Butler in good company
Bobby Butler is in good company.
I’m not talking about his linemates Joe Whitney and Steve Zalewski, though that’s good company, too, as they showed in Albany’s 6-3 win Wednesday over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
I’m talking about Matt Halischuk and David Clarkson, the two other AHL Devils to record five points in a game, as Butler did Wednesday to tie for the franchise record.
Halischuk turned the trick Oct. 11, 2008 for the Lowell Devils in a home game against Worcester with four goals and an assist. Clarkson did it Jan. 12, 2007 for Lowell in a home game against Philadelphia, also with four goals and an assist.
Halischuk played all of last season with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, and Clarkson has been up with New Jersey on a regular basis since the season after his five-goal outburst.
Of course, there is no NHL right now, and the prospect of there being any this season is doubtful, but Butler is working to get back to the top league after spending last season with Ottawa.
One game isn’t going to do that, but it’s a heck of a start, as he doubled his goal output for the season with four goals and an assist on Wednesday.
“I guess I just started to feel better and better as the game went on,” Butler said after Thursday’s practice. “I was a little shaky at first, but once I put one in, I felt pretty good. From there, the team was playing great, and I fed off all the guys playing great. It was a fun night.”
His linemates added another five points on the night, Whitney and Zalewski both with two helpers and Zalewski adding a goal, assisted by Butler.
“Joe’s been solid, offensively,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “He creates every night, whether it’s for himself or someone else. Zalewski has got speed up the middle, he goes to the net, he does a lot of the dirty work below the goal line, and he’s a guy who hasn’t had a lot to show for that work, so it was good to see him rewarded. They played well for us last night.”
“We’ve kind of meshed together pretty well,” Zalewski said. “[Adam] Henrique went down and I’ve had a chance to step in and play with these two guys. They’re both really skilled players and make a lot of things happen, so I’ve been trying to work hard and do what I can to support them. A night like last night, I think you saw when you put a couple skilled guys together like that, you can have a night like that.”
“We just have three guys who are working hard and playing the way coach wants us to play — working at getting pucks in and making things happen,” Butler said. “You’ve got three guys who are willing to work, and if you put the work in, good things happen.”
Zalewski also had a fight, completing his Gordie Howe hat trick. Both he and Butler had a slow start to the season, but both have been cranking up their play in recent weeks.
“Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes,” Butler said. “Z, he can put the puck in the net, but sometimes it’s up and down. The same for me. You just need a couple good breaks and chances. Whit’s doing a great job making plays, and we finally got to put some on the board.”
“We’ve talked about how we felt Butler’s game, his overall play, has been a lot better over the last week in particular, but it’s been coming on,” Kowalsky said. “I talked to him a little bit about being reliable and committed away from the puck, and I think he’s been better at that. We worked him in on the penalty kill, and I think that’s helped with his play away from the puck in the five-on-five. Some of those scorers, when they do those little things, the big things take care of themselves. He’s been around the puck a lot in the last couple weeks and had a couple weeks and had a couple chances. Last night was a breakout night for him, and hopefully, this is the boost he needs and he can really take off from here. Whitney made an unbelievable pass on the first one, and Zalewski hit him backdoor, so he’s in the right spot, and as much as he finished four goals, the other guys are definitely making plays to help him.”
Butler’s first goal tied the game, 1-1. He added another to make it 3-1, then worked for a short-handed tally after the Pens had pulled within a goal at 3-2. Zalewski said Butler’s answers to Penguins goals provided some mid-game momentum that the Devils haven’t seen much this season.
“We started a little slow, and as we started to get going, you could see we settled into a nice rhythm as a team,” he said. “Bobby gets a couple goals, and for us to have a few goals and answer back like that after giving one up, I think that was pretty important for us. It’s not something we’ve done a great job of this year, and to create that offense, it gave a spark to the whole team to finish the game off.”
The veterans of the game always talk about not getting to low after a bad game and not too high after a good game. Butler seems to have heard that speech once or twice, and Thursday, he was ready to move on.
“You enjoy it. I enjoyed it last night,” Butler said. “Then, once I woke up today, it’s a new day. I just want to be ready to play the next game. It was a fun night, and now we’re looking forward to the next game.”
The last Albany Devils hat trick was recorded by Joe Whitney at Springfield on Jan. 21, a 5-2 win.
The last hat trick by an Albany Devil at home was Chad Wiseman’s four-goal game on March 9, 2011. His four goals came in the span of 9:03 in the third period and lifted the Devils to a 5-4 win over Bridgeport.
Yeah, in less than 10 minutes.
Anyone can do it in an entire game, right?
Defenseman and captain Jay Leach (lower body) is doubtful for the weekend. Stephen Gionta (upper body) is “closer” than Leach to a return, Kowalsky said. Defenseman Raman Hrabarenka (cut foot) will probably be available this weekend.
Henrique (thumb) remains out until sometime late this month or early January. Left wing Jean-Sebastien Berube (upper body) still is out indefinitely.