A quick two game road trip for the Devils before heading out for the Christmas break, against one team decimated by callups, the other on a winning streak. 2 out of 4 points in two very close games, including a conditioning stint cameo and a possible rivalry returning to the surface resulted.
The trip began Friday night in northeast Pennsylvania, as Albany made its first of two visits this season to Wilkes-Barre Township to take on the Penguins, who were missing a chunk of the regular roster due to illness and injury ravaging the parent club in Pittsburgh. Reid Boucher got the visitors on the board midway through the first on a power play goal, his 6th of the season. Mike Sislo, in his first appearance since returning to Albany on Monday, scored on another power play midway through the second to double the lead. The Pens would finally get on the board just as the third period began, as Conor Sheary would score on a power play to cut the lead in half. Brandon Burlon would score on yet another power play with just over 3 minutes to go in the game, and that goal would prove to be very important. Derrick Pouliot would bring the Pens back to within one just 15 seconds later. But Paul Thompson would score into an empty net with 6 seconds remaining to seal the win, just the third time in franchise history a Devils team won in Wilkes-Barre. On the same night Keith Kinkaid would finally get his first NHL win in New Jersey, Scott Clemmensen drew the start and picked up his second win, stopping 19 of 21 Penguin shots. Adam Larsson, in his one game conditioning cameo appearance, got two assists and played in all situations. Burlon and three other Devils each had helpers.
Joe Whitney-Paul Thompson-Graham Black
Reid Boucher-Rod Pelley-Mike Sislo
Stefan Matteau-Ben Thomson-Darcy Zajac
David Wohlberg-Ben Johnson-Alexandre Carrier
Extra: Chris McKelvie, Scott Timmins, Kelly Zajac, Cam Janssen
Mark Fraser/Reece Scarlett
Adam Larsson/Dan Kelly
Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson
Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Joe Faust, Eric Baier, Mike Keenan
Saturday: As expected, Adam Larsson was recalled to New Jersey after his one game cameo appearance in Wilkes-Barre. But he wasn’t going up alone…Mike Sislo joined him after Mike Cammalleri was placed on injured reserve. Larsson was unceremoniously scratched for Saturday’s home loss to Washington, while Sislo played on the third line with Martin Havlat and Adam Henrique.
To finish off the weekend, the Devils traveled roughly 3 hours north on Interstate 81 (from someone who did this drive last season…it feels much longer than that) to Syracuse for the first of 4 visits this season to the War Memorial to take on a very hot Crunch team. Syracuse had won their last 8 in a row coming in. And it showed during the first period, as former River Rat Mike Angelidis (on a power play) and Mike Blunden scored nearly five minutes apart for a 2-0 advantage. Reid Boucher would cut the lead in half with his second power play goal of the weekend and his 7th of the season 7:32 into the second period. Forty seconds later…it felt like the old River Rats-Crunch rivalry was making a comeback, and former Devil Matt Corrente was in the middle of it all, taking on Alexandre Carrier and saluting the crowd as he skated to the box. In that ensuing scrum, Brandon Burlon was called for a four minute double minor for spearing. And the Crunch took advantage, taking a 3-1 lead on a Vladimir Namestnikov goal. Not long after that goal, a second fight broke out between Mark Fraser and J.P. Cote, and it literally made Fraser raise the roof. Things finally settled down during the third, when only one penalty was called, and the Devils tried to mount a rally. Paul Thompson would score his 13th to get the visitors back to within one, but no more. Scott Wedgewood took the loss in net, stopping 28 of 31 Crunch shots. Three Devils added assists.
With Sislo up, it was an 11/7 lineup…or a D played at forward. This is what I was able to catch:
Joe Whitney-Graham Black-Paul Thompson
Reid Boucher-Rod Pelley-Stefan Matteau
Darcy Zajac-Ben Thomson-Alexandre Carrier
David Wohlberg-Ben Johnson-
Extra: Kelly Zajac, Chris McKelvie, Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen
Mark Fraser/Reece Scarlett
Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson
Dan Kelly/Joe Faust
Eric Baier-7th D/12th forward
Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Mike Keenan
Pop Quiz: Who was the first Devil goaltender to win a game in Wilkes-Barre? Stay tuned for the answer.
Obligatory Fight of the Week:
Welcome to the AHL, Alexandre Carrier. Here, survive a bout with PL3 for your first official fight:
Bonus: Carrier’s encore in Syracuse, with a kiss from Matt Corrente.
My Player of the Week:
Finally nice to see Reid Boucher getting his scoring touch back, with goals in back to back games this week. Sadly it may not be enough for him to get a more than one game recall to New Jersey…
Goals: Paul Thompson (13)
Assists: 2 tied with 13
Points: Joe Whitney (23)
+/-: Paul Thompson (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Darcy Zajac (57)
Wins: Scott Wedgewood (4)
GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.28)
Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen (.916)
Myles Bell (Evansville): 20 GP, 8 G, 6 A, 14 pts., 7 PIM
Maxime Clermont (Orlando): 9 GP, 5-3-0, 3.76 GAA, .873 Save Pct.
Raman Hrabarenka remains out indefinitely. Chris McKelvie, Kelly Zajac, and Cam Janssen were back practicing this week, so it may not be long before their returns. No update on Scott Timmins.
This Week’s Schedule:
After enjoying a few days off for Christmas, it’s back to work with two huge divisional games this weekend. Friday night Albany returns to the War Memorial in Syracuse for a second crack at breaking the Crunch winning streak. Then it’s back on Times Union Center ice Saturday afternoon for just the second matchup of the season against Springfield.
Pop Quiz Answer: The first Devil goaltender to win a game in Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre? It was Jeff Frazee, who stopped 25 of 26 shots in a 2-1 Devil win on December 19, 2011. Side note: both goals came from former Devil/current Falcon Mike Hoeffel.
Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas! Or Hanukkah, or Festivus, or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate.
(Note: Photo Gallery is taking a week off, will return next Sunday.)