Only 3 home games on the schedule this month for the Devils, and they were all scheduled in one week. They did manage a 2-1 record, but the way things started out…well, read below and you’ll see what I mean:
2/15 vs. Syracuse: 7-1 L
The week at home started off with a weekend rematch against the Crunch. The schedule may have said there was a game, but the boys must have forgotten. To be fair, it started off innocently enough. Midway through the 1st period the Crunch got a lucky shot on Keith Kinkaid that rolled slowly just past him and over the line for the early 1-0 lead (goal was credited to J.F. Jacques). 35 seconds later, the Devils would get the equalizer thanks to Darcy Zajac. Overall the period wasn’t so bad, the Devils did manage to outshoot the Crunch 13-10. Second period the Crunch took over the game and never looked back. Former River Rat Bryan Rodney opened the scoring 3 minutes into the period to put the Crunch ahead 2-1. Patrick Maroon added a power play marker 5 minutes later to boost the lead to 3-1, and Matt Smaby made it 4-1 under 3 minutes later. This prompted a change in goalies: Keith Kinkaid exits stage left, enter Jeff Frazee. He shut down the Crunch offense for the remainder of the period. Third period the Crunch blew the game wide open, as All Star Kyle Palmieri (for the last time he and Nick are NOT related) scored twice and Maroon added his second of the game to make it a 7-1 advantage. Despite the Devils outshooting the Crunch 31-29, they could not get anything going against newly acquired Crunch goalie Antero Niittymaki. The loss was the most lopsided one of the season.
2/18 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 3-0 W
The Devils were looking to rebound against one of the top teams in the conference, a Penguin team that had struggled a bit as of late. First period turned into a goaltending duel between Jeff Frazee and the Penguins’ Brad Thiessen…no scoring but the visitors did outshoot the Devils 9-7. In the second, more of the same on both sides, until Eric Gelinas finally broke the scoreless tie with just under 6 minutes left. Then with under 2 minutes left came the momentum shifter…fresh out of the penalty box after serving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (read: arguing with the refs again), Tim Sestito broke away towards the net, only to be (supposedly) brought down by Penguin (and former River Rat) defenseman Joey Mormina. He was awarded a penalty shot on the play, and made it a successful one for a 2-0 Devil advantage. Jeff Frazee shut the door on the Penguins after that, despite a few close calls. Gelinas added an empty netter late in the third period to seal the victory, only the second time in Devil history that they defeated the Penguins (both wins coming this season). The other headline of this game? Another big attendance day, over 8100 on hand (I detect a pattern…draw at least 8000, get a 3-0 shutout win) to witness this one.
2/19 vs. Binghamton: 4-2 W
The Devils wrapped up the brief February home schedule with a matchup against the Senators. First period it was Binghamton getting things rolling early against Keith Kinkaid. Pat Cannone and Mark Borowiecki (on a lucky bounce over Kinkaid’s shoulder and over the red line into the net) scored for a 2-0 B-Sen advantage. Then late in the first came another Devil hit knocking out a Senator (for the third time in seven games between the two teams this season), a hit by Nathan Perkovich knocked B-Sens captain Mark Parrish down for the count. He was able to skate off but did not return to the game. Second period, the Devils took over the game, outshooting the Senators 19-9 and scoring three times. Mike Sislo scored his eighth of the season just 5 minutes into the period to cut the deficit to 1. Steve Zalewski tied it during the Devils third power play chance of the period with 5 and a half minutes left, then Vladimir Zharkov gave the Devils the lead for good over two minutes later on a fluke shot that just trickled past former teammate Mike McKenna. Zharkov then added an empty netter (the fifth in the last six games for the Devils) with just seconds left in the game to seal the win. Kinkaid rebounded quite nicely after a shaky start on Wednesday and an equally shaky first period, stopping 27 of 29 shots, while Joe Whitney contributed 3 assists.
-I am designating Myles Stoesz as the official yo-yo player of this year’s team. Wednesday he was reassigned to Trenton, where he did manage to get into 2 games. Saturday he was recalled to Albany so J.S. Berube could go down to the Titans to play in Elmira (he proceeded to produce a hat trick in an 8-1 Trenton win), but of course did not play in either weekend game. Berube was recalled earlier today and played this afternoon. Peter Harrold was recalled on Saturday just before the game and is playing in Montreal against the Canadiens (paired with Matt Taormina by the way).
-Injury update: Jay Leach and Matt Anderson, still out. Stephen Gionta has an ankle injury, no timetable on when he’ll be back. I should also mention that he became a father for the second time last week with the birth of son Noah. Chad Wiseman did sit out on Sunday, not sure as of yet what the situation is there.
A busy four game road trip lies ahead for the Devils. It starts early tomorrow in Bridgeport for a Presidents Day matinee against the Sound Tigers. Then another 3 in 3 road weekend: Friday night it’s back to Syracuse to hopefully avenge the 6 goal thrashing from Wednesday against the Crunch. Saturday night they make their only trip to Manchester this season to face the Monarchs. Then Sunday afternoon it’s back to Bridgeport for the second time in 6 days. 2 big divisional games and 2 conference games…and standing one point out of a playoff spot. Here’s hoping Wednesday’s game was just a fluke and what we saw Saturday and Sunday continues.
And I should mention…next Sunday I (along with some other A-Devil season ticket holders) will be coming down to the Rock for Devils-Lightning. Very much looking forward to this trip and seeing everyone (okay, namely Adam Henrique), maybe meeting those that follow me (and others I follow).