Blue-collar top line has all the tools for Albany Devils
When a team has scored only 14 goals and allowed only 14, and two of its players own a plus-six rating, there’s not much room for interpretation.
Centerman Jacob Josefson and right wing Matt Anderson are a big part of what could make the Albany Devils a tough team to play.
They’ve recently been sharing a line with left wing Mike Hoeffel, who is plus-two with two goals and an assist in five games so far.
“First of all, they’re two very good hockey players, and we enjoy playing with each other,” Josefson said. “Hoef, he’s a big guy [6-foot-3], a good skater. He’s winning battles, winning pucks. He’s hard to play against. Andy’s just a great hockey player with great skating and he’s got pretty much all the tools. We’ve found some chemistry there.”
The line will look to stay hot as the Devils host Connecticut tonight at 7 at the Times Union Center and travel to Glens Falls to play Adirondack on Saturday night at 7.
Josefson came out of the weekend with four goals and two assists through the first six games, his goal total good for 12th in the league after Sunday’s games. Anderson has a goal and four assists.
The plus-six had both Josefson and Anderson tied for sixth in the league in that category after the weekend’s games.
“Those guys are on for a lot of chances, and not for a lot of chances against,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said.
“They have been our most consistent line, and they have probably gotten stronger every game. Matt Anderson and Josefson, in particular, have got a little chemistry going. They’re both guys that can make plays and can score, but they’re also blue-collar type players. They work, and they’re on the puck. Then Hoeffel’s a good skater with a good shot and is pretty confident coming out of camp. They’re definitely a group I will keep together right now. As we continue to insert guys on other lines and change things up, the three of them will definitely stay together right now.”
Kowalsky said he fights the idea of inserting another player on the line to get someone else going. This trio is just so good together at the moment, he doesn’t want to break that up just yet.
The chemistry on the line leads to more efficient possession, which has helped Anderson’s quick start.
“We’re moving the puck a little bit better. It’s making a lot less work,” he said. “For myself, the game’s kind of slowing down a little bit. We can let the puck do the work instead of running around out there. For me, at least, that’s what’s been helping me out and contributing to some of the success I’m having.”
Josefson said he took a couple games to get going, but he’s been feeling pretty good. The evidence shows in the four-game point streak he had going before Albany was shut out Saturday at Hershey with goalie Bradon Holtby putting on a clinic.
“In the first couple of games there, I felt a little rusty. I hadn’t played in a while,” Jos-efson said. “But the more games you play, the better. The more you get comfortable out there. The team has played OK, but we haven’t gotten the wins we wanted. I think if we just keep playing like that, we will win some games.”
The Devils are 2-4-0-0 and at the bottom of the Northeast Division, but 70 games remain to be played.
Their work in their own end provides some hope they will gather some momentum through the coming months, as they did last November (5-1-2-1).
They’ve held opponents to 2.33 goals per game, fifth best in the AHL. After a rocky start to the season, the Devils are transitioning with a little more ease and spending less time in their own zone.
“It’s not just our line. Defensively, I feel like we’re coming out of the zone a lot smoother, and it’s leading to a lot more offensive opportunity,” Anderson said. “The puck movement — our first pass out of the zone is what’s allowing us, as a line, to have success. As a team, we’re advancing the puck better.”
“Last week, we played some good hockey,” Josefson said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t put the puck in the net against Hershey. [Holtby] had a good game. That’s going to happen. We just have to keep creating chances and play hard.”