It’s been a busy couple of days transaction wise as both sets of Devils prepare for road trips. To get you caught up:
-On Tuesday Keith Kinkaid was recalled to New Jersey after Martin Brodeur had to be placed on IR due to a sore back. The injury flared up before Sunday’s game against Winnipeg. He came out first to warm up, but left the ice early. Johan Hedberg went in and took the loss. Brodeur is not eligible to return until at least Monday, so Kinkaid will be available for at least the first two games of the trip, Thursday in Winnipeg and Saturday in Buffalo. Albany has yet to call up a replacement goaltender, so we shall see by Friday evening whether Maxime Clermont returns or if we finally get to see Scott Wedgewood in action.
-Before New Jersey left for Winnipeg, it was tossed around that a center would be recalled for the trip for the fourth line with Stefan Matteau still banged up. Jacob Josefson had been recalled Sunday to fill in, but was sent right back down on Monday. So the question was, who would get the call? This morning came the answer…Tim Sestito was recalled for the first time and is with the team in Winnipeg. And my Twitter feed promptly exploded with energy jokes. Not sure how long Sestito will stay up there, with Ryan Carter about ready to return to the lineup.
-I did get a Mattias Tedenby update while at the monthly Booster Club meeting last night, courtesy of the two player guest speakers Eric Gelinas and J.S. Berube. He came to the team practice earlier that day in Lansingburgh (at the alternate practice location…high school basketball tourney set up at the arena right now), still sporting a bandage over the side of his face. And he was “bored out of his mind,” quoting Gelinas. He is expected to go down to New Jersey for evaluation, so I likely won’t see him again until he returns to the lineup.
Sunday was my annual excursion to the Prudential Center to see the parent Devils play Winnipeg. As a season ticket holder here, one of our perks is a free ticket to a selected NJ game (since the big club owns the AHL club, they can do that). This was my third time at The Rock, and this year I did something different: instead of taking a bus the Booster Club provided, I decided to make the drive myself and take the train to Newark, as quite a few others do. Since I do it when I go to Yankee games, why not try it for a Devils game? Now to review my day as a “callup” so to speak:
-Fun game to play while you’re driving down Route 17 towards Route 3 and the Meadowlands: how many Dunkin Donuts can you pass? We lost count after 10.
-My first experience on NJ Transit. Similar to the Metro North in New York City but with double decker cars. Pretty fair price (8 dollar round trip from Secaucus Junction to Newark Penn) considering the alternative ($20 to park 2 blocks from the arena and get stuck in postgame traffic…um I’ll pass).
-For those who have never been to downtown Newark…one word to describe it? Ghetto. Just walk one block or so away from The Rock and you’ll turn right back around.
-Pregame meal? Good luck finding a table at a restaurant without having to wait at least an hour. Thank God for the Dinosaur BBQ takeout counter. Didn’t suck having a pregame picnic at Championship Plaza.
As far as the actual game:
-The two referees from the game? Both former AHL refs, Francis Charron and Mike Leggo. Saw them both during the River Rats days. And they’re apparently still just as bad as back in the day.
-Number of Zajac brothers I’ve seen score this season? 3. Now to get to Colorado and complete the family hat trick (plus 1).
-So is Krys Barch just there for the occasional entertainment if the first period is boring? Just wondering. At least Cam is getting actual ice time down here.
-You know it was a long day for the parent club when the postgame fireworks show outside seemed to get more applause…and those that came down from Albany were wishing they went to Atlantic City instead.
Despite the loss, I had a great time. Just being in and around a major league enviroment is always fun for me. Especially when you look out onto the ice and see players you’ve met, supported, and befriended over the years as they were getting their careers started.
After a very disappointing showing last week, the Devils were looking to finish the month of February not on a losing streak. And they proceeded to do just that, earning 4 out of 6 points and not losing any ground in the race for the last few Eastern Conference playoff spots. Time to review:
The Devils had a quick turnaround after losing to Binghamton in a shootout the afternoon before…and their week wasn’t starting easy, as they had to face the Crunch, a team that gave them their most lopsided loss of the season just 5 days earlier. Dana Tyrell and Tyler Johnson scored 34 seconds apart halfway through the first for a quick 2-0 lead…here we go again, right? Not so fast. Mike Sislo would put Albany on the board with a power play goal after newly acquired Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins (making his first start since coming over from Hamilton) was outright robbing the Devils on a couple of beautiful saves. Second period saw nothing across, as far as goals or even penalties…probably the most uneventful period of the season (the Devils did outshoot Syracuse 6-5). But in the third the Crunch would pull away, thanks to one player. Johnson would score his second of the day 4 minutes into the third for a 3-1 lead. But Steve Zalewski would answer 4 minutes later to pull the deficit back to one. But on a power play later in the period Johnson would complete the hat trick for a 4-2 advantage. But the Devils weren’t done just yet, as Jacob Josefson scored in his first game back since being sent down from New Jersey the day before to bring the game to within 4-3. At that point there was just 1:32 left in regulation for the Devils to get that tying goal. But a mad scramble in front of the Crunch net came up empty, and Brett Connolly would get an empty netter with 3 seconds left to seal the Crunch win and the Devils 4th loss in a row. Much better showing out of Keith Kinkaid this time around against Syracuse–he stopped 20 of 24 shots–but still not enough for a win. Alexander Urbom added two assists.
To start the weekend slate, it was back to Binghamton for the second time in 13 days to face the Senators. Once again, the penalty kill had some struggles, as Binghamton scored on its first two power plays. Mark Borowiecki would start the scoring 5 minutes in just 1 minute into the first kill for a 1-0 lead. Joe Whitney would answer with a goal of his own 53 seconds later to tie the game. But the Sens would take the lead back on a Jean-Gabriel Pageau power play tally 6 minutes later. Second period saw Shane Prince give the Sens a 3-1 lead just 1:12 in. But then the Devils would come out flying, outshooting Binghamton 21-12 and rallying to take the lead. Steve Zalewski would cut the deficit to 1. Then less than 5 minutes later Mike Sislo would tie the game at 3. To finish the period off, Whitney scored his second of the night to put the Devils ahead 4-3. Phil DeSimone would add an insurance goal halfway through the third period to make it a 5-3 game. Finally a good night in goal for Jeff Frazee, as he stopped 36 of 39 shots to pick up just his 5th win of the season. Matt Anderson added two assists, while Harri Pesonen and Raman Hrabarenka each added a helper.
While myself and a good chunk of the season ticket holder base were at the Rock (more on that to come), the other Devils made their final visit of the season to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall to take on the Bears for the first time since the end of December. Mike Hoeffel scored his third halfway through the first period, then Joe Whitney would add his 15th less than 3 minutes later for a 2-0 Albany lead. Mike Sislo would add his fifth goal just 9 seconds into the second for a 3-0 advantage…then the Bears started to rally. Ryan Potulny and Casey Wellman scored 6 minutes apart to cut the Devil lead to 3-2. But Whitney would score his second of the game on a power play with just over a minute to go in the second to put the Devils back up 4-2. Sislo added his second of the game 3 and a half minutes into the third for a 5-2 lead. But again Hershey would respond, as Wellman scored his second of the game exactly 1 minute later to make it 5-3. Ryan Stoa added a power play goal less than 3 minutes later to cut the deficit to 1. But Matt Anderson would snag a much needed insurance goal with just under 7 minutes remaining to seal the Devil win. The 6 goal outburst tied their highest of the season (6 goals were also scored on December 12th, 4 by Bobby Butler). Keith Kinkaid earned the win and stopped 22 of 26 Bear shots. Phil DeSimone added 3 assists, while Anderson and Steve Zalewski each had two helpers. And a very good day for the defense…Dan Kelly and Eric Gelinas each finished a +4.
And now for the newest feature of the weekly recap, The Obligatory Cam Janssen Fight of the Week:
-Good news on Mattias Tedenby: he was finally released from Glens Falls Hospital on Saturday. He is expected to go back to New Jersey after a few days of rest here to be evaluated further. No timetable has been given on when he could return to the lineup. The only other injuries of note are Jay Leach and Scott Parse (both lower body), no updates on when either will return.
-This week on the Albany/New Jersey/Trenton shuttle: On Thursday, Kelly Zajac, J.S. Berube, and Harry Young were all reassigned to Trenton, presumably to get in some playing time with the two game road swing. On Sunday Jacob Josefson was recalled to New Jersey after Ryan Carter was placed on IR. Young was recalled from Trenton (and of course he didn’t play). Then earlier today Zajac and Berube were recalled from Trenton and Josefson returned to Albany after playing in Sunday’s game against Winnipeg. Got all that?
We have reached the month of March…and it’s going to be a very busy month, with 3-in-3 weekends all month long. The month begins Friday night with a visit to Syracuse to face the Crunch for the third time in 18 days. Saturday it’s south down Interstate 81 to Wilkes-Barre to take on the Penguins. Then it’s a quick turnaround for a Sunday afternoon matchup up north against Adirondack.
After a successful weekend, the Devils were looking to keep the strong play alive in rematches against two teams and a familiar opponent. Well…that didn’t go so well, as the team only earned 1 out of 6 points and saw a very scary injury to an important member of the offense. Yes we still have to look back:
The week began with a visit from Syracuse, fresh off a frustrating weekend at the hands of the Devils on Saturday and the Phantoms on Sunday afternoon. And they found just the right time to channel all that energy. You know it’s going to be one of those nights when this happens just 8 seconds into the contest:
During that same sequence, the Devils found themselves on a penalty kill. And it only took 37 seconds for Mark Barberio to score for a 1-0 lead. It was quite the first period struggle, as it took the Devils till almost halfway through the period to even register a shot on goal, while already killing off 2 additional power plays. Then of course there’s Cam Janssen with the entertainment factor:
Moving on to the second period…let’s just say the operative word is ugly. To kick things off, you had fight #3 of the evening, this time Chris McKelvie stepped in the ring. Then the defensive…or more appropriately, special teams wheels…started to fall off. Dmitry Korobov and Radko Gudas would score power play goals just 37 seconds apart for a 3-0 Crunch lead. Dana Tyrell would break away shorthanded 7 minutes later and score on Keith Kinkaid make it 4-0. But wait, there’s more: J.T. Wyman would add the fourth power play goal of the night 4 minutes later to make it 5-0. And finally, to end it, Mike Angelidis would score shorthanded with 16 seconds left in the period for the touchdown…er, 6-0 advantage. The Crunch scored 5 times in the second period, on just 7 shots. And the amazing part is the Devils actually outshot them 10-7, but absolutely could get nothing past Riku Helenius. Third period saw the first goaltender call to the bullpen all season, as Jeff Frazee stepped in for the third period. Things got started in a hurry, as we had a rematch:
This was probably the only good period out of the Devils all evening. First of all, they finally kept the Crunch off the scoreboard, as Frazee went a perfect 6 for 6. But the penalties continued to pile on, and with that so did a lot of frustration, as the Devils just could not manage to get anything going. Tim Sestito would do what he does best late in the game…take a penalty, open his mouth to the referee…exit stage left. And then, just for good measure, one more bout on ice, the second of the night for McKelvie. Helenius would pitch the shutout, stopping all 24 Devil shots. In trying to find something, anything, positive, about this one…the Devils actually outshot the Crunch 24-22. Not a very good night for Kinkaid, stopping 10 of 16. As for the special teams? Ouch: 0 for 6 power play, 6 for 10 on the penalty kill.
It was back north to Glens Falls for the Devils on Friday night, facing the Phantoms for the 9th time on the season. There was a little dejavu in the first period, as the opponent got off to a fast start. Andrew Johnston scored less than 2 minutes into the game for a very early 1-0 advantage. But 39 seconds later, while on the penalty kill, the Devils just slid one past Scott Munroe (which a video review confirmed) to tie it. At the time, Darcy Zajac was credited with the shorthanded goal. Meanwhile, at almost the same time in New Jersey, his older brother Travis was scoring 40 seconds into the parent Devils game against the Flyers. But the official scorer killed off the coincidence and later gave Chris McKelvie the goal. The power play continued till about a minute later when Brandon Manning took the lead back for Adirondack. But three minutes later Harri Pesonen would retie the game. Less than 5 minutes later Rob Bordson would put the Phantoms ahead 3-2. Other than that, a rather quiet first period that saw Albany outshoot the Phantoms 13-12. No goals across during the second, but the Devils once again would outshoot their hosts 10-6, Jeff Frazee settled down nicely after a shaky first. The story of the game would occur 8 minutes into the third, on one of the more scary moments I’ve seen live since I started going to games. A collision in front of the Phantoms net caused Manning’s skate to hit the face of Mattias Tedenby. I could clearly tell right away something was very wrong when he stayed down and was hesitant to move. That’s when I saw a gush of blood hit the ice surface, you could see a red trail from the net. And to add literal insult to injury, referee Trent Knorr penalized him for goaltender interference. Things got chippy late in the game, when after a hit on Jason Akeson we had a double fight card: Tim Sestito took on Ian Slater while Zajac took on Manning. Unfortunately that was all the Devils could muster up, as the Phantoms added an empty netter with 1:15 to go to seal the deal. Not a blowout like Wednesday night, but still a frustrating loss nonetheless. Frazee played well despite the first period, stopping 27 of 30 shots. Dan Kelly added two assists.
The weekend finished with the second straight Sunday matchup with the Senators, this time on home ice. Unlike the last two games, it was the Devils who got things started in a hurry. Corbin McPherson scored just 29 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Devil lead. The lead wouldn’t last, however, thanks in part to Tim Sestito. He took a slashing penalty, then ended up with an extra unsportsmanlike conduct after being a Sestito and opening his mouth to the referee, as he normally does. Ten seconds after the call, Cole Schneider would tie the game at 1 all. Second period the Devils would dominate in shots, 14-4, but it was Binghamton who took the lead early in the period on a Louie Caporusso goal. After that both teams would settle in and it was a normal Albany struggle…they would take shot after shot but nothing goes in the net. Finally, with less than 5 minutes in regulation, the equalizer would come, off the stick of Steve Zalewski to tie it at 2. When overtime wasn’t able to settle things, it was off to the Devils’ 11th shootout of the season. Mike Sislo scored in round 1 to get things started, but he was the only successful shooter. Binghamton would match his goal in the 4th round then score again in the 6th round to snag the extra standings point and hand the Devils their 9th shootout loss on the year (is that a league record? Just curious). Keith Kinkaid was snakebitten yet again, as he had a solid day in net stopping 24 of 26 shots. Three Devils each contributed one assist.
-Andrei Loktionov took a turn on the Albany to New Jersey shuttle this week, getting the call Wednesday afternoon to fill in for an injured Dainius Zubrus. Then he returned to upstate New York Thursday after New Jersey re-acquired forward Alexei Ponikarovsky from Winnipeg, but only to return to New Jersey on Sunday, swapping spots with Jacob Josefson, who had been struggling as of late.
-Harry Young has once again returned to Albany from Kalamazoo, but this time he’s up as a defenseman. The forward conversion experiment seems to be put on hold.
-Injury update: David Wohlberg made his return to the lineup Wednesday night after sitting out the past few weeks. Jay Leach has joined the walking wounded ranks, sitting out a week to 10 days with a lower body injury. Scott Parse sat out as a precaution the last two games with his hip. And no timetable has been set for Mattias Tedenby’s return.
The Week Ahead:
3 games on tap for this week. Monday afternoon it’s a Presidents Day matinee rematch with Syracuse. Then the team is off till Saturday evening, when they make their second visit of the month to Binghamton to take on the Senators. Then it’s back one last time to Atlantic City on Sunday afternoon for a matchup with the Bears.
On a side note…on Sunday I will be making my annual trek with the Albany STHs to The Rock for the Winnipeg game!