A Better Team With Leblond In The Lineup

ALBANY, NY – Head Coach Rick Kowalsky was trying to send a message when he started the Albany Devils bruising line of Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Rod Pelley and Chris McKelvie against Toronto Sunday. The message wasn’t just to the first-place Marlies, but also to the 15 other skaters on the Devils’ bench.

“When he wants us to start a game, I think he wants us to set the pace and make sure the other team knows we’re going to come hard all night,” Leblond said after Tuesday’s practice.

“They started Clune, who ran around a little bit in Toronto, and to me, sometimes other coaches do that to create energy,” Kowalsky said. “Sometimes they try to say something without saying something. So, we’ve done that before in certain situations, or you respond with your gritty lineup. And that was more just a matchup. You know what, those guys have earned it. They were all good this weekend.”

The Devils played a fast, physical game against the Marlies, earning a 3-2, come-from-behind victory.

The game was the team’s fourth consecutive victory since Leblond returned to the lineup during a 5-4 overtime win at St. John’s on Mar. 5. He had been a victim of an AHL rule that limits the number of veterans a team can play at a given time.

During that game against the IceCaps, Leblond provided a spark. He setup a pair of goals and finished a +2. It was his first multi-point performance since Feb. 25, 2014 when he was playing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against Hershey.

Kowalsky, who originally coached Leblond with Trenton (ECHL) during the 2007-08 season, has watched the 30-year-old’s game evolve.

“He plays a detailed game and obviously he’s a physical guy out there, but he also brings leadership,” Kowalsky said. “I completely trust him as a coach. I think I show that by the minutes we play with him. I think he just makes everyone in the lineup a little bit bigger, but he holds guys accountable. He’s very good on the bench, very good in the room.”

Leblond is a veteran of 435 career AHL games and 41 NHL contests. Combined, he has a total of 66 points (26g-40a) and 1,760 penalty minutes. He is a player relied upon to bring energy and be a leader.

“That’s the role of a veteran,” Leblond said “You come out and you show every night the younger guys what it takes. Because it’s a long season and it’s easy to feel tired and some nights you don’t have your legs going. But I think as veterans, it’s our job to show up every night, be ready for every game and every practice and, hopefully, the young guys will buy into that and become better pros because of that.”

So what impact has Leblond have on the Devils’ record? The team is 28-8-2-1 (.756) with him in the lineup and 9-7-6-0 (.545) with him on the sidelines.