Divisional Breakthrough

After a big win in Adirondack last weekend, the Devils got some well deserved rest. Along with two off ice events, there were only two games on the schedule this week, against two divisional rivals in Bridgeport and Connecticut. And the Devils answered the bell, taking both weekend games and starting to inch closer to getting out of the basement. Now to recap the last two days:

12/8 vs. Bridgeport: 3-1 W

Times Union
Connecticut Post

The weekend started off with the first matchup of the year against division rival Bridgeport. The Devils had a great opportunity early on to get ahead, drawing a 1:35 5 on 3 early in the first period. And it appeared so when Mattias Tedenby sent a shot off the net that appeared to cross the goal line. But a video review denied the goal, hence the power outage continued on. Albany made up for that later in the period as Joe Whitney redirected an Adam Larsson shot from the blue line for a 1-0 advantage. Defensively it wasn’t a bad first period either, as the Sound Tigers only managed 3 shots on Keith Kinkaid and the lone Albany penalty was killed off. Second period the Devils got a second 5 on 3 chance…and this time they finally cashed in. Bobby Butler scored his fourth of the year 43 seconds in for a 2-0 lead. Chad Wiseman made it a 3-0 lead 7 minutes later, with Stephen Gionta notching an assist in his first game back. The penalty kill got a test–and passed it–during the third after Jacob Josefson drew a boarding major and Adam Larsson took a 10 minute misconduct for his involvement after the play (or the fact he couldn’t get through his first AHL fight, it wasn’t pretty). Nino Niederreiter broke up Kinkaid’s bid for a second shutout with just 2:07 remaining to make it a 3-1 game. It was the only blemish on Kinkaid’s game all afternoon, as he stopped the other 22 Sound Tiger shots to pick up his third win of the season and #2 star honors. Another strong day for the penalty killers as well, going 4 for 4 against a team who ranked third in the league in power play percentage.

12/9 at Connecticut: 1-0 W

Times Union
Hartford Courant

Sunday afternoon the Devils headed southeast to Hartford to take on the Whale, a team coming off a 9-2 thrashing at the hands of Manchester the night before. Unlike the day before, when Keith Kinkaid barely had to break a sweat during the first half of the day, he was tested during the first as the Whale outshot Albany 12-6. Second period was all Devils, as they outshot Connecticut 15-6, capped off by Joe Whitney’s 4th goal of the season with just over 13 minutes to go in the period. And the one goal, which normally dooms Albany, turned out to be all Kinkaid needed. Much like the first period, the Whale again outshot the Devils 12-6 during the third, but Kinkaid stopped all 12 shots. He finished with 30 saves and his second shutout of the season, capping off a very good weekend for him. Bobby Butler got the lone assist on Whitney’s goal.

Notes:

-The weekend sweep gave Albany its first multi game win streak of the season, now up to 3 games. And it was a perfect weekend for the penalty kill, ranked 9th in the league at the start of the day, going 8 for 8. Now about that power play…sure they went 1 for 7 over the two games, but it is still ranked 30th at 8.8 percent.

-Cross another player off the injured list, as Dan Kelly returned to the lineup Saturday night for the first time since November 10th. That leaves Adam Henrique (thumb/surgery) and J.S. Berube…and with Stephen Gionta taking Berube’s #22 in his return to the team, one begins to wonder if Berube is really out long term or even for the season. Raman Hrabarenka suffered a skate cut to his foot during practice mid week and sat out both weekend games. Jay Leach missed Sunday’s game after sustaining a lower body injury on Saturday.

The Week Ahead:

A busy week lies ahead for the Devils. Along with the annual season ticket holder Holiday Skate tomorrow (I will of course be in attendance…not skating, just watching and sipping my hot chocolate), there are three games lined up this week. Wednesday night they host the Penguins, followed by a return trip to Hartford Friday night for a rematch against the Whale. Saturday they host the Bruins in their last home game before Christmas. Now to see if they can build on the winning streak and maybe not be #30 anymore…

Game 20: Albany at Connecticut

Location: XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Hartford, CT.

Puck Drop: 3:00 PM.

Season Series: Connecticut leads 2-0.

Standings:

Albany: 6-8-0-5, 17 points, 5th place in Northeast Division

Connecticut: 10-10-2-0, 22 points, 2nd place in Northeast Division

Stats:

Albany Devils

Leading Scorers:

Jacob Josefson, 12 points (8 G, 4 A)
Adam Larsson, 11 points (2 G, 9 A)
Matt Anderson, 9 points (3 G, 6 A)

Goaltending:

Jeff Frazee, 3-3-2, 2.22 GAA
Keith Kinkaid, 3-5-3, 2.50 GAA

Connecticut Whale

Leading Scorers:

Kris Newbury, 21 points (7 G, 14 A)
Chad Kolarik, 17 points (8 G, 9 A)
Kyle Jean, 14 points (5 G, 9 A)

Goaltending:

Cameron Talbot, 8-7-0, 2.99 GAA
Jason Missiaen, 2-3-0, 4.94 GAA

Radio: AHL Live, WCCC 106.9 FM

Twitter:

@trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @CTWhale

Game 19: Albany vs. Bridgeport

Location: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

Puck Drop: 5:00 PM.

Season Series: First meeting. Future matchups: December 19th at Bridgeport; January 13th at Albany (in Atlantic City); March 8th at Albany; March 17th and March 24th at Bridgeport

Standings:

Bridgeport: 10-10-0-1, 21 points, 3rd place in Northeast Division

Albany: 5-8-0-5, 15 points, 5th place in Northeast Division

Stats:

Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Leading Scorers:

Nino Niederreiter, 21 points (10 G, 11 A)
Brock Nelson, 16 points (9 G, 7 A)
Johan Sundstrom, 12 points (6 G, 6 A)

Goaltending:

Anders Nilsson, 4-4-0, 3.31 GAA
Kevin Poulin, 6-5-1, 3.37 GAA

Albany Devils

Leading Scorers:

Jacob Josefson, 12 points (8 G, 4 A)
Adam Larsson, 10 points (2 G, 8 A)
Matt Anderson, 9 points (3 G, 6 A)

Goaltending:

Jeff Frazee, 3-3-2, 2.22 GAA
Keith Kinkaid, 2-5-3, 2.64 GAA

Radio: AHL Live

Twitter:

@trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheSoundTigers

The Captain Comes Back

A little unexpected news broke earlier this afternoon that could lessen the sting that is the Devils offensive slump. The team announced the signing of forward Stephen Gionta to an AHL contract. Even though he had signed a one way NHL deal just before the start of free agency, he was eligible to sign with Albany due to being on the team’s Clear Day roster last season (which is how Matt Corrente is still able to play). He returns to add to his total as the franchise’s all time leading scorer (135 points) and games played (360). He may make his season debut as early as Saturday afternoon at home against the Sound Tigers.

The next question is, will he also retain the captaincy, a title he had held for four out of the last five seasons here and in Lowell, but currently held by Jay Leach? I had noticed over the weekend no one else had claimed Adam Henrique’s assistant captain role with him out due to injury, so one begins to wonder. I may find out tomorrow night when the Booster Club holds the annual holiday party with the team. Normally at the end of the night the captain goes to the mike and thanks the club members on behalf of the team. We’ll have to see who gets up to make that speech.

And as far as uniform number? Just announced by the Albany PR Twitter, he will wear #22, which is currently assigned to J.S. Berube. Bobby Butler currently wears #11, Gionta’s number here and in New Jersey (so they couldn’t make a deal or something?).

Whistle While You Work

Coming off a 1 point weekend, the Devils found themselves in a much too familiar spot…the basement. With only two games on the docket, they needed to get back on track…and were halfway successful, going 1-1 despite being down a man for a majority of the time. Looking back:

11/30 vs. St. John’s: 1-0 L

Times Union
St. John’s Telegram

The weekend began with the first ever visit to Albany from the Icecaps, a team the Devils split a weekend series with in Canada just two weeks ago. The game had an uneventful start, with just one power play (to the Devils) and the Icecaps outshooting Albany 9-8. Second period things tipped the way of the Icecaps, thanks in part to 4 penalties called on the Devils in a 8:11 span (I would say 1 or 2 were quite questionable). The penalty kill was successful in the first 2, but on the 3rd penalty Zach Redmond scored just 51 seconds in to put St. John’s on the board. And that was all goaltender Eddie Pasquale needed. No matter what the Devils tried, they could not get any kind of offense going, whether it was a missed pass, a turnover, or just not getting anything on net. The Devils did have their chance in the 3rd period with two back to back power play chances, but to no avail. Jeff Frazee played very well in the hard luck loss, stopping 22 of 23 shots and earning 3rd star honors.

12/1 at Adirondack: 3-2 W

Times Union
Glens Falls Post Star

The Devils finished the weekend with their second trip north of the season to Glens Falls to face Adirondack. Much like the night before, penalty calls got to them early, as they had to kill off two consecutive power plays halfway through the first period (I should mention that there were two refs: Jarrod Ragusin, who called the game in Albany Friday night, and our old friend and Glens Falls native Chris Brown. Remember that as I go along). But with just 3.0 seconds left on the clock in the first, a breakthrough. Joe Whitney scored his second of the season to get the Devils on the board. The momentum carried over early into the second period, as just 31 seconds in Jacob Josefson scored his team leading 8th goal for a 2 goal cushion, something the Devils haven’t enjoyed in quite a few games. The Phantoms did get on the board against Keith Kinkaid during their third power play chance (before the Devils even had their first I should add), Erik Gustafsson cut the lead to 1. Mattias Tedenby added an insurance goal early in the 3rd to put the lead back up to 2, and that goal was much needed. With goalie Cal Heeter pulled late on yet another Phantoms power play, Tye McGinn got a 6 on 4 goal with less than 2 minutes remaining to put it at 3-2. But Kinkaid and the Devils were able to hang on and snag the win, their 3rd against Adirondack this season. Kinkaid had an excellent showing in goal, stopping 44 of 46 shots and earning #1 star of the game honors. Five Devils had assists and captain Jay Leach finished a +3. And if you were keeping track of power play chances? The Devils had only 2 (obviously they were 0 for 2), the Phantoms 7. A little one-sided, shall we say?

Overall on the weekend the special teams were out quite a bit, killing 8 of 11 power plays (most consecutive) but going 0 for 5.

Notes:

Scratch another one off the injury list…and off to Trenton. Forward Kelly Zajac got his first action of the season in, but after he was reassigned to Trenton on Friday. Dan Kelly sat out the weekend, but has been skating. J.S. Berube remains the last one out long term, I have yet to even see him up here this season.

The Week Ahead:

Another light schedule this week. After a rare Friday night off (how will I entertain myself!?), the Devils are back on home ice Saturday afternoon for their first matchup of the season against Bridgeport. Then Sunday afternoon it’s off to Hartford to take on the Whale. Two divisional games coming up, hopefully the Devils can build on last night and try to beat someone other than the Phantoms. Out of their 5 wins, 3 are against Adirondack. The other two opponents? Worcester and St. John’s.