Saturday Morning Catchup

It’s June! I think it’s time to update this thing…

Fire and Ice had a free agent update earlier in the week. It appears that all players who are restricted free agents will indeed be qualified by the July 2nd deadline. It appears that former River Rat Steve Sullivan, acquired at the trade deadline in April, will not continue his second stint with the Devils. The report also stated that goaltender Jeff Frazee may be returning despite an offer to sign in Sweden, again creating a 4 goalie tandem in Albany and whichever ECHL affiliate will be used next season.

-Now for sale via Mei Gray for those interested in jerseys: the 2012-13 Albany game worns. Prices range from $295 (for J.S. Berube) to $995 (for Adam Henrique’s home jersey with an A). As of press time, Adam Larsson’s home and away jerseys are still available (for the bargain basement price of $750 each!), along with Cam Janssen’s road red and both of Jacob Josefson’s.

-Now for a Calder Cup update:

The Crunch (featuring former Devil Matt Taormina and former River Rat Mike Angelidis as the fearless captain) can close out the Penguins and earn a trip to their first ever Calder Cup final with a win at home tonight at the War Memorial. I wouldn’t necessarily count out the Penguins just yet, as they had to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and became just the third ever team to pull it off by eliminating the #1 seed Providence Bruins (and in dominating fashion, as they outscored the Bruins 14-2 over those four games). They are also the only team in the last two Norfolk/Syracuse playoff runs the last two seasons to manage a victory against this group. The series has been fairly close scoring wise, with a two goal deficit being the largest victory.

In the Western Conference, the series between Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City was put on the backburner last night as a strong series of tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and surrounding areas. While everyone in the Cox Convention Center stayed safe in an underground parking garage the arena was hit with flooding due to torrential downpours. The series will resume tonight with Game 4 and the Barons holding a 2-1 series lead.

-The first North American hockey champions were crowned earlier this week in the ECHL, as the Reading Royals hoisted the Kelly Cup with a 5 game series win over Stockton. Congrats to two former River Rats from the Carolina days, Yannick Tifu (who was the captain of the Royals) and Kirk Macdonald (also an RPI alum) for becoming the latest Rats alumni to hoist a Cup of some nature.

From The Incase You Missed It Department…

I’ve been so busy putting together my 3 part Season in Review that I have quite a few news items to catch up on. Even though it’s Offseason, Day 4, it’s been quite an eventful week. Time for me to play catchup…

-It appears that Albany (and Adirondack) will need to find a new ECHL affiliate for next season. For the second time in three years, a Trenton ECHL franchise has ceased operations. The Titans made the announcement on Tuesday, with the goal of returning to the league in 2014-15. This happens just two years after the Trenton Devils left the ECHL, with the Titans taking over just a couple of months later, but wound up with the same rumored financial woes.

-Also on Tuesday, Harri Pesonen, Eric Gelinas, and Mike Sislo were all recalled to New Jersey. This is the first callup for Gelinas and Sislo, and the third of the season for Pesonen, who had appeared in four games in his previous callups. Alexander Urbom finally got in some game action in Tuesday’s win at home over Montreal. Gelinas will be making his debut in the home finale against Pittsburgh, not sure if the other two will get in on Saturday for the season finale in New York City.

-Speaking of Devils…interesting story surrounding the whole saga with Stefan Matteau. For those that don’t know what happened, he had been benched during a QMJHL semifinal game over the weekend for basically taking a dumb penalty that cost his team (Blainville-Boisbriand) a goal. Instead of sucking it up and accepting it, depending on what story you read he essentially quit the team. But according to another source, he was released from the team after the game and was offered a plane ticket home. He chose to ride home on the fan bus (talk about an awkward situation…you’d likely never see that in the professional ranks). Here we have a 19 year old kid, first round draft pick, made his NHL debut during the season…but yet has a problem staying disciplined. I’m paying close attention to how this shakes out, because there is a good chance he may be playing here next season. Hopefully this is a lesson he can learn from as his playing career unfolds…just as long as it doesn’t turn into another Mike (Jefferson) Danton story.

-Per CapGeek, it appears that Seth Helgeson has indeed signed a two year entry level deal. He appeared in four games after signing an amateur try out agreement on April 5th, registering no points and finishing a +2.

-Per the AHL transactions, a formality today, as Helgeson, Reid Boucher and Jon Merrill were all released from their amateur tryouts.

-In AHL news, apparently the Connecticut Whale are about to be no more, as the team ownership has decided to return to the old Hartford Wolfpack after switching to the Whale two seasons ago. Does this mean the old introduction is coming back? Or how about a new Norelco commercial? The official announcement should come within the next week. Pucky the Whale, we hardly knew ye.

-As far as franchise silly season? Well, a rumor that first surfaced in late February never came to pass. It had been rumored that Calgary was planning on moving their AHL franchise in Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Utica, who last saw the AHL way back in the 1992-93 season when the Devils called the Aud home. It turned into a 3 way trade rumor: Peoria was being bought by Vancouver, who would then move the team to Abbotsford, paving the way for the Flames to go to Utica, while St. Louis (Peoria’s parent club) would take over Vancouver’s current AHL affiliate in Chicago. All came true this week, with the exception of the Utica move, as Calgary decided to stick with Abbotsford for at least one more season. Vancouver did buy the Peoria franchise, but without a chance of moving them to Abbotsford (negotiations met an impasse) they are first attempting to keep the team in Illinois. St. Louis and Chicago officially announced their affiliation agreement earlier this week. The only other move for sure is the Houston Aeros moving north to Iowa (who last saw the AHL in 2008-09 as the Stars, then the famous Iowa Chops), where they will be known as the Iowa Wild (sadly Chops sounds so much better in this case).

-And finally, you can find first round matchups for the Calder Cup Playoffs here. Sigh. Someday.

A Little Wednesday Night Catchup

Instead of watching the first American Idol of the season (I never really got into that show anyway), here I am catching up on a few news items:

-Two separate roster moves: on Tuesday forwards Kelly Zajac and Bryan Haczyk were returned to Trenton, despite playing well in their season debuts on Sunday afternoon in Atlantic City. I think I may know the reason: the Titans had a Wednesday morning game and were in need of players (they lost a chunk of their roster due to AHL callups when NHL camps opened over the weekend). We shall see if either return for the weekend depending on events in New Jersey. Then this morning forward J.S. Berube was also sent to Trenton, where he made his season debut after being sidelined since training camp. He didn’t do so bad, actually notching a goal and an assist in a 4-3 overtime win in front of a very intimate crowd, you could say (cue the Lowell jokes in 3, 2, 1…).

-Meanwhile, down in Newark, a group of Devils made the trip to take on their New Jersey counterparts in a Red-White scrimmage earlier this afternoon. The White team (mostly New Jersey regulars) defeated the Red team (mostly Albany regulars with a few extra New Jersey vets mixed in) 4-1. The only Red goal? First round draft pick Stefan Matteau. The White goalie? Martin Brodeur. The Circle of Life has been completed. The newly re-signed Travis Zajac celebrated his new 8 year contract extension (YAY!) by scoring twice, with Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson adding a goal apiece for the White team. From what I was reading on the Devils PR’s Twitter feed, it wasn’t a normal game per se…the time was divided up with even strength situations and power play/penalty kill. There was even a shootout at the end, where Albany regular Harri Pesonen was the only one to convert.

Midseason Reboot

After the excitement of the new CBA being agreed upon subsided, it was time to face reality this week. With the inevitable loss of a good chunk of the roster upcoming and a 3 in 3 weekend looming, the Devils had to keep up the momentum of a weekend sweep. And things didn’t go exactly as planned, only earning 2 of 6 points in those three games. Time to look back:

1/11 at Manchester: 7-4 L

Times Union
New Hampshire Union Leader

The weekend started off with the Devils only visit to New Hampshire this season to take on the Monarchs. It was a rather uneventful first period as both teams mostly stayed out of the box (just one penalty call on the Monarchs), but Manchester took a 1-0 lead with 6 and a half to go. Steve Zalewski would tie the game late in the period, and the Devils outshot the Monarchs 10-9. Second period the Devils had a chance to take advantage after receiving near back to back power play chances, but could not capitalize. Second half of the period was all Monarchs as they scored three times in 5 minutes (the last goal a rare power play marker) to take a commanding 4-1 lead after 40 minutes. But the Devils were not quite done yet. Adam Larsson scored his fourth (and on the power play) to cut the deficit to 4-2. But Brian O’Neill would score just 15 seconds later to restore Manchester’s 3 goal cushion. Not to be outdone, Mattias Tedenby and Harri Pesonen would score two minutes apart during an extended power play stretch (3 Monarchs sitting in the box at one time at one point for various infractions, including the ever popular embellishment call) to get to within 5-4. But that was all they could muster, as Jordan Weal would score a power play marker 2 and a half minutes later to make it 6-4, then Tyler Toffoli would add an empty netter with 22 seconds left to finish it off. Not a very good night in net for Jeff Frazee, as he allowed 6 of the 7 goals and stopped 28 shots. The offense was actually going on this night, as they went an impressive 3 for 7 on the power play while Matt Anderson added three assists.

1/12 vs. Worcester: 4-1 W

Times Union
Worcester Telegram-Gazette

The Devils returned to the Capital Region for their lone appearance at home on the weekend, an afternoon tilt against the Sharks. Despite the Devils getting off to a stronger start, it was Worcester who got on the board first, scoring 7 minutes into the first. Harri Pesonen thought he had tied the game at 1 when the puck bounced in and out of the net, but after a long video review it was called off. Eventually that tying goal did come to pass, via Steve Zalewski just before the end of the period. Second period was all Devils, as they only allowed one Shark shot for the first half of the period and they even got another power play goal. Mattias Tedenby scored his 9th to break the 1-1 tie. Eric Gelinas added his 3rd goal of the season (actually not on the power play) late in the period for a 2 goal advantage. A relatively quiet third period saw Darcy Zajac add to the Devil lead. Keith Kinkaid had a solid yet quiet day in net, only having to stop 16 of 17 shots. Bobby Butler and Chad Wiseman each added an assist, while Gelinas and defense partner Alexander Urbom both finished a +3. Off ice, it was a successful day, with a season high 7300 on hand thanks to GE Kids in Free Day…and our old friend N.J. Devil was in the house for Devil Dawg’s birthday (along with Finz the Worcester mascot) and to get some, shall we say, practice in before the season starts?

1/13 vs. Bridgeport: 5-4 L

Times Union
Connecticut Post

After the inevitable exodus of players going to New Jersey to start NHL training camp (see below for more on that), the remaining members of the roster made the trek to Atlantic City for the second of 4 trips this season to take on the Sound Tigers. Bridgeport took a 1-0 lead halfway into the period after the Devils killed off a brief 5 on 3 chance, but couldn’t kill the second penalty. The Devils responded with a power play goal of their own very late in the first, off the stick of Phil DeSimone, making his first appearance of the calendar year (took an NHL lockout ending to finally get this guy in the lineup). The seesaw battle continued into the second period as Nino Niederreiter scored 3 and a half minutes in for a 2-1 lead. But the Devils again responded, as Kelly Zajac’s first AHL goal tied the game at 2 (also the first AHL point for the other Trenton recall, Bryan Haczyk). Third period things got very interesting on both sides. First the Sound Tigers took the lead back again, just 2 minutes into the period. Then while Chris McKelvie sat on a tripping call, Niederreiter scored his second of the game for a 4-2 cushion. A scary moment happened just after that, when a Sound Tiger ran Keith Kinkaid into his net. Kinkaid would be okay and stay in, but yet no penalty called…keep this in mind. It was just after this incident that the Devils would rally, scoring twice in a 1:32 span to retie the game. First Joe Whitney scored on a 5 on 3 advantage to cut the deficit to 1. Then McKelvie scored his first of the season even strength to tie it at 4 (assisted by the brothers Zajac…I was hoping Darcy and Kelly would be on the same line at some point). But just after the tying goal, Matt Anderson ends up running into Sound Tigers goaltender Kevin Poulin…and yet he gets called for interference. On the ensuing power play, Matt Donovan scored the go ahead goal with just 1:16 left in regulation for a 5-4 Bridgeport lead. The Devils tried to get that tying fifth goal, but just ran out of time. Despite the loss, it was not a bad performance by the new look roster…they finished 2 for 6 on the power play, but only 2 for 5 penalty kill, another rare bad day. The reinforcements from Trenton and the healthy scratch list contributed quite nicely, combining for six points (1 goal and assist for Kelly Zajac, 2 assists from Brandon Burlon, 1 assist from Haczyk, 1 goal from DeSimone). Kinkaid stopped 24 of 29 shots in the loss (and took his fair share of run ins as well).

Notes:

-Saturday night came the official mass exit of players heading to Newark for the start of New Jersey training camp. It was pretty easy to figure out…if a player got on the bus, they were headed to Atlantic City. If they had their sticks shrink wrapped and they were carrying their gear, it was off to camp. As expected, Adam Larsson, Bobby Butler, Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, and Stephen Gionta are headed to Jersey, but joining them are Tim Sestito and Harri Pesonen. Josefson and Gionta both sat out Friday and Saturday with injuries and had already departed. You can see the full list here.

-To help fill out the roster, Albany recalled forwards Kelly Zajac and Bryan Haczyk from Trenton.

-Injury front: Scott Parse and J.S. Berube are both still out indefinitely. Parse was the only player not heading south to New Jersey on Saturday evening. Joe Whitney returned to the lineup Friday night after sitting out the last two weeks, but reinjured himself late in the game and sat out on Saturday, but then returned to the lineup on Sunday.

The Week Ahead:

A similar pattern awaits the Devils this week: a 3 in 3 weekend, with 3 different buildings in 3 different states. Friday night they travel north to Glens Falls to resume the Time Warner Cable Cup series against a depleted Phantoms roster (they lost Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, but may have gained the services of goaltender Brian Boucher). Then it’s east to Springfield on Saturday evening to take on the Falcons for the second time this month. Then it’s right back to Boardwalk Hall and Atlantic City on Sunday afternoon for another faceoff with the Phantoms (where I can guarantee a chunk of Philadelphians will be in attendance along with quite a few members of the Devils Booster Club). By the weekend, there is also a good chance a couple of players will come back down from New Jersey as the parent Devils finish off a short training camp and begin their abbreviated season on Saturday in Long Island.

A Stroke of Hard Luck?

After notching their first win of the season last weekend, the Devils looked to build on that momentum as they took on two divisional rivals and a strong East Division foe. Although they only went 1-2 on the week, there was a potential for a 3-0 week if it weren’t for a few factors. Let’s take a look back:

10/24 vs. Connecticut: 5-2 L

Times Union
Hartford Courant

The brief 2 game homestand started off with a visit from the Whale, turning this game into a Devils-Rangers lite matchup. The early story was a Devil 4 minute power play just 38 seconds into the game when Whale leading scorer Kris Newbury was called for a cross check, then said the magic words and ended up with an additional unsportsmanlike, 10 minute misconduct…and a seat warming the bench for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, the Devils could only muster 3 shots on goal over the 4 minutes. Mike Hoeffel got the Devils on the board late in the first with his second goal of the season. Keith Kinkaid, meanwhile, held his own and then some during this period, stopping all 10 Whale shots, some acrobatically. Second period…a different story. Brandon Segal and J.T. Miller scored just 61 seconds apart to tie then take the lead for Connecticut. It then became a 3-1 lead after a turnover by Raman Hrabarenka gave Tommy Grant an easy score. Third period the Devils may have outshot the Whale 12-5, but Connecticut made the shots count. Andrew Yogan broke up the Devils perfect PK string with a power play goal midway through for a 4-1 lead, prompting the Let’s Go Rangers chants from several people in attendance with Blueshirts on (sorry you’re not in MSG…take it back to the city!). Kyle Jean made it a 5-1 lead less than 3 minutes later (and yet another Let’s Go Rangers chant…so confused, those people were). But the Devils weren’t quite done just yet. On a late power play, Jacob Josefson scored his 3rd goal of the season to cut the deficit to 5-2. But that was it, as Connecticut won its first game of the young season, while Albany dropped its 3rd straight on home ice. Kinkaid finished with 21 saves, while 4 players each contributed one assist.

10/26 vs. Adirondack: 5-1 W

Times Union
The Post Star

Friday night kicked off the 4th annual Time Warner Cable Cup series, as the Devils hosted their neighbors to the north, the Phantoms. And this one was clearly no contest. Jacob Josefson scored on Albany’s first shot on goal of the game 4 minutes in, and it was off and running from there. The Devils took the game’s first 10 shots on goal…Adirondack didn’t even register their first shot till 11 and a half minutes into the period. Matt Anderson padded the lead with his first goal of the season with about 4 minutes remaining in the first. Then the Phantoms finally got on the board late in probably the least likely way possible…a penalty shot goal, by none other than Zac Rinaldo (Dan Kelly had apparently hooked him on a breakaway). Eight minutes into the second period, it was the Devils turn at getting a penalty shot, after Marc Andre Bourdon took down Adam Henrique in a similar fashion. Naturally Henrique was successful in getting the goal, making it a 3-1 Devil advantage. It was the first time since 1996 that an AHL game featured two successful penalty shot goals. The Phantoms did catch up in the shot department, matching 11 shots, but Jeff Frazee stopped them all. Third period, more of the same from the home team, as Phil DeSimone and Darcy Zajac each added their first goals of the season to seal the win. Frazee had an outstanding night in goal, only letting Rinaldo’s penalty shot get by him as he registered 23 saves and earned #3 star honors. Adam Larsson also contributed two assists. The other big story? Not counting the two penalty shots, only two penalties called. All night. And Chris Brown was the referee. I almost thought Jeff Smith was there in disguise for a while there.

10/27 at Hershey: 3-0 L

Times Union
Harrisburg Patriot-News

To finish out the week, the Devils traveled south to Hershey to take on the Bears. The home team got things started with a Zach Hamill goal late in the first for a 1-0 advantage. Chances for both teams were pretty even as both had 7 shots apiece. The Devils tried in vain to get on the board in the second, but Braden Holtby was stopping everything in his path. Penalties became an issue again for Albany, as the Bears took a 2-0 lead while David Wohlberg was sitting on a roughing call. The goal actually went in and out so fast, it went up for video review, the first one I’ve seen so far. Referee Darcy Burchell did rule it a good goal. Although the scoring chances weren’t going in, the Devils special teams did step up after that, killing off a 1:15 5 on 3 just after the second Bears goal. Third period, more Devil shots on goal, but Holtby wasn’t letting anything get by him. He stopped all 35 Devil shots in getting his first shutout of the season (and the first Devil shutout loss). Tomas Kundratek scored an empty netter with 2 minutes remaining to seal the win. Lost in all this was Keith Kinkaid, who once again became the victim of poor offensive support, stopping 19 shots in the loss. He had quite a few acrobatic saves of his own, which kept the game close.

News and Notes:

-Two player transactions this week, to help with the logjam of scratches: Harry Young and Chris McKelvie were reassigned to Trenton earlier this week, joining Scott Wedgewood, Eric Baier, Alexandre Carrier, and Bryan Haczyk.

-Injury update: Alexander Urbom sat out the week after taking the sucker punch to the face last weekend in Worcester, he remains day to day. Eric Gelinas and Kelly Zajac have yet to arrive here from New Jersey where they stayed to rehab, so still waiting on an update on how long they’ll remain out.

The Week Ahead:

Two games this week, all against divisional opponents, all rematches from the week gone by. Friday night the Devils look to redeem themselves at home against the Whale. Saturday they head up the Northway for the first of 6 visits to the lovely Glens Falls Civic Center to take on the Phantoms, in Game 2 of the Time Warner Cable Cup series. Hopefully the momentum continues to build…and more offense, too!

*Note: I will be moving to a new house this week, but since Time Warner will have my internet and everything in place on moving day, I do not foresee any interruption as far as updates go. If there is a blog schedule change I’ll put it out via Twitter and the Facebook page (if you haven’t visited yet, please do and give it a Like. Still a work in progress.).

Wednesday Updates

Now that camp has finally shifted to the Capital Region (first session was on Monday), preparations are underway for the season opener against Manchester on Saturday. The latest:

-First, as of Sunday the blog is on Facebook! Click on the square under my recent tweets and give it a Like. I’ll post a few news items, and links to posts will be there as well.

-Now on to team news:

The first two cuts to the camp roster were made earlier in the week, with Eric Baier and Bryan Haczyk being assigned to Trenton in the ECHL.

Speaking of Trenton, earlier today it was announced that instead of having one ECHL affiliate, the Devils will utilize both Trenton and Elmira to reassign players.

And now for the walking wounded (all updates per Fire and Ice and The Daily Gazette):

Eric Gelinas is out indefinitely after being struck in the jaw with a shot in Binghamton on Saturday night. I had heard while in the building that he had lost three teeth, but in reality they were “loosened.”

Kelly Zajac never got into a preseason game, and there’s a good reason why: He underwent surgery to correct an abdominal issue stemming back to last season while he was still at Union. He’s out for 4 to 6 weeks.

Maxime Clermont, J.S. Berube, Steve Zalewski, Scott Parse, and Alexandre Carrier are all day to day with assorted ailments.

Unless any other news breaks, next entry will be the first pregamer of the season! All pregame entries will remain on a 3 hour before game time schedule. Most likely it will stay in the same format as last season with stats, radio/Twitter info, etc.