interesting…Jamie Tardif broke up Kinkaid’s shutout with less than 5 minutes left to make it a 1 goal game. But for the third straight game, the Devils snagged an empty netter (this time it was Vladimir Zharkov) for an insurance marker. Providence was awarded a penalty shot with just 6 seconds on the clock, but Kinkaid denied Trent Whitfield to seal the win. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots and took home #1 star honors.
-Jeff Frazee was officially reassigned to Albany earlier today after filling in for one game as backup to Johan Hedberg while Martin Brodeur recovered from an ankle injury. Timo Pielmeier was listed as a scratch in Providence, but the official reassignment to Elmira should happen in a day or so.
-Injury update: Matt Corrente finally returned to the lineup Friday night after sitting out since late December. Jay Leach, Matt Anderson and J.S. Berube remain out. Stephen Gionta sat out the weekend, not sure if it’s because of injury or staying with his family.
Finally, the Devils have a homestand coming up this week. Actually, the only three home games this month are all this week. Wednesday comes a rematch with Syracuse (2nd of 3 games in a 2 week stretch between the two teams). Saturday night the Penguins make their first trip of the season here, and a big crowd may be in the works…Stephen Gionta bobblehead giveaway, Scout Sleepover, Scooby Doo appearance, and $5/$10 tix from Time Warner Cable are the specials. Then it’s a quick turnaround to face Binghamton Sunday afternoon. The big question is, which Devils team will show up: the team that was swept last weekend in Connecticut and Wilkes-Barre, or the team that dominated this weekend? Only six points behind a guaranteed playoff spot (otherwise known as first place in the division), three points behind for the last spot in the Eastern Conference. The more points, the better.