Albany Devils are coming around
It was a poor game against the Connecticut Whale last Wednesday that spurred the Albany Devils to a big win last Friday over the Adirondack Phantoms. They will play both those teams again this weekend and hope to carry a little momentum out of last weekend.
Albany will host Connecticut on Friday night, then will travel to play Adirondack on Saturday night, both games at 7.
The Devils took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission against Connecticut in their last meeting before the Whale sped off to a 5-2 win. Albany recovered for a 5-1 win over Adirondack, then lost 3-0 to Hershey on Sunday as the Bears’ goalie Braden Holtby was unbeatable, despite the Devils’ pressure.
All in all, it looked like the Devils started to turn a corner after a rough start to the season.
“We had a big bounce-back game on Friday after the Wednesday game was, by far, our worst outing of the year,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We came out with a purpose and maybe a little fire in our belly, wanting to bounce back, and we did. The guys did a good job.
“The next night in Hershey was our first experience with travel. We were off the bus at 3 in the morning. I thought we came out strong in the first period. It’s a tough building to play in, and we maybe didn’t push things as much as we wanted to. I think we got lulled into their game a little bit and let them off the hook when Holtby made some saves early. In the second, we ran into some penalty trouble. And in the third, we put some of our best chances on him and got hungry and played with a little more grit around the front of the net. As much as you don’t want to say we deserved to win the game, I thought we definitely deserved better than we got, and played a goaltender who was really on. It was quite a display, to tell you the truth.”
In the first couple games of the season, the Devils were horrible on the penalty kill, stopping just three of seven power plays they faced. In the four games since, they are killing penalties at a 91.3 percent clip (having allowed two power-play goals on 23 power plays).
One of those two goals came in that second period against Hershey.
“When you’re a team that wants to be aggressive, and we’ve talked about the success we’ve had five-on-five, it kills your flow, your tempo, getting your lines through. That team, five-on-five, the way we were pushing the pace, especially early ... they obviously got better as the game went on. They had to. But I really felt, early on, they were trying to lull us to sleep,” Kowalsky said. “Going into the third period, they had four or five icings in a row and had to call a timeout. You get the sense, as a coach, that we’ve got these guys on the ropes, but unfortunately, we couldn’t solve Holtby. [With the penalties] in the second period, that kills your momentum, then you’ve got to shorten your bench, your penalty killers are playing twice as much, and your guys that aren’t on the penalty kill kind of get taken out of the game.”
The Devils are among the league’s most-penalized teams, averaging 13.83 penalty minutes per game.
Albany RW Matt Anderson said the Devils played well in Hershey, but are still working on forming their identity. He wants the Devils to go into games against perennial powers like Hershey with the attitude that the guys in the other dressing room should be a little intimidated.
“I don’t think we played bad on Saturday night. We played against a good goaltender, but that’s not an excuse,” Anderson said. “You make your own breaks. Yeah, you’re going to come up against a hot goaltender from time to time, but we still let in two goals. I don’t think we can rest on that. We’ve got to have higher expectations. At least, me personally, I do. It should be the other way around sometimes, where Hershey is saying, ‘Oh [no], we have to play Albany tonight.’ A lot of these well-known teams, they have — I don’t want to call it intimidation — but you expect them to win. That’s a mentality in our dressing room we need to change. We’re going to Hershey expecting their power play to pump two in, we’re going to be down, 2-0, early and that’s it. The game’s going to be over. We’ve got to start creating that mindset ourselves that, no, we’ve got a power play, we’ve got situations and it’s going to be 2-0 us. That’s going to be the most challenging thing for us. We’ve got the players in the dressing room, but it’s a mentality shift we have to expect from ourselves, that it’s just another night at the office — that we’re just going to do our homework, and we’re going to come out on top.”
There’s not much to report on the injury front. Defenseman Eric Gelinas (puck to jaw), centerman Kelly Zajac (abdominal) and left wing Jean-Sebastien Berube (upper body) all remain out with no timeline for their return.
Defenseman Alexander Urbom (upper body) skated alone Wednesday and Kowalsky said “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” so it sounds like he’s day-to-day.
THAT TIME OF YEAR
If the Devils have turned a corner and are ready to break out with a run of wins, it shouldn’t be too surprising. Last year, they caught fire in November with a 5-1-2-1 record, claiming 13 of 18 possible points.
The 2.33 goals-against average for Albany is fifth best in the AHL. Unfortunately for the Devils, they also have scored only 2.33 goals per game. They have 14 goals for and 14 against in their first six games. …
Centerman Jacob Josefson and Anderson both show a plus-six rating through the first six games, ranking them among the league leaders. They will line once again with LW Mike Hoeffel. Read more about this line in Friday’s print edition of The Daily Gazette. …
Last Friday, the AHL announced an updated schedule of games that will be broadcast on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, including two Albany Devils’ games this month. The Devils will play Syracuse on Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. and St. John’s on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m., and both games can be heard on Sirius 207 or XM 92.