Injury-riddled Albany Devils can boost playoff bid
ALBANY The Albany Devils haven’t figured out it’s no longer boot weather.
They seem to be passing around the walking boot that was recently affixed to defenseman Mike Banwell’s foot. He’s free of it now, but defenseman Dan Kelly was wearing one Sunday, and word is right wing Mike Sislo has been seen in a brace.
The most recent blow, though not one resulting in a walking boot, came Sunday when defenseman Matt Corrente (lower body) did not return from the first intermission, leaving Albany with five healthy defensemen to finish out a 4-1 loss to Hershey.
“Matty Corrente’s a good player, but if he’s hurt, it’s up to us to find ways to win without him,” Albany defenseman Peter Harrold said. “Hopefully, we can get guys back quickly. But if we don’t, those are the breaks. There’s no excuses for losing. It’s up to us to get the job done with the guys we have in the room.”
With the guys they have in the room, the Albany Devils will take on Worcester tonight at 7 at the Times Union Center. They then get a day off to travel to Norfolk to play the Admirals Friday and Saturday.
Norfolk is on an AHL-record 18-game winning streak.
First, though, comes Worcester — a team that has beaten Albany, 6-1 and 5-1, in their two meetings this season. The Sharks also occupy the eighth and final playoff position.
“They’re right in front of us, and we need to catch them. We haven’t played well against them this year. I think we’d like to get some payback. We owe them,” Harrold said. “Obviously, it’s a huge game, and we don’t need any more motivation than looking at the standings. But we need a much better showing against them than we’ve gotten in the past. I think the guys are motivated to play.”
After three-in-three weekends for the past six weekends, Harrold said the team was glad for the day off this week, even if it will be spent traveling.
It will be one more day to rest up, put their feet up, even the feet sporting those unsightly boots.
Albany’s injury report includes defensemen Jay Leach (lower body), Corrente, Kelly, Alexander Urbom (upper body) and Banwell; and forwards Nathan Perkovich (lower body), Chad Wiseman (lower body), Darcy Zajac (upper body) and Sislo.
Urbom could possibly play tonight, as could Perkovich, but Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said all decisions will be made today. Corrente may be back as early as the Norfolk series.
Even if Urbom sits out, the Devils will have six healthy defenseman with the signing of 6-foot-5, 215-pound Corbin McPherson to an amateur tryout contract.
McPherson finished out his college career with Colgate over the weekend. He had four goals and six assists in 39 games this season. His career totals are 10 goals and 23 assists in 152 games.
“He’s a big body,” Kowalsky said. “He’s obviously going to have to get used to American League pace and size and speed and all that stuff. The good thing is, he just finished Saturday, so he’s right out of playing and playing some intense, important games. Obviously, size, reach, he’s a stay-at-home type guy from what I’ve seen and been told.”
With the Devils on an eight-game slide, having fallen from seventh in the Eastern Conference to 11th, they have their work cut out for them in their remaining 12 games if they are to make the playoffs. A fresh body or two helps that effort, but comes with the added chore of bringing new players up to speed.
“It’s certainly not easy to come in at the end of the year and play well,” Harrold said. “We’ll try to do the best we can, give him pointers here and there, make sure he’s up to speed on things. If he’s got questions, hopefully we can answer them.
“It’s good to get new energy in. That’s the plus side. We’re going to need that down the stretch here. We’ve put ourselves in a precarious position, so we’re going to need points in every game.”
The Devils also should start getting some of those injured players back soon. Kowalsky said the potential is there for many of them to be back two weeks or so from now.
One of the more veteran players who has been out since Dec. 16 and played only 15 games this season could soon provide a boost to the team, as Leach is looking more and more like he may return this season.
“He’s skating,” Kowalsky said. “I think this week with us traveling, not being around, I think he may look at practicing with the team next week. It’s been a long time, but we’ll see how it’s going. He’s progressing, anyways.”