The first week of 2013 started out normally for the Devils, as they only had two weekend games at home to contend with, but against two very good teams in Springfield and Binghamton.
Then this happened.
So what turned into a perfect weekend for the team became a farewell of sorts for a good percentage of the roster. Looking back on the last two days of action:
The New Year started off for the Devils on home ice, hosting the first place Falcons on the annual Pucks and Paws night (for a $5 fee fans could bring their dog to the game). Very interesting matchup in net if you’re a fan of local college hockey: Union alum Keith Kinkaid against RPI alum Allen York. Stephen Gionta put the Devils on the board 12 minutes into the first with his second goal since returning to the team. Cam Atkinson tied the game 5 minutes later with a power play marker, something rarely given up by the Devils recently. Mattias Tedenby would break the tie halfway through the second period with his sixth of the season. About three minutes later, an interesting on ice situation developed, as referee Trevor Hanson had to temporarily leave the game after getting nailed in the face with a puck. Luckily the remainder of the period was uneventful, save for just two routine penalties being called. Hanson did manage to come back for the third period…he is a hockey referee, after all. Tim Sestito would give the Devils a needed insurance goal 6 minutes in (and just as their 3rd unsuccessful power play expired too) for a 3-1 advantage. Kinkaid would take care of the rest, stopping all 7 Falcon shots. Bobby Butler would add an empty netter with 50 seconds remaining to seal the win. The real offensive star of the night may just surprise you: seldom used forward Chris McKelvie, who wound up in the right place at the right time and finished with three assists on the night (along with a +3 and #2 star of the game honors). Fun fact: the Devils are 9-1-1 when he’s in the lineup. Kinkaid finished with 21 saves in picking up his 9th win of the season and #3 star honors.
Just a few hours after the official end of the NHL lockout, the Devils took on Binghamton for the second time in 9 days. In a surprising move, none of the expected New Jersey callups were given the mysterious scratch treatment, so it became the last chance for the Albany faithful to see the likes of Butler, Larsson, Josefson, and Gionta. And it was the Devils who came storming out of the gate at the start, dominating in their offensive zone for most of the period. After finding themselves on the power play just 90 seconds into the contest, Eric Gelinas went back to doing what he does best…score on the power play, putting Albany on the board 1-0. They had a chance to really pull away early after David Dziurzynski high sticked Chris McKelvie (if you recall, his hit last time the two teams met put Joe Whitney out of the lineup) and drew a double minor, but could not add to their lead. Tim Sestito added to the lead with just under five minutes remaining…and oh by the way Binghamton to that point had yet to register a shot on goal (I believe it was 10-0 at that point). Albany finished the period outshooting Binghamton 13-3 (I doubt Keith Kinkaid broke a sweat that period at all). Second period the Senators realized they were playing a game and dominated play. With Jay Leach in the box for a double minor (which really only started out as just a cross checking penalty, then he said the magic words to the referee and got hit with an extra two minutes), Patrick Wiercioch put the Senators on the board, cutting the deficit in half. Just under three minutes later, Shane Prince completed the Binghamton rally and tied the game up at 2. Kinkaid and the rest of the team settled down after that and turned the tide. After an uneventful start to the third, the Devils offense picked it up. After having a lackluster first part of the game, Adam Larsson came through in the clutch, scoring the go ahead goal 11 minutes into the third to put the Devils back up 3-2. Mattias Tedenby added an insurance goal exactly five minutes later to make it 4-2, and for the proverbial icing on the cake, Steve Zalewski scored the second straight empty netter for the 5-2 final. Despite a shaky second period, Kinkaid did very well on the day, stopping 23 of 25 Binghamton shots (and putting on a clinic at one point in the second), and 13 players registered at least 1 point (with Sestito’s goal and assist leading the way).
-Injury front: Joe Whitney sat out both games after being injured on December 28th. He told me postgame Sunday he’s day to day and should be back this weekend. Dan Kelly and David Wohlberg finally returned to the lineup after both battled the flu bug since Christmas. Scott Parse and J.S. Berube remain out indefinitely, although Berube is practicing with the team. He too just got over the flu bug and may be ready to go shortly (and yes, he should be getting his number back from Gionta).
-We should know who from here is getting recalled to New Jersey as NHL camps reopen for business later this week. I’ll likely have a separate entry for that when everything is made official.
The Week Ahead:
A busy 3 in 3 weekend looms, with 3 different stops. Friday night the Devils travel to Manchester for a minor league Stanley Cup rematch against the Monarchs, a team Albany hasn’t seen since Opening Night. Saturday they return home to face Worcester on Kids in Free Day (always a big attendance draw), then it’s off to the second home in Atlantic City Sunday afternoon to take on the Sound Tigers.