ALBANY, NY – For the past few seasons the Albany Devils lacked depth at the right wing position. Take a second and look at the 2013-14 roster and you’ll see three right wingers listed: Cam Janssen, Mike Sislo and Darcy Zajac.
Three is a generous number considering Janssen and Sislo floated between the NHL and AHL and Zajac is more of a natural centerman.
With the offseason acquisition of Paul Thompson, and Steve Bernier joining Albany from New Jersey, the Devils have more options down the right side.
“You want to be as deep and as complete of a team that you can,” Sislo said. “Anytime you have strong right wingers, strong left wingers — right-handed players, left-handed players — that balances is definitely going to help the team.”
Because of the volatility of an AHL roster, Head Coach Rick Kowalsky and his staff slotted left-hand shots into the right wing last season. For example, leading scorer Joe Whitney played on the right side as did centers Rod Pelley and Tim Sestito.
During last Saturday’s 5-1 win at Adirondack, Albany’s lineup included four right-handed, right wingers: Bernier, Janssen, Sislo and Thompson.
“To go from not having that many right-hand shots to having options, it helps the power play and it certainly helps a lot on breakouts and that transition game,” Kowalsky said.
Sislo indicated that he actually prefers coming down the left side on the rush, but playing on the right side is crucial in the defensive zone.
Thompson, who had four of the team’s five goals against the Flames, agrees.
“It makes it a little easier in the D-zone coming out and having clean breakouts,” he said. “The way we want to play is with speed coming out of there and creating rushes. It’s a lot easier to catch pucks on your forehand and move it quicker than if you are on your off side and you have to try and make a backhand play.”
The team is better equipped on the right side, not only with depth, but with experience. Entering this weekend’s home-and-home series against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Devils right wingers have combined for 1,720 career professional games.