The Devils kicked off a season long 6 game road trip with a 3 in 3 weekend, hoping to move up into playoff position. And they did…but for 24 hours. What started off as a promising weekend came to a crashing halt quickly, and after getting just 2 of 6 points, they found themselves right back where they started. Looking back at how everything went down:
The long road trip began Friday evening in Rochester, as the Devils took on the Amerks for the first time since Thanksgiving. The Devils slumping penalty kill found themselves facing the league’s second best power play unit early on in the first…not only did they kill it, Mike Sislo actually notched a nice shorthanded goal out of it, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. Mike Hoeffel would add his fourth of the season midway through the second for a 2-0 advantage. But the Amerks would break up Keith Kinkaid’s shutout bid late in the period, on a power play goal by Matt Ellis just 19 seconds in. Phil DeSimone would add a very important insurance goal with just over 7 minutes to go in the third to go up 3-1…because Mark Mancari would answer with a goal 34 seconds later to cut it to 3-2. But Kinkaid and his teammates would hold off an Amerk rally late in the game to hold on to the win…and move into a playoff position. Kinkaid had a great night in goal, stopping 31 of 33 Amerk shots and earning the game’s first star. Four Devils each had an assist, while Hoeffel actually had a total of 7 shots on goal.
It was off to Syracuse for the first of two Saturday night matchups against the top team in the American Hockey League the Crunch. A big test for Scott Wedgewood in his third Albany start…and it didn’t go quite according to plan. An early interference call negated the first Crunch goal of the game, but Brett Connolly and J.P. Cote would score 30 seconds apart later in the period for a 2-0 lead (and a double rendition of the Crunch faithful’s you suck chant for Mr. Wedgewood…someone forgot to warn him about that). Richard Panik on the power play would make it a 3-0 cushion exactly 4 minutes later (another case of feast or famine for the penalty kill…it took 24 seconds for the goal). Things didn’t improve during the second either, as J.T. Brown, Philip-Michael Devos, and Connolly with his second would all score in a 2:35 span for a commanding 6-0 lead (the 6th goal on a power play 46 seconds after Eric Gelinas sat for arguing with the ref on a missed call after the 5th goal…hello frustration). Keith Kinkaid was summoned from the bullpen to play the third (much like Jeff Frazee when Kinkaid gave up 6 goals to the same Crunch team just a month earlier at home), and he was able to stop the bleeding, stopping all 7 Crunch shots. Albany’s offense, albeit too late to save this game, finally showed some signs of life in the third. Dan Kelly broke up Riku Helenius’s shutout bid (ironically he was in net a month prior in the other Crunch blowout game) 8 minutes in. Joe Whitney would add his team leading 22nd about 5 minutes later to get to 6-2. But that was all the Devils could muster in a very frustrating evening. Wedgewood’s first AHL loss was not anything to write home about, as he could only stop 15 of 21 shots and saw his GAA nearly triple. Three Devils had an assist, and Steve Zalewski was the only Devil to finish above 0 in plus/minus (+1).
The weekend concluded with an afternoon trip to Bridgeport to take on Rick DiPietro and the Sound Tigers. The Devils had a great chance early on to get on the board when they were awarded a 5 minute power play just 34 seconds in after Raman Hrabarenka (in for the injured Dan Kelly) was boarded, but could not convert. The only other events of the period? A rare fight for Chad Wiseman and a long bout for Cam Janssen. Bridgeport dominated play in the second period, throwing 20 shots on goal at Keith Kinkaid, but he stopped every single one. And the rare fight card continued, as Steve Zalewski took on Matt Donovan. The game remained scoreless till halfway through the third, while on a Devils power play opportunity Brock Nelson scored shorthanded to put Bridgeport on the board 1-0. Nino Niederreiter added an insurance goal with just under 2 minutes remaining in regulation for a 2-0 advantage. And DiPietro would take care of the rest, as he stopped all 33 Albany shots in his first shutout at either the AHL or NHL level since November 2010. As for Kinkaid…you absoulutely have to feel for the guy. He stopped 41 of 43 Sound Tigers, including the busy second period, only to take a loss due to no offensive support. He did earn #3 star of the game for his efforts. Eric Gelinas led the way in shots on goal with 6.
And now, back after a 1 week hiatus, your Cam Janssen Obligatory Fight Of The Week:
When the weekend began, Albany was tied for 9th and one point out of a playoff position. After Friday night, they had moved up to 7th after beating the Amerks. Two days and two losses later, they are right back where they started, basically not gaining any ground. They remain tied for 9th place in the conference with Manchester at 65 points. They are three points behind 8th place Hershey with 68, and lead 11th place Worcester and Norfolk by 2 points (63). The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 32.
Roster moves were covered earlier this week, but there’s quite a short list on the injury front. Chris McKelvie is out of his walking boot, but sat out all weekend. Jacob Josefson was held out of the lineup after taking a puck near his ear last weekend at home. And there has not been any current updates on Mattias Tedenby. Dan Kelly was seen limping out of Syracuse on Saturday and sat out Sunday afternoon, I would think day to day for him.
The second half of the six game road trip and it’s another 3 in 3 weekend, with a near similar schedule. Friday night the Devils travel west to Binghamton to take on the Senators. Saturday it’s up north Interstate 81 and back to Syracuse for one last matchup with the Crunch. Then it’s back south to Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon for another matchup with the Sound Tigers.