When Scott Clemmensen signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils this offseason, his career came full circle. The 37-year-old netminder began his professional life with the Devils as a 24-year-old in 2001. That season he played two NHL games and 29 with the Devils AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats.
New Jersey loaned Clemmensen to Albany on Wednesday and he started that same evening against the Hartford Wolf Pack at XL Center. The game was his 401st professional game – 190 in the NHL and 211 in the AHL.
“Having started my career with the Devils organization and playing the majority of my first three seasons here in Albany at Times Union Center, it’s very nostalgic,” Clemmensen said after his first practice with the team Thursday at Knickerbacker Ice Arena. “I have good memories playing for the Albany team and just the area in general.”
Clemmensen stepped into Albany’s lineup after playing the backup role in New Jersey, appearing in two games. On Wednesday, he made 16 saves in his first start at any level since Apr. 18 when his team, the San Antonio Rampage, hosted the Abbottsford Heat.
“I thought he was sharp, especially the five on three that we killed,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “That was certainly his best of the game. But he hasn’t played a lot. I know with [New Jersey’s] schedule and travel they haven’t had a lot of opportunities to practice, as well. He looked good for his first showing.”
Clemmensen said he doesn’t look at being sent to the AHL with a negative perspective. He will have more time to “get his game in order” while playing and not just practicing.
As for the layover between starts, he believes his 14-year career has prepared him to step in at any time and be ready to play.
“At this point in my career, I’ve kind of carved out that niche for me and I think that is the reason why I’m still playing at age 37,” he said. “So I take some pride in that. Having said that, I believe that a good backup goalie is one that can sit on the bench for long periods of time and get thrown in there and play — among other things.”
Clemmensen, who was a four-year starter at Boston College before turning pro, joins a group of veterans on Albany’s roster who started their careers with the organization, left, and have since returned. The collection of players includes captain Rod Pelley, Mark Fraser and Cam Janssen.
“Once my contract was up with Florida in the offseason, New Jersey was a team I really wanted to return to and play for once again,” Clemmensen said. “Even though I left, I was always kind of a Devil. I always thought it was the one organization that I identified my career with the most.”
Despite that veteran presence, Albany’s roster is still full of up-and-coming players in their early to mid-20s. Clemmensen hopes he can make an impact within the locker room, teaching the younger group the ins and outs of the professional game.
Twenty-two year old Scott Wedgewood, who will share goaltending responsibilities, rode back to Albany after Wednesday’s game with Clemmensen.
“When I was young, I had guys that I looked up to or learned from,” Clemmensen said. “Just being around them every day and that’s how I learned how to be a pro. I thought that was the right way to do things. I have experience in other organizations — some good and some bad. You come back to the Devils organization now where hopefully I’m that older, positive presence on the ice and off the ice as well.”
Entering this season in the AHL, Clemmensen had a 70-107-24 record, a 2.82 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage with more than 12,000 minutes logged. In the NHL, he had a 73-59-23 mark with a 2.77 goals-against average and a.906 save percentage with just under 10,000 minutes played.
A week filled with player movement continued for the Albany Devils Thursday. New Jersey’s recall of Mike Sislo was the seventh transaction involving Albany since Sunday.
With the departure of Sislo, who is expected to play against the St. Louis Blues, the AHL Devils rearranged their second line to include Graham Black, Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau during their morning practice at Knickerbacker Ice Arena.
“We have a couple of days here and we might actually look at Boucher and Matteau together,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky after the team’s morning practice at Knickerbacker Ice Arena. “We did that today in practice, but not real long as far as a skate goes. We’ll do some more line combinations tomorrow. We’ll look to move Boucher to the right side with Matteau on the left.”
Albany is in search of more scoring. After beginning the season with 32 goals in their first seven games, the Devils have three goals in their last three games. To complicate matters, Sislo was second on the team with five goals.
“It would be nice to sustain that scoring pace,” Kowalsky said. “Realistically, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think teams get ready for you a little more when you are a top team as we have been and when you are scoring that much.
“It’s really two things: we have to get to the net. A lot of our goals were result of guys getting to the net and being hard in front. Whether or not the guy going to the net gets rewarded or not, he draws coverage and causes problems for the goaltender. Then getting puck to the nets more. A combination of those two things have to be better.”
Despite their mini-goal draught, the Devils still rank tied for second in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, averaging 3.50 goals-per-game. The Oklahoma City Barons are first with 4.00 goals-per-game. Paul Thompson leads the league with nine goals.
The Devils and Sound Tigers are meeting for the fourth and fifth time already this season. This weekend will be the second time they’ve met on back-to-back nights.
“I think it’s good because you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about systems or where the team was the night before,” Kowalsky said. “You never want to face a team back-to-back in their own building, but it is more of a playoff situation. Both teams can make small adjustments from night to night or you make lineup adjustments on maybe what you saw the night before and you know what you are getting as far as an opponent.”
Thompson and Raman Hrabarenka lead Albany against Bridgeport with four points each. Thompson has three goals and a helper and Hrabarenka has two goals and two assists. Scott Clemmensen and Scott Wedgewood are expected to split the games.
Dan Kelly springs Paul Thompson for his league-leading ninth goal of the season.
TROY, NY – With Mark Fraser signing as a free agent, the Albany Devils have not only added experience to their blue line, but they have added an eight-year pro to their dressing room.
On Tuesday, Fraser practiced for the first time since signing an AHL deal with the Devils. He joins an Albany team that is off to the best start in franchise history (6-1-1-1) and ranks tied for fifth in the AHL with a 2.33 goals-against average.
“Anytime you can bring in a guy of that character and another veteran; a guy with extensive NHL and American League experience — he’s been to the Calder Cup Final with the Marlies,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “He is a big, strong, tough kid, but of that character — if you can bring someone in and add him to your locker room — it’s certainly a huge asset, especially for a young team.”
Fraser played 19 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and 23 outings with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013-14. He is a veteran of 185 NHL games and 308 AHL contests.
Before Tuesday’s practice at Knickerbacker Ice Arena, Fraser had been working out with a university team in Ottawa to maintain his fitness and skill level.
“I have been skating every day at home, but there is no doubt it’s different when you are on the ice with pros,” Fraser said. “I think for where I should be at, I actually felt pretty good.”
Kowalsky indicated there is no timetable as to when Fraser will dress for a regular season game. There will be a period dedicated to getting him acclimated with the team and the system.
For some that process might take time, but Fraser has already been a Devil and knows many of the veteran players on the team.
“There are probably a few changes, but I think for the most part a lot of it is just going to be something I’ve seen before,” he said. “I hope to be doing a lot of repetition down here, so hopefully I can grasp it quickly and it will all come back to me fairly easily.
“Anytime you walk into a new team it’s always easier if you know at least a couple guys to just break the ice. This is a new team for me, but the organization is definitely familiar, the room, the town and a few of the guys.”
Fraser was New Jersey’s third choice during the 2005 NHL Draft and between 2006-11 he played 98 NHL games with the red and black. During that time he also appeared in 233 games with New Jersey’s AHL affiliates.
“I like to think I was quite fortunate and I credit [the Devils] for a lot of my success in my career,” Fraser said. “The style of game I play and the style of game this organization is known for, I definitely think they did a great job of grooming me and helping me prepare for life as a pro.”
ALBANY, NY — The Devils organization did a bit of a goaltender shuffle Monday. Scott Clemmensen and Keith Kinkaid swapped spots on the NHL and AHL roster and Maxime Clermont was reassigned to Orlando (ECHL). While Clemmensen and Kinkaid participated in New Jersey’s morning skate along with Cory Schneider, Scott Wedgewood was the only goaltender present at Albany’s skate at Knickerbacker Ice Arena.
All of movement left Head Coach Rick Kowalsky and his staff to plan practice a little differently.
“Well it’s not so much that it’s difficult to plan a practice as much as on short notice since it’s an important practice,” Kowalsky said. “We were able to get through with [it and] the guys are in good spirits. I liked the pace; I liked our execution. Those are the two things that I was harping on today.
“It’s a little harder on the goaltender and guys don’t quite get as many reps, but we were able to get through some different things. I think we get what we wanted accomplished but there’s certainly some times that’s tough and if you don’t play for a couple days, it’s a different story. Like I said, this was an important practice and I think we got what we needed out of it.”
Part of the practice was spent on special teams — specifically the power play. The Devils went 0-7 with the man advantage in their 2-1 overtime loss against Portland. The performance was a bit of a question mark, considering the team entered the game ranked fourth in the league with a 23.5 percentage.
“The focus was more just about moving the puck, letting the puck do the work, snapping it around which they started to do. I thought we got a little stagnant the other night. I still think we can shoot more. When we’ve had success, whether we’ve scored or not, it’s been a result of putting pucks to the net with good traffic in front, which I think in any power play, it’s the basic recipe for success.”
11 AM Start
The Devils next test comes during a rare 11 am game agains the Hartford Wolf Pack Wednesday at XL Center. Even though the Devils have played in “School Day Games” before, they still are not very common.
“These games scare me, because I’ve been involved in them and involved in them as a player and as a coach for years — even in the East coast league in Trenton — and you never know what you’re going to get. It could be 11,000 screaming kids, which could be good or it could be bad. Some teams come out sleeping. Sometimes the guys are up and awake because it is practice time. We’ve got to be sharp and we’ve addressed it enough. We’re obviously going the night before even though it’s a short trip. We have to make sure guys get their rest and get some good meals in them. I think it’s more just about being focused and, for us, being sharp and getting back to our game.”
Fans can watch or listen to the game online at ahllive.com