ALBANY, NY – The game plans have been established. Practices have been held. Videos have been watched. Now all that is left is the actual game.
The Albany Devils host the St. John’s IceCaps for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Friday at 7 pm at Times Union Center. Both teams practiced Thursday at the site of the first two games of the series.
The Devils playoff roster includes 29 names, giving Head Coach Rick Kowalsky more choices than he has had all season.
“I told the guys, this is a short series, so if we need to make changes, they need to be ready,” Kowalsky said. “It may be a result of a right-hand, left-hand shot. It may be the result of somebody that we may need on the power play. It may be a toughness thing or a speed thing. Guys have to be ready and in a short series you have to do everything you can to win the next game.”
Albany’s roster includes 15 players with NHL experience, including Joe Whitney, who made his big league debut on Jan. 24. Like the previous two seasons, Whitney has led Albany in scoring. During the regular season, he posted a career-high 53 points. He is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 149 points, 63 goals and 86 assists.
He hopes his goal during Saturday’s regular-season finale, jump starts his production. Before netting his 22nd tally of the season, Whitney went 14 games without a goal.
“I’ve been a little cold as of late, but I’ve been working hard each and every day,” Whitney said. “Hopefully that turns around for me and I start putting the puck in the net a little more to help the team win. You can always use a couple more goals here and there.”
Kowalsky has paired Whitney with Mike Sislo and Tim Sestito in the middle. Whitney, who has served as the right winger when playing with Scott Timmins and Reid Boucher, finds a little bit of comfort moving back to the left side.
“Maybe a little easier when breaking the puck out of the D-zone,” he said. “It’s just a little more comfortable, but as you come up the ice it doesn’t really make a difference. I think, Sislo on the right side — he has a lot of speed and he can shoot the puck pretty well — we’ll be good.”
The Devils will hit the ice one more time before Game 1. They will hold their morning skate at 10 am Friday morning.