The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region

Crunch coming to town

The Syracuse Crunch, defending Eastern Conference champions, are coming to Albany tonight to play the Albany Devils at 7.

The Crunch (affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning) went to the Calder Cup finals last season, losing to Grand Rapids. The previous season, the Lightning were affiliated with the Norfolk Admirals, and those Admirals won the Calder Cup.

So the Tampa Bay affiliate has been the best team in the Eastern Conference for two straight seasons.

Just how good they were in those two seasons can be measured by how less-than-impressive their 4-2-1-0 start this season feels. That’s not a bad record through seven games, nor is their 24-19 goals for-against totals.

Still, it just doesn’t feel like they’re performing as well as they have been in the last couple seasons.

“They’re not [having] quite the start that they’ve had in the last couple years, but there’s no question it’s still there,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “Any time you win it and then you go to the finals the next year, even though their personnel has changed, there’s still the core group of solid guys there, and there’s a culture that’s been created now. I know they’ve had a coaching change, but they’ve all been under — even the coach — has been under Jon Cooper. I find it not too ironic that you’re seeing [Richard] Panik and [Ondrej] Palat and all those guys, [Alex] Killorn, all those guys up and doing well right now with the Tampa Bay Lightning. There’s no question, they haven’t got off to a great start, but they’re certainly still in the mix and it’s going to be a good test for us.”

The parent clubs met in Newark last night with the Devils beating the Lightning, 2-1. Former Albany Devil Adam Henrique scored a shorthanded goal early in the second period.

Kowalsky said right wing Mike Sislo (upper body) will be an option for the game, but the team will likely sit him at least tonight to err on the side of caution.

“We’ll probably, maybe, just give him a little more time to skate,” Kowalsky said. “He hasn’t skated with the team much, so we’re erring on the side of no.”

Sislo was named one of the assistant captains, and he wears the ‘A’ when Albany is home. He splits the duty with Chris McKelvie, who wears it on the road. Tim Sestito is a full-time assistant to captain Rod Pelley.

The Devils (5-2-0-1) have three in four, as they host Norfolk on Friday and travel to play Adirondack on Saturday.

During the weekend games, goalie Maxime Clermont may get his first AHL start of the season. He was reassigned to Albany from the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL when Keith Kinkaid was recalled from Albany to New Jersey because of Cory Schneider’s lower-body injury.

Just a couple other notes. The Devils are 4-1-0-0 when scoring first. Those five first-goals all come from the forward line of rookie Reid Boucher, newcomer Scott Timmins and the team’s two-time leading scorer Joe Whitney.

That line has 12 of the team’s 23 goals this season and 15 of 37 assists. As a line, they have posted 1.13 points per game.

The six rookies on the team who are not goalies have combined to play 41 games (so, an average of just less than seven each), and have combined for five goals, 14 assists and a plus-five rating.

For an article on rookie defenseman Reece Scarlett, pick up today’s Daily Gazette.

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