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Coming off back-to-back home wins Friday and Saturday, the Albany Devils host the Syracuse Crunch Sunday at 5 pm. Albany’s magic number to secure a spot in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs is five. The Devils need to earn five points or the ninth-place team needs to fail to collect five points or a combination of both.
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Devils vs. Crunch Series
Since their first meeting on Jan. 13, 2010, the Devils and Crunch have faced off 32 times and the away team has held the upper hand. The Devils are 13-17-1-2 overall, including 3-2-0-0 this season, with a 3-11-1-1 home mark and a 10-6-0-1 road record.
The Devils and Crunch met last Friday at the War Memorial at Oncenter. Despite Harri Pesonen’s second period tally, the Crunch prevailed 2-1. Syracuse’s Cedric Paquette netted the tying goal and Evan Rankin potted the winner at 8:21 of the third. Scott Wedgewood made 23 stops, while Syracuse’s Kristers Gudlevskis made 16 saves.
The Devils and Crunch are meeting for the final time this season.
ALBANY, NY — The Albany Devils forced overtime and then claimed the extra point in the shootout, defeating the Providence Bruins, 2-1, Saturday at Times Union Center. Harri Pesonen scored during regulation and Stefan Matteau and Joe Whitney accounted for the shootout tallies.
“From here on out it’s playoff hockey,” Whitney said. “We’ve talked about it all week, it’s a big weekend. We have three games at home and against the Providence team that’s right above us in the standings and we’re trying to catch them. It’s just a gutsy effort by all the guys and showed a lot of heart and character and came out with a win.”
The win moves the Devils a step closer to a Calder Cup Playoff Berth. Albany’s 87 points are good enough for seventh place — two behind Providence in sixth place. The Devils (37-23-5-8) are now four points ahead of eighth-place Hershey and five ahead of ninth-place Norfolk. Both teams have played two fewer games.
“Every point counts,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “That extra point could be real huge and sets us up the potential to have a big week.”
Providence (39-23-2-9) jumped out to a 1-0 lead, scoring a power-play goal at 18:45 of the first period. Zach Trotman received the puck off an offensive-zone faceoff and fired a wrister into the upper-left corner.
After a scoreless second, Seth Helgeson sent a shot towards the net. The puck deflected out in front and Pesonen jammed it in at 3:00 for his 14th tally of the season.
“Helgeson made a good move and got some room for himself, took a shot, and it kind of bounced right to my feet,” Pesonen said. “I was able to catch it and put it in. I think the goalie didn’t really see where the puck was, so I had a pretty easy trap to put in.”
The Devils penalty kill, which went 1-6 during the game, killed off a minute and 58 seconds of penalty time during overtime. Keith Kinkaid, who finished with 18 saves, made four in the extra frame.
Once in the shootout, Matteau scored in the third round and Providence’s Seth Griffith responded in the fourth. Whitney, who like Matteau snapped a shot from the slot, put the Devils ahead 2-1 and Kinkaid denied Justin Florek to seal the victory.
Albany owned a 32-19 shot advantage during the game.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about all week: being prepared for this weekend,” Pesonen said. “Just stay positive and even if it seems like we can’t get it in, just stick to it. We did that today, tied it up and had a couple chances in overtime as well. It was nice to win in a shootout.”
Next up, the Devils host the Syracuse Crunch Sunday at 5 pm.
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The seventh-place Albany Devils will try and move within a point of the sixth-place Providence Bruins during a 5 pm match-up Saturday at Times Union Center. With four games remaining, the Devils and Bruins are in a tight race for the last four spots in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are two points ahead of eighth-place Hershey and three ahead of ninth-place Norfolk.
Including his two goals against Bridgeport Friday, Kelly Zajac has 12 multi-point games of the season. The 25-year-old is second on the team with 42 points. Additionally, he ranks second on the team and fifth among AHL rookies with 30 assists. He has registered 13 power-play points with three goals and 10 helpers.
The game is part of “Military Appreciation Day.” All active and retired service members will receive free admission to the game by showing proper identification at the Times Union Center box office.
Players To Watch
Devils vs. Bruins Series
The Devils and Bruins are meeting for the 52nd time. The Devils are 24-17-3-7 overall, with a 14-8-0-3 home showing and a 10-9-3-4 road record. Providence took all four games during the 2012-13 season with two regulation wins and two shootout victories.
During their first and only meeting this season, Albany lost 3-2 in a shootout against Providence at Dunkin Donuts Center on Mar. 2. The Devils carried a 2-1 lead into the third period thanks to Tim Sestito and David Wohlberg’s goals. Providence’s David Warsofsky forced overtime with his goal at 9:19. In the shootout, the Bruins scored in the first and third rounds and goaltender Malcolm Subban denied all four of the Devils attempts.
The Devils and Bruins are meeting for the final time this season.
Both of Zajac’s goals can be classified unusual. The first deflected off his head and in and the second — the game-winning goal — was batted out of midair, hit Bridgeport netminder Philippe Trudeau’s leg and inched just inside the left post.
“I didn’t even know that went off my head,” Zajac said. “I just tried to stay in front of the net and that second one was like an inside pitch and just tried to knock it down, got a lucky bounce and it went in.”
The victory was much needed for the Devils, who are trying to secure their first playoff berth since the 2009-10 season. Albany sits in seventh place with 85 points (36-23-5-8) and trails sixth-place Providence by three points. The two teams meet Saturday at 5 pm at Times Union Center. Additionally, the Devils are two points ahead of eighth-place Hershey and three ahead of ninth-place Norfolk.
“We have to worry about tomorrow night, just keep getting points here and moving forward and we’ll be fine,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky.
Friday’s win was the seventh against the Sound Tigers this season and Keith Kinkaid improved to 6-0-0 against Bridgeport. He made four saves in the first, 11 in the second and seven in the third for his 22nd victory of the season and first since Mar. 7.
“Finally got the monkey off my back,” Kinkaid said. “There were a few games we were winning and then they tied it at the end. It feels real good to finally get that win again and hopefully this is a winning streak to come.”
Offensively, Zajac’s first goal came at 18:52 of the first period. Dan Kelly sent a pass towards the front of the net. The puck floated in the air, hit off a Bridgeport player’s glove and off Zajac’s noggin.
In the third, Stefan Matteau made a waist-high pass from behind the net to a cutting Zajac, who redirected the puck for his 12th goal of the season at 5:08. The goal secured Zajac’s 12th multiple-point game of the year.
Saturday’s game is part of “Military Appreciation Day.” All active and retired services members will receive free admission by showing proper identification at the Times Union Center Box Office.