Another weekend, another 3 games in 3 days schedule for the Devils. But the good news was, it was all on home ice, a place they haven’t touched since Presidents Day. With three divisional opponents on the slate, it was a good opportunity to gain some points in both the division and the elusive playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And not a bad weekend, 4 out of 6 points were earned. Let’s review the weekend that was:
The weekend homestand began with a visit from the Sound Tigers…and some goaltender you might have heard of, Rick DiPietro, who drew the start against Keith Kinkaid, fresh from returning from a half game stint in New Jersey. Albany started off quite strong, outshooting their opponents 12-4 and taking a 1-0 lead on a Joe Whitney goal. Harri Pesonen would score on a penalty shot just 56 seconds into the second period for a 2-0 Devil advantage. But then Bridgeport would begin to rally. Nino Niederreiter would score on a 5 on 3 power play to cut the lead in half, then Aaron Ness would tie the game up less than 5 minutes later. Bridgeport would continue to dominate play into the third period, but neither team was able to break the tie. Then Sean Backman would score the go ahead goal with under 4 and a half minutes remaining for a 3-2 lead. Then with Kinkaid pulled for the extra attacker, Eric Gelinas would whiff on a clearing attempt at center ice, and Backman trickled the puck into the empty net to seal the comeback win for the Sound Tigers. Kinkaid stopped 25 of 28 shots in his first start since returning from New Jersey. Jay Leach and Corbin McPherson had the lone assists…and were the only Devils not to finish with a plus/minus rating under zero.
Game 2 of the weekend featured a visit from the division leading Falcons…and the debut of goaltender Scott Wedgewood, the fourth different goaltender to start a game for the Devils this season. And he had a pretty easy start to the day, only having to stop 4 shots in the first period. Joe Whitney would again put the Devils on the board early, scoring 3:24 into the game for a 1-0 lead. Springfield would get to Wedgewood during the second, tying the game on a David Savard 5 on 3 goal (getting a delay of game 6 seconds into a penalty kill? Not a good idea, guys.). Third period was all Albany, despite being outshot 9-8. Mike Sislo would break the tie 3:25 into the period. Less than 3 minutes later Whitney would add his second of the game (and goal #20 of the season) on a power play. Then to top it off, the man who became the latest Devil to be immortalized as a bobblehead, Eric Gelinas, scored his fifth on the season to make it 4-1. Wedgewood took care of the rest, and shined in his AHL debut, stopping 23 of 24 shots to pick up the win and #2 star of the game honors. Jacob Josefson and Matt Anderson each contributed two assists, while Gelinas and defensive partner Dan Kelly both finished a +3.
To finish the homestand off, the Devils faced a hot team in Adirondack, who had won two straight on their home ice over the top two teams in the division (Springfield and Connecticut) to start their weekend. In a little bit of a surprise, Scott Wedgewood was back between the pipes, facing the recently demoted Brian Boucher. The Phantoms got off to a very strong start in the first, outshooting Albany 13-3 and getting a 1-0 lead off a Jason Akeson goal. The other story out of the first was Jacob Josefson, who left the game after taking a puck to the right side of his face near his ear. Second period got off to a very good start, as Joe Whitney scored his team leading 21st just 20 seconds in to tie the game at 1. Mike Sislo would put the Devils ahead by a goal 12 minutes later. But Jon Sim would tie the game back up with just over a minute to go in the period. Third period the Phantoms would again outshoot Albany by a lot, 11-4, but Wedgewood was up to the challenge, stopping all 11. Albany had their chances late to break the tie, but no luck. It was on to overtime, where again both teams came within inches of getting that extra point, but without success. Then came the shootout, the Devils’ 13th this season. Wedgewood stopped Akeson in round 1, while Sislo scored. Round 2 saw Garrett Roe denied, but Phil DeSimone would connect. Wedgewood would stop Matthew Ford in round 3, giving Matt Anderson the chance to win it…and he came through, giving the Devils only their third shootout win in 13 attempts. A little bit of franchise history also happened, as Wedgewood became the first goalie in the history of the Lowell/Albany franchise to win his first two starts. He stopped 34 of 36 Phantom shots, went 3 for 3 in the shootout, and earned #1 star of the game honors. Steve Zalewski added two assists, and Anderson earned his 200th career AHL point with an assist on Whitney’s goal.
Sadly, no Cam Janssen Obligatory Fight Of The Week, as he actually behaved all weekend. But in its place, we have two former teammates going at it. From late in Saturday afternoon’s game:
After Sunday’s action, the Devils stand in a tie for 9th place in the conference with Manchester, at 63 points each. They stand just one point out of a playoff spot behind Hershey and Connecticut (64), and lead 11th place Worcester by just 2 points (61). The magic number to clinch a playoff berth is at 35.
I covered roster moves earlier in the week, so now to the injury front. Chris McKelvie is out indefinitely with a foot injury (suffered in Wilkes-Barre). Scott Parse and Chad Wiseman were both in and out of the lineup this weekend, each only appearing in Friday’s game. Jay Leach finally returned to the lineup on Friday after sitting out almost a month. Matt Anderson and Tim Sestito both returned on Friday after sitting out most of the previous weekend. Still waiting to hear on a timetable for Mattias Tedenby’s recovery. And we’ll have to see on Jacob Josefson after he left Sunday’s game.
The Week Ahead:
After the Booster Club holds the annual Awards Banquet on Tuesday evening (which I plan to have the list up either late Tuesday or sometime on Wednesday), the Devils start up a 6 game 4 city road trip. It starts west on the NYS Thruway Friday night, as they take on Rochester for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend. Saturday it’s off to Syracuse to take on the AHL leading Crunch. Then it’s south to Bridgeport on St. Patrick’s Day afternoon to face the Sound Tigers.