Stop the Presses! New Jersey Wins!

Greetings from the front seat of Yankee Trails Bus 294. We are heading out of Newark towards the NJ Turnpike after witnessing a miracle at the Prudential Center earlier today. The Devils beat Tampa Bay in convincing fashion 6-3. Two goals from David Clarkson, one each from Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, Dainius Zubrus, and…A-Devil Nick Palmieri with his first NHL goal! So happy for him. Martin Brodeur put on a goalie clinic he was awesome. He even got an assist on Palmieri’s goal after almost trying to score one himself.

As for the building itself…beautiful facility. Great sightlines no matter where you sat. There was even an area with laptops set up for fans to log on the Devils site or Facebook and a cigar booth. There was a Yankee Stadium like atmosphere in the stands as well, with a whole section of the upper deck for the Devils Army, who I called the Bleacher Creatures of the building. Food prices were what I expected…10 and change for Nathan’s cheese fries and soda. If the Albany Devils offer the free ticket again next year I may do it.

The trip itself wasn’t bad. I am a little jealous of the residents of Mahwah and Ramsey near the Rt. 17 corridor…gas for them is under 3 bucks a gallon, range was 2.93-2.99. And per state law, they pump it for you, it’s win-win!

Ok signing off for now…time to crank Z100 on my radio till the signal’s gone…

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Free Tacos and Hitting the Garden State

Good morning!

Before I pack up my travel bag and hop the bus to New Jersey (more on that in a minute), let’s recap last night’s activities in downtown Albany…

Very good performance by the Devils last night.  The boys finally got their first Albany win since November (with the December “home” win in Atlantic City in between) beating Syracuse 2-1.  Adam Henrique had a goal and an assist, Matt Anderson potted the game winner in the 3rd.  Mike McKenna was nothing short of spectacular in net, there was one point he was practically doing backflips in the crease to keep the Crunch from scoring.  There was even a couple of scraps from Louis Robitaille (who takes the helmet off after finishing the fight…normally that’s the first thing you do…only growing your turtle reputation more among East Division foes, just saying) and Brad Mills (dominating performance I may add).  Best part, all 2844 in attendance (that’s way over the average, I’m impressed) get a free taco from Taco Bell (joy…I miss my free Panera Bread sandwiches from the Rats days).

Now to today…one of the perks of having a Devils season ticket (or in my case half-season) package is getting a free game ticket to a selected NJ Devils game.  The first game was on a weeknight in December, then there were two other options, today or January 23rd against Florida.  Since I will be in Wilkes-Barre visiting the Checkers on the 23rd, I chose today’s game against the Lightning.  I got a deal through the front office for bus transportation from Yankee Trails, so basically this whole trip is costing me $30.   This is my first trip to the Prudential Center, I’m hearing good things about the building.  Also it’s my first NJ game in about 7 years back during the Devils first regime here…you know when it was exciting to go there.  How the times have changed, I used to count down about a month or 2 in advance to when I went to New Jersey.  Now, it’s like oh ok we’re going to New Jersey.  I pretty much know what’s going to happen, they’ll lose and only score 1 goal.  That’s all I’ve seen them do the past month or so.  But the good part is seeing the players I watched and got to know here in Albany (Clarkson, Parise, Elias, White) as Rats, plus see this year’s guys (Sestito, Palmieri, Tedenby).  I probably won’t tweet the game like I do here, I’ll check in here and there…and get as many pictures as I can.

Okay, have to do some reading…I may send an entry from the bus on the way home, we’ll see how things go…

Albany-Syracuse Pregame Notes

What you need to know before tonight’s Sunday rematch of Devils-Crunch at the Times Union Center:

-This is the second game this week between the 2 teams.  Sunday Syracuse snagged a 5-3 win on the strength of 4 Trevor Smith goals.  The Devils won’t have to worry about that happening this time around, as Smith was traded to the Columbus organization earlier this week (now there’s a reward for a game like that).  The Crunch stand 3 points ahead of the Devils for 6th place in the East Division, with a record of 14-19-1-3.  After last night’s loss to the Checkers, the Devils now stand at 13-20-0-3, 4 points ahead of Adirondack in 7th.

-This is the 5th meeting of the season between the two teams, with the Crunch holding a 3-1 edge. After tonight they don’t meet again until March 13th in Albany. They meet two more times in Syracuse, on March 16th and March 25th.

-Syracuse is paced in scoring by defenseman Nathan Paetsch (who assumed the active roster lead with Smith’s trade), an early season acquisition from Rochester/Vancouver with 19 points (9 G, 10 A combined with Syracuse/Rochester) and rookie Nicolas Deschamps with 18 points (8 G, 10 A), tied with Patrick Maroon (8 G, 10 A combined with the Crunch and Phantoms).  J.P. Levasseur and Timo Pielmeier split the goaltending duties, Pielmeier with the win Sunday in Albany.

-After last night, Michael Swift and Matt Anderson remain tied for the Devil team scoring lead, both with 23 points (Swift 13 G, 10 A and Anderson 12 G, 11 A).  Behind them is Adam Henrique, still with 17 (8 G, 9 A).  With Jeff Frazee starting the last 2 games, maybe tonight we will see Mike McKenna get in between the pipes.

-Injury updates: Brad Mills and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond both returned to the Devil lineup last night, leaving only Nathan Perkovich (foot/ankle) as the lone injury scratch.  The Devils carried 4 healthy scratches at forward last night: Myles Stoesz, Darcy Zajac, J.S. Berube, and Trevor Kell.  2 defensemen sat out as well, Harry Young and Chris Murray.

Game time 7:00.  Will be there doing the usual (tweets, photos, etc.)…

Saturday Entry #1: Checker Rats Come Home

A lot to go over today, so I’ll break it up into 2 entries: first recapping last night’s events, then later on this afternoon tonight’s pregamer with the Crunch coming to town for the 2nd time this week.

First, I survived the snow!  Not as bad as the last one, according to YNN Albany about 7 inches or so.  I still went straight downtown from work anyway just incase and the drive wasn’t bad.  Did a Starbucks run then spent some time with the Bennett family in the TU Center box office.  Zach (aka Bug) has gone through a lot in his 11 years of life.  He has neurofibromatosis, or NF1, a disorder in which tumors grow on nerves.  He has had numerous surgeries, including amputation of both legs.  He gets around in a motorized wheelchair which on game days always has his goalie mask on the back.  Recently he got a service dog named Matrix thanks to a community fundraiser.  The River Rat/Checker franchise has been there for the family all the way, making Zach an honorary Rat last season and countless visits from team members to the hospital or his home (apparently he can beat Mike Murphy at Wii hockey).  The Checkers are doing an awesome fund raiser next Friday night at home, having a Race Night jersey auction where all the proceeds go to the family as they prepare to move to North Carolina (their house is still on the market, this is basically the last obstacle to cross before that can happen) for a better climate and for better health care for Zach.

Now on to the game.  Changing the pattern up a bit, Jeff Frazee started for the second straight game for the Devils, while Justin Pogge manned the Checker net.  The Devils had a lot of chances on net, but Pogge was a brick wall.  Michael Swift stayed hot, getting a point in his 10th straight game courtesy a penalty shot goal.  Otherwise it was all about the former River Rats, as 3 out of 4 ex-Rats scored…Nicolas Blanchard in the 1st, Chris Terry in the 2nd and Jerome Samson (now the AHL goal scoring leader with 20) in the 3rd.  Matt Anderson answered right after Samson’s goal with one of his own to make it 3-2, but Brett Sutter scored into the empty net late in the 3rd to seal the Checkers 4-2 win.

Attendance last night: 2099.  Pretty much what I expected with the weather (everyone got vouchers for free tickets for next Friday’s game against Binghamton), I would say about 90 percent were pro Charlotte.  It was pretty evident during warmup when I realized I was the only one in the Devils corner watching, everyone was on Charlotte’s side of the ice.  Not a good message to send to your home team but what can you do?  I’m trying to support the home team best I can, but I’ve known the Checker players longer (I’ve known Casey Borer since he turned pro almost 4 years ago for example), so I’m torn.  January 28th will be an interesting day in Albany, the Devils are home but Charlotte is in Adirondack.  I already have my Albany ticket so I’ll be staying here, looks like a lonely night for me.

On a lighter note…last night was my first run-in with N.J. Devil, New Jersey’s mascot who made the trip for Devil Dawg’s birthday celebration.  He puts other mascots to shame with his dancing skills.  I told him I was coming to Newark on Sunday and he acted so excited he grabs me for a hug and starts jumping up and down.  Don’t get all that excited you already know Tampa Bay is killing them (unless Stamkos does another penalty shot fail).  And I give credit to Casey, Brett Bellemore, Mike Murphy and Zack FitzGerald for coming outside in the snow to visit with my group (namely my friend Jackie’s twin nieces) after the game (stupid Devil rules).

One last note:  overnight way out west in Abbotsford, the Phantoms lost in a shootout, gaining another point.  The basement is creeping ever closer…

Albany-Charlotte Pregame Notes

Time to prepare for tonight’s Devils-Checkers matchup on this snowy Friday:

-This is the second matchup between the Devils and their predecessors in the Times Union Center.  First meeting was way back on October 20th in Albany, a 2-1 Devils win.  The two teams face each other 4 more times, a 3 game series in North Carolina on February 12th, 13th, and 15th, and one more meeting in Albany on April 2nd. 

-Since the first meeting, it’s a tale of two teams going in very different directions.  Charlotte struggled out of the gate, but have since settled into 2nd place in the East Division with a 20-12-1-4 record, good for 45 points.  After Wednesday’s shootout loss to Adirondack, Albany now checks in at 13-19-0-3, good for 29 points and holding on to 7th place.

-The Checkers are lead in scoring by former Rats (you’ll hear that a lot today) Jerome Samson with 37 points (19 G, 18 A) and Jacob Micflikier with 32 points (16 G, 16 A).  Justin Pogge and Mike Murphy (also former Rats) have been splitting the goaltending duties.  There are a total of 17 ex-Rats on the current Checker roster.

-Michael Swift has jumped to the top of the Devils’ scoring leaderboard, he is currently tied with Matt Anderson with 22 points.  Swift has one more goal (12-11), Anderson has one more assist (11-10).  Rookie Adam Henrique takes over the second position among the active roster with 17 points (8 G, 9 A).  I am expecting Mike McKenna in goal with the every other game rotation.

-Injury news: One Charlotte injury of note is defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti (not a former Rat, rather a former Wolfpack), who is out for the season with a hip injury.  The main Devil injury of note (one that I did not mention on Wednesday) is Nathan Perkovich, out for an extended period with a foot injury.  No updates on the other walking wounded (Mills, Leblond et al).

-Game time 7 PM.  It’s Devil Dawg’s birthday (whoohoo…hahaha), apparently NJ Devil and Scorch (the New Jersey and Trenton mascots) will be in attendance, along with “other mascot friends.”  Wonder if Rowdy got an invitation…anyway, apparently they think 2000 kids are showing up for the Silly Bands giveaway.

I will be there with tweets, pictures, etc.  Tomorrow I’ll recap and preview Saturday’s game (that’s the plan anyway).

Thursday Notes

Just a few things to go over:

-Weekend off from Job 2. Yesssss. Sorry had to let that out.

-Now for a quick recap of last night’s events:

In the 5th game of the Time Warner Cable Cup series, Adirondack overcame two 1 goal deficits to beat the Devils 3-2 in a shootout. Jon Kalinski netted the clincher in the 7th round, and ex-Rat Michael Ryan scored twice in regulation. Stephen Gionta also scored twice, while both Michael Swift and Chad Wiseman continued point scoring streaks. No Michael Leighton as I expected, he’ll be seeing game action over the weekend.

-New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello was in attendance last night, even holding a press conference downstairs as pregame warmup was ending. Didn’t stick around to hear what was discussed.

-The following number pretty much sums up the state of pro hockey in New York’s Capital Region: 2086. That was last night’s attendance. For what was once a Northway rivalry that would draw 5 digit crowds in Albany and sell out the Glens Falls Civic Center, it’s sad how over the last 15 years things have changed. Other than the obvious reason, you can factor in Glens Falls not having the AHL for about 10 years other than the handful of games the River Rats played there over a 3 season span, or the fact it was a cold Wednesday night in January. Even on New Year’s Day, a Saturday night game between the two teams only drew about 3200 to the Civic Center. The way things are going I don’t expect this number to change anytime in the future.

-Speaking of River Rats…tomorrow the old Rats, aka the Charlotte Checkers, come to town. Here comes the conflict for me: my old team vs. my current team. I’ve been friends with some of these players for up to 3 years now, meanwhile I’m still getting to know the Devils (there’s really only 2-3 guys I talk to regularly). We’ll see how the game goes.

-More snow coming? Great…getting around tomorrow is going to be fun.

That’s it for today. Hopefully I can get some pregame notes for tomorrow out there during the day on Friday…

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Albany-Adirondack Pregame Notes

A few things you may need to know before the Devils and Phantoms take to the ice at Times Union Center tonight:

-This is the 5th meeting between the teams in the 2nd annual Time Warner Cable Cup, won by Albany as the River Rats last year.  It’s a 2-2 series so far, each team is 1-1 at home.  Counting tonight, there are 7 more head to head matchups, the next coming February 20th in Albany.

-Looking at the standings, Albany checks in with a 13-19-0-2 record, good for 28 points and 7th place in the East Division.  Adirondack has a 10-25-2-0 record, good for 22 points and 8th place.  Basically it’s a basement battle, the Phantoms are trying to escape after a horrific stretch that saw 2 coaching changes along with 2 double digit losing streaks.  The Devils on the other hand have not fared so well at home, only 4 wins, 3 on actual home ice (the 4th came in Atlantic City against the Phantoms in early December).  With a home heavy schedule this month, the Devils look to rebound or they may just find themselves in the same position as their bretheren in New Jersey…last in the league.

-Matt Anderson is currently leading all Devils skaters with 22 points (11 G, 11 A), followed by the red-hot Michael Swift with 20 points (12 G, 8 A).  For Adirondack, rookie Erik Gustaffson (recently sent down by the parent Flyers) leads the way with 26 points (4 G, 22 A) followed by veteran Denis Hamel with 23 points (12 G, 11 A).

-The goaltending situation in Adirondack recently got a little crowded with the demotion of Stanley Cup her0 (and former River Rat) Michael Leighton yesterday.  Rookies Brian Stewart (the newly crowned AHL Player of the Week) and Nic Riopel (recently demoted to Greenville in the ECHL) were sharing time with regular Johan Backlund out due to injury.  Now Backlund is almost ready to return, and with Leighton now joining the team Stewart’s future with the club is in question.  I would assume Stewart gets the call this evening with Leighton not due to play till the weekend road trip in Abbotsford.

-The Devils have no such issues.  Mike McKenna and Jeff Frazee (in between serving time in New Jersey during Martin Brodeur’s time out of the lineup due to his “bruised” elbow) are splitting the goaltending duty.  I’m thinking it’s Frazee’s turn this evening with both playing every other game recently.

-Injury report: per The Post-Star, Hamel may be out up to 2 weeks with an injury sustained in Sunday afternoon’s game in Rochester.  MA Bourdon is still out after being knocked out in a fight with Albany’s Dan Kelly on Saturday at the Civic Center (and I had a good view of it…brutal).  Stefan Legein (only the BizNasty of the AHL with his Twitter account…hilarious) will return to the lineup next week.  For the Devils, Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond (or PL3) is due to return this week from I believe a hand injury.  Brad Mills is also expected back shortly as well.

Game time 7 PM.  I will be there tweeting it (and getting photos as well).