After going down with an upper-body injury on Oct. 21, Cam Janssen is set to make his return at some point during this weekend’s three games in three days. The 30-year-old has been a regular at Devils practice for the last couple of weeks, but was unavailable for game action.
“He’ll play this weekend,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “With this three-in-three and with these guys coming back, no matter how much they’ve skated, you have to monitor their ice or their games. But, he will be back in the line-up this week.”
The Devils have approached this week’s practice a little different with less physical practices and giving players some time to rest.
“Anytime you go into a weekend like this where you have three-in-three with some travel you want to have as many healthy bodies as possible knowing we’ve pretty much lost somebody every weekend for the last probably three or four weeks here. So, anytime you can get guys back it’s a positive thing.”
Rod Pelley, who resumed skating with the team this week, may be an option as well. The Devils captain has missed the last week’s games with an upper-body injury.
“[Yesterday] was really the first day where he tested it with the team,” Kowalsky said. “So far, the results have been positive, but it’s going to be day to day and we’ll see about his availability.”
With a quarter of the season in the books, the Albany Devils are tied for second in the only division in the American Hockey League that has all five teams above .500. Thanks to wins last Sunday, Friday and Saturday and a shootout loss Wednesday, the Devils are riding a four game point streak into this weekend’s three-in-three.
Whitney is in charted territory. He leads the team with 19 points, backed by eight goals and 11 assists. Since his rookie season in 2011-12, the former Boston College standout has led Albany in points for the last three years. During that time, he has rounded out his game.
“We know the offense is there and we know he is going to score on any given night,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “But when he’s doing those little things away from the puck and playing in those hard areas it makes him that much of a better player.
“You see him doing a lot of heavy lifting in the corners. That’s the way he has to play in order for him to play at the next level and that’s why he has success at this level.”
Whitney, the franchise’s all-time leader with 71 goals, 96 assists and 168 points, started the season with three goals in 10 games. According to Kowalsky and Whitney not much has changed in his game except pucks are starting to find the back of the net.
“They are starting to go in for us a little bit,” Whitney said. “We are going to continue to put the work in. The harder you work, the luckier you are going to get.”
While Whitney is in his fourth season, Black is still learning the ropes. Friday’s game at Providence will only be his 18th career AHL game.
So far this year, he has eight points with five goals and three assists in 15 games. Additionally, he is a +4.
“He’s a cerebral player,” Kowalsky said. “He’s ahead of his years as far as understanding the game. Defensively, positionally, his timing and his routes — a lot of it is coming together for him now. He is getting more minutes and some important minutes.”
Black, who was New Jersey’s fifth round pick during the 2012 NHL Draft, played 214 games during three-plus seasons with Swift Current (WHL). He totaled 199 points with 76 goals and 123 assists and was a +21. Last year, he led the team with 97 points, including 34 goals and 63 helpers.
According to Black, the transition is still a work in progress.
“It’s obviously a huge jump from junior,” he said. “The first couple of months were quite the grind. It’s been a lot of work trying to adjust to the bigger guys and the faster, quicker paced game. Hopefully, it starts to come around. I know I’ve had a little bit of success lately, but I can’t take all the credit.”
Like Whitney once had to do, Black is learning how to live and work in the professional surrounding. Whitney provided some perspective:
“There are a lot of things that go into it on a daily basis. If you just stick with the process and do the right things, good things happen.”
Both players will try and help Albany continue its streak this weekend. After Friday’s game at Providence, the team hosts Portland Saturday and Adirondack Sunday.
This story originally appeared on theahl.com on December 2, 2014.
It was back to work for the Albany Devils Tuesday at Knickerbacker Ice Arena. The team is coming off back-to-back wins and has gathered seven of eight points in its last four games. The team prepares for games at Providence Friday, against Portland Saturday and against Adirondack Sunday.
During Friday’s 4-2 win against Lehigh Valley and Saturday’s 2-1 win against Utica, goaltenders Scott Wedgewood and Keith Kinkaid combined for 55 of 58 saves with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage.
At different times during the weekend, they were called upon to make game changing saves.
“When you are playing with a bit of a depleted lineup with new guys in, there are going to be mistakes,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “You are going to need them to bail us out. I thought they both did a great job this weekend. Moving forward, they are going to have to be good for us in order for us to have success.”
Now in his fourth season, Kinkaid is 6-1-3 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. His career numbers include 68 wins with a 2.63 goals-against mark and a .907 save percentage.
Wedgewood is in his second full-time year in the AHL. He is 3-3-1 with a 3.06 goals-against average and an .884 save percentage. During his rookie campaign, he won 16 games and posted a 2.39 goals-against average.
“We’ve always talked about a two goalie system here,” Kowalsky said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey recently and now a three-in-three coming up this weekend. There is no question we are going to need them both and need them both to be good.”
The Devils power play scored eight goals during the first eight games and then had four tallies in the next nine. With five power play goals in the last five outings, the man advantage unit seems to have returned to early season form.
“We have made some adjustments,” Kowalsky said. “I just think that the puck is moving a lot more and our execution has been sharper. We’ve talked to the guys a lot about having a shooter’s mentality. We’ve moved some things around, maybe a little more drastic than we have in the past.”
On the flipside, the penalty kill has allowed just two goals in the last nine games, going 32-34 during that span.
“I think it’s everybody being on the same page and us being a little more aggressive pressure-wise, and just a commitment to want to outwork the power play, block shots, make sure we’re getting pucks down.”
The Devils are tied for second in the Northeast Division and tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 10-6-1-4 record (25 pts.).
All three games this week can be followed online or on mobile devices at ahllive.com. Additionally, Friday and Saturday’s outings can be heard on 104.5 “The Team” ESPN Radio.
|The Albany Devils enter December on a four game point streak. Last week, the team rebounded after a 4-3 shootout loss against the Hartford Wolf Pack Wednesday with a 4-2 victory against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Friday and a 2-1 win against the Utica Comets Saturday.|
|Next up, Albany faces a three-in-three weekend, starting Friday at 7:05 pm against the Providence Bruins at Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Devils return to Times Union Center Saturday at 5 pm against the Portland Pirates and Sunday at 3 pm against the Adirondack Flames.|
|Entering the week, Joe Whitney and Graham Black are both riding four game point streaks. During that span, Whitney has three tallies and three assists and Black has two goals and two helpers. Between the pipes, Keith Kinkaid is undefeated in his last three games, going 2-0-1.|
|The Devils and their fans will have a chance to make a difference in young people’s lives this week. The team will host the annual “Teddy Bear Toss” Saturday. Fans are encouraged to bring new or slightly used stuffed animals to the game and toss them onto the ice during an intermission break. The Devils are also hosting a drop off location for “Toys for Tots.” Fans can donate new, unwrapped toys at either home game this week.|
|Individual tickets for Saturday and Sunday’s contests can be purchased at the Times Union Center box office or at any Ticketmaster outlet. Fans can also buy tickets via charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000 or online at ticketmaster.com.|