Stephen Gionta's #11 may be gone, but the former Albany captain is back - Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE
Recapping the last week in Albany Devils action, which included two games - home vs Bridgeport and at Connecticut
Welcome to Week 10 of your Albany Devils Roundup. This was definitely a very good week for Albany in several ways. First, former Captain Stephen Gionta rejoined the team on Monday. This provided a big boost to a core of forwards that, although large in overall numbers, is not necessarily deep, especially down the middle. Lil' Gio's style of play and ability to contribute both defensively and on the penalty kill will certainly help in filling the huge void left by Adam Henrique's injury. Gionta's influence was already obvious in the two games the Devils played this past weekend, and he was a big part of the other reason this was such a good week for Albany.
Albany swept both of their games over the weekend, defeating the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 3-1 Saturday afternoon at the TUC, and the Connecticut Whale, 1-0 Sunday afternoon in Connecticut. This marks the first time this season that we have nothing but Devils wins to discuss in our Weekly Roundup. It also advances the Albany winning streak to 3, which is easily their best of the season so far. Keith Kinkaid started both games and was excellent. The defense was strong and the forwards were too. We really saw a couple complete team efforts from our A-Devils, and the results followed the play on the ice. We'll get into the details of the games after we catch up on the ECHL prospects and update the injury report.
Not the most successful of weeks for most of the guys down in the ECHL, especially the goaltenders.
Maxime Clermont only appeared in one game, and it was not pretty. Appearing Friday night at home against Reading, Clermont surrendered 7 goals on 33 shots in a 7-4 loss. This is on the heels of giving up 6 goals on 39 shots in his last outing against Trenton a week ago.
Now, obviously I can't really say what is happening with Clermont because I haven't watched any of these games. It's definitely concerning that he has surrendered 13 goals in his last two games.
Wedgewood hasn't been at his best lately either. Scott played two games this weekend and lost both for Trenton. On Friday, he gave up 3 goals on 17 shots in an overtime loss to South Carolina.
Sunday afternoon, Wedgewood started again, giving up 3 goals on 28 shots in a 4-2 loss to Gwinnett. That's three losses in a row for Wedgewood, who has also dropped 5 of his last 6 games, including his last 5 starts (he got a win in relief of Niko Hovinen last Saturday). Granted, Trenton doesn't win much as a team overall. The Titans have dropped 13 of their last 16 games.
Kelly Zajac started all 3 games for Trenton over the weekend. On Friday, he was held scoreless and did not register a shot on goal. Saturday, he scored 2 goals on 2 shots. Sunday, he had one shot on goal and was a -2.
Alexandre Carrier did not appear in any of the Trenton games over the weekend.
Add Jay Leach to the injury report. Leach left Saturday night's game against Bridgeport with what is being called a "lower-body injury". He is "day-to-day" and did not play Sunday, so we will see later in the week how soon he will be available again.
It's possible Matt Corrente will be a new addition to the injury report. I am not sure, but I don't remember seeing him on the ice at all after his fight with Michael Haley in the second period of Sunday's game.
Raman Hrabarenka was cut with a skate at Thursday's practice and missed both weekend games.
Dan Kelly has returned to action. He played in both games over the weekend.
Adam Henrique remains out with his thumb injury.
J.S. Berube remains out indefinitely.
Saturday 12/8 - Albany 3 Bridgeport 1
The Devils game on Saturday started off with Albany on a 5-on-3 power play almost right out of the gate. Marc Cantin went to the box for interference just 1 minute into the first period. About 30 seconds later, teammate Matt Watkins joined him. This would be the first of several 5-on-3 power plays for Albany on the night. This first attempt did not produce a goal, unfortunately. Still, things started off on the right foot, and kind of set the tone for most of the first period, which the Devils dominated.
The Devils were the better team in all areas to start the game, and they were rewarded with the game's first goal. After establishing possession in the offensive zone, the puck came around to Adam Larsson at the point. Larsson wound up and sent a shot low towards the net. Joe Whitney was skating through the middle, and he was able to reach out and get his stick on the puck. The redirection sent the puck past Anders Nilsson and into the back of the net. Albany had a 1-0 lead.
Now, at this point, Bridgeport had only 1 shot on goal, and we were almost 13 minutes into the game. Shortly after the goal, Bridgeport tried to change the momentum of the game with fisticuffs, as Nathan MacIver challenged Chris McKelvie to a fight. In just his second game with Albany and looking to make an impression, McKelvie obliged. Now, McKelvie got his helmet ripped off pretty early in the fight and definitely absorbed more punches than he landed. Still, he held up alright for his first AHL fight.
Despite MacIver's best efforts, the pugilism did nothing to change the momentum of the game. Not only was the Albany defense denying Bridgeport in the Devils zone, the Albany forwards were out-possessing them also. The first period ended with Albany leading 1-0, and leading in shots on goal 7-3.
Early in the second period, the Devils would get another crack at the 5-on-3 power play situation, and this time they would make the most of it. First, Tim Sestito was tripped by Nathan MacIver. Just 20 seconds into the man advantage, Casey Cizikis would take a seat for interference after decking Jacob Josefson with a big hit.
The Devils 5-on-3 this time looked very dangerous, as a 5-on-3 should. Chad Wiseman and Bobby Butler were operating down low on opposite sides of the net. Wiseman found Butler with a cross ice pass through the slot, but Butler's one timer went off the side of the net. After collecting the rebound, the Devils maintained possession. Once again, Wiseman would find Butler with a virtually identical pass, and this time Butler would make no mistake, dropping to one knee and blasting a one timer high into the open net. The Devils had a 2-0 lead by virtue of a power play goal.
Just moments later, the Devils nearly struck again at even strength. Joe Whitney found a Bobby Butler rebound in front, but was robbed by Anders Nilsson. Shortly afterwards, Dan Kelly was sent off for charging. On the ensuing power play, Bridgeport got their first dangerous chance that I could remember in the second period. There was a shot saved by Kinkaid, and then a rebound in front, once again saved by Kinkaid. He was not very busy at all over the first half of this game, but Keith was up to the few challenges thrown his way so far. The second period was shaping up almost identical to the first, as over half way through, Bridgeport had a mere 3 shots on goal.
Then, after the successful penalty kill, the Devils would extend their lead to 3-0. Stephen Gionta collected a loose puck and break out Tedenby on a 2-on-1 with Chad Wiseman. Teddy carried the puck into the zone and skated in towards net. Mattias fired a good, hard, low shot which initially I thought was deflected by Nilsson. It turns out Tedenby beat Nilsson and hit the post. His rebound kicked out directly to Wiseman crashing the net, and Wiseman did not miss from point blank range.
From this point on, the rest of the second period would actually be all Bridgeport. This is not totally surprising, being that they faced a 3 goal deficit. The Sound Tigers fired shot after shot at Kinkaid over the remainder of the second, with a couple of dangerous chances. There was one rebound chance where a Bridgeport player had the puck on his stick and an open goal in front, but he fired it up high over everything. It's possible from the way the shot took off that the puck was rolling on its end, but I can't be sure. Still. That was an excellent opportunity missed by Bridgeport. The second period ended with the Devils leading just 17-15 in shots. Just halfway through the second, they were leading in shots about 15-6. So, play had definitely tilted in Bridgeport's favor, but they could not take advantage by putting the puck in the back of the net.
The third period began with Bridgeport still pressing. Their forecheck was very aggressive. The Devils were able to take advantage of the aggressiveness of Bridgeport's forecheck, and the fact that they were pressing down 3-0. As a result, Albany was able to create a number of 2-on-1 rushes the other way.
The first opportunity came with Darcy Zajac carrying the puck into the zone and Wiseman on his flank. Zajac held onto the puck a little too long, and ultimately was not able to get either a shot or a pass off on the play. Just moments later, another break involving Zajac once again, and Chris McKelvie. McKelvie carried the puck into the zone and threaded a really nice pass to Zajac. At the last minute, a Bridgeport defender (I think Ty Wishart) got his stick on the puck and was able to knock it away from Zajac.
The other defining event of the third period was a giant scrum that broke out following a Josefson boarding penalty about 7 minutes into the period. Bridgeport had been playing a very physical and aggressive game, which Albany had used against them for the most part, catching them out of position at times. Still, Josefson, who was hit hard earlier in the game, leveled a Bridgeport player with a pretty hard hit from behind into the boards. Bridgeport took offense, and Josefson was mobbed. Jacob dropped the gloves and was ready to go, but couldn't find a dancing partner. Next thing you know, Adam Larsson and Brett Gallant are tossing haymakers at each other. Although he ultimately emerged from the fight in one piece, let's just say that based on this showing, Adam Larsson should stick to not fighting. It's definitely good to see the two young Swedes sticking up for themselves and each other, but that's just too much talent there for the Devils to risk.
Ultimately, the third period was pretty evenly played for the most part. Bridgeport, despite being down by three goals, could not tilt the ice in their favor again until very late in the game. By this point, the Devils were really just defending and trying to run out the clock. With just over two minutes left, Nino Niederreiter broke up the shutout by firing a good hard low shot through Kinkaid's legs. Despite some late pressure with the extra skater, Albany's defense would not crack again, and they held on for a well- deserved 3-1 victory.
This was an outstanding Albany effort from top to bottom. The forwards forechecked well, the defense was stout, despite playing for long stretches with only 5 and then 4 available men.
The best line of forwards for the Devils was the Whitney-Zalewski-Butler grouping. Joe Whitney and Bobby Butler had 5 and 4 shots, respectively, while each scoring a goal. Just another day at the office for these guys the way they have been rolling lately.
I thought the Pesonen-Josefson-Parse line was just ok. Anderson sat out the game (not sure why) and I didn't think Parse was that effective as his replacement.
The third line of Tedenby-Gionta-Wiseman was really good. Lil' Gio, despite being out of action for so long, was immediately effective in most areas of the game. Offensively and finishing with the puck on his stick may take him another game or two to shake the rust off. Defensively, he was all over the ice. He also sprung Tedenby on that break which turned into the Devils third goal. Also I think Gio is a great center for Tedenby, creating some balence on the line, and I really like this unit as a whole. Gio in the middle creates a more well-rounded 3rd line than previously when Zalewski was centering this line. They stayed together for Sunday's game and probably will moving forward.
The fourth line was pretty good too on this day. They created several odd man rushes during the third period, but their finish was lacking. McKelvie was a really interesting addition to the lineup. He seemed willing to do whatever it takes physically and jumped right into the action, creating a few chances for his linemates. He played again Sunday, and I think he could become a regular part of the fourth line rotation moving forward.
The defensemen all deserve a lot of credit in this game. They had been somewhat leaky over the last few weeks, and they really tightened up in this one, not making the costly mistakes that had plagued them recently. Everyone in the back deserves credit. Especially, the four guys who rotated over a 10 minute stretch in the third period while Leach was injured and Larsson was serving a 10 minute misconduct as a result of his fight. McPherson, Kelly, Urbom, and Gelinas kept things together during this stretch.
Larsson had an assist on the Whitney goal and is contributing regularly on offense for the Devils besides being pretty solid defending.
Keith Kinkaid was really sharp in this game. Now, he didn't have to have a crazy statline to get a victory like he did last Saturday in Adirondack. In fact, he barely faced any pressure over the first 30 minutes. Then, all of a sudden he was somewhat barraged over the next 10. He didn't miss a beat, and made the saves when he had to. Yes, he gave up a goal very late which spoiled the shutout. Overall, Kinkaid did what he needed to do and looked sharp when tested.
Sunday 12/9 Albany 1 Connecticut 0
A quick turnaround saw Albany down in Connecticut Sunday afternoon for a matinee with the Whale. This was a chance for the Devils to get some revenge of sort, as they had dropped the first two games this year to their division rival. The first was a complete drubbing, 5-2, in which they were totally outplayed. The second meeting between the two clubs saw Albany drop a 2-1 contest in a shootout, despite outplaying Connecticut badly, and outshooting them by about 30.
Sunday afternoon's contest was a chance for Albany to erase the bad memories of those prior meetings, and that's exactly what they did. Connecticut dominated the early part of this contest. Now, the Whale were coming off a 9-2 defeat the night before, so you could have guessed they would come out flying in this one, and that's exactly what they did. Fortunately, the Devils weathered the early storm without surrendering a goal. Then, play began to even out about halfway through the period.
In fact, the Devils had an outstanding chance to steal a 1-0 lead late in the first. Eric Gelinas carried the puck into the zone and flipped a nice little pass to Bobby Butler, who skated in and fired a shot past Talbot but off the post. The first period would end a 0-0 draw, with shots 12-6 in favor of the Whale.
The second period would be an entirely different story. The Devils continued along with some of the momentum gained late in the first, and really dominated the second. About 7 minutes in, they finally broke the scoreless tie. Bobby Butler sprung Joe Whitney on a 2-on-1 break with Steve Zalewski. Whitney carried the puck in towards the goal. The defender dropped down to the ice, completely cutting of the passing lane. Whitney, in turn, held the puck and fired a shot past Cam Talbot, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead.
Just about a minute later, Michael Haley crushed Tim Sestito in the Devils zone. It seemed Corrente took objection to the hit and may have yelled something to Haley, perhaps challenging him to a fight. Haley skated across the zone specifically to take on Corrente, but as soon as he grabbed Matt by the sweater, Corrente dropped to his knees and stayed down. I don't think Corrente returned to the game after this sequence. He didn't really get hit or anything, so I'm not sure what happened there.
Haley's physical play did not turn things in the Whale's favor, however, they nearly had a great chance just minutes later. J.T. Miller picked Corbin McPherson's pocket right in front of the crease. He then went forehand to backhand right in front of Kinkaid, and it looked like he was going to put himself in position to score. Kinkaid got his right pad out, however, and broke up the play, sending Miller sprawling to the ice. Gelinas was called for a trip on the play, but it looked like it was Kinakaid's pad that took down Miller. Either way, the Devils killed the power play, and no harm was done.
The Devils kept up the strong forecheck, with Whitney and Butler operating dangerously and drawing another power play for Albany. The Devils could not convert, and they were 0-3 on the power play for this game. After the second period, Albany lead 21-18 in shots.
Early in the third, the Devils found themselves back on the penalty kill after a somewhat tough holding call on Mike Sislo. The kill was excellent, with the best chance of the power play going to the Devils shorthanded. Josefson and Butler nearly connected for an odd man rush. The early part of the third period seemed to play relatively evenly. Then, as the period went on, the Devils were trying to kill time and defend the increasing pressure from Conneticut.
About 11 minutes into the third, a dangerous looking chance developed in the zone for Connecticut. Instead, they turned the puck over, and their opportunity turned into a penalty taken by Chris Kreider, who has been no stranger to the penalty box in his first AHL season. The Devils didn't pressure much on the power play, but they were able to kill two minutes off the clock relatively easily. They also killed about 50 seconds worth of time playing keep away with the extra skater prior to this on the delayed penalty call.
The closest Connecticut came to tying the game came on a power play after Tim Sestito sat for a roughing minor. Haley won a faceoff and I believe Kelsey Tessier deflected a point shot which rang off the post. The late flurry for Connecticut continued, as they kept the pressure on Kinkaid throughout the end of the third period. There was one more dangerous chance late when the Whale had the extra skater on. Kinkaid made a great pad save and then gobbled up the rebound with enemy traffic in the area. The Devils survived both an early and late flurry by Connecticut, while markedly outplaying their opponent during the middle, to emerge the victors, 1-0.
Again, a pretty complete effort by the Devils in this one. The defense was stout. Kinkaid was sharp. The forwards weren't dominant at all times, but really elevated their play during the second period.
Whitney- Zalewski- Butler again were the best set of forwards for Albany. Joe Whitney is seemingly everywhere. He had the lone Albany goal among 5 shots on the game. Bobby Butler has really come on strong of late. He put up three shots. Zalewski has done a very solid job in between the two wingers, keeping this line going on offense in absence of Henrique.
The Josefson line was better today with Anderson back on the right flank. Jacob had 3 shots but didn't score. Harri Pesonen put up four shots and was very active. Anderson didn't really have a noticeable game to me.
Tedenby-Gionta-Wiseman were a little quieter today, but still provided some good depth as a third line. As I mentioned before, I think this line has a chance to really be dangerous once Gio gets a few more games under his belt.
The fourth line today was ok. They didn't have a huge impact on the game, but were decent. McKelvie is an interesting player, I thought he was possibly the best on the night among himself, Sestito, and Sislo.
The defense was solid for the most part. They did give up some chances, and there were a few points in this game when the Whale forecheck looked dangerous. I think the Devils D may have been playing down a man for half the game. I'm not sure that Corrente ever returned after his "fight" with Haley.
I thought Adam Larsson had a very good game. You can tell he is a leader back there for this team. He really took charge at times and was confident with the puck.
I though Eric Gelinas had his best game of the season so far. He was dangerous with the puck, carried it through the neutral zone effectively, and had a few nice setups as well, one of which nearly turned into a Bobby Butler goal.
McPherson was steady for the most part, except when he got his pocket picked by J.T. Miller. McPherson has become a regular on the Albany blue line in his rookie season, and is doing a solid job so far. He is more of a big, stay at home guy. He seems to be adjusting well to the pro game so far.
Dan Kelly looked a little more comfortable than in his first game back on Saturday, where he was a bit shaky at moments.
Alex Urbom had a very solid game in my opinion. He is been very steady defensively of late, and is doing a very good job overall.
Keith Kinkaid got the back-to-back start (and third in a row) and did not disappoint. He was able to secure the shutout that eluded him on Saturday night. Keith was very sharp once again. Great rebound control, and he seems to be really in a nice groove right now. It's great to see Kinkaid get a few games when there are not truckloads of skater errors taking place in front of him, and he is certainly making the most of it.
All stats taken from theahl.com and echl.com
Links and Photo Book:
Check out Tracey's Photo Gallery from Saturday night's game over at Thoughts Inside the Box
It's a three game week upcoming for Albany. Wednesday night, the Devils host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Friday night, they will be back in Connecticut for the 4th game of the season against the Whale. Then, Saturday night Albany will return home to host the Providence Bruins.
So, that concludes our Roundup for this week. It feels good to finally be discussing some victories. What do you think of the Devils performance on the ice. DO you think the addition of Stephen Gionta is making a difference already? How about Joe Whitney? He really seems to be firing on all cylinders lately. How about Bobby Butler's recent emergence. What about the steady play of Alex Urbom and Corbin McPherson in back, among others? Oh yeah, and how about Kinkaid? Please leave your thoughts about any of these players, or anything else relevant to the Albany Devils in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading.