Of the 25 players on the Albany Devils roster, only 21 are available for Friday’s contest against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Times Union Center. Cam Janssen and Kelly Zajac are out with upper-body injuries and Mark Fraser and Paul Thompson will sit because of suspensions.
That doesn’t leave the Albany Devils with many options heading into their first three-in-three weekend of the season.
“It’s unfortunate, we’re going to have to find a way to have some guys step up and, I don’t want to say play shorthanded, but right now we’ve got one healthy scratch up front,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky after Thursday’s practice. “It’s tough, it’s unfortunate, and we’ve got to move on.”
The Devils have six defensemen available, meaning a player like rookie Joe Faust will have the opportunity to step in and, hopefully, make an impact.
“You never want to see a teammate get injured or suspended, or any of the problems we’ve had, but personally I’m excited for an opportunity to get in there and excited for a chance to, hopefully, be a part of putting some wins together,” Faust said.
On the front end, Reid Boucher has moved up to the Devils top line alongside Scott Timmins and Joe Whitney. Boucher, who had 22 goals a year ago, netted his second of the season during last Saturday’s game at Portland.
“Certainly hoping it will maybe reconnect them a bit, and maybe give him some more opportunities and some more looks,” Kowalsky said. “But he’s just got to focus on playing the right way which he certainly took a step in the right direction this past weekend.”
Boucher, Timmins and Whitney had success playing together during the early part of last season. After 11 games, they had combined for 46.7 percent of the team’s scoring with 13 goals and 17 helpers.
Keith Kinkaid hasn’t started a game since the Nov. 2 contest against Portland. New Jersey recalled the 25-year-old on Nov. 4 and he made two relief appearances before being returned on loan on Nov. 17.
“He was anxious; he actually wanted to get back on the ice on Monday, when we didn’t have ice here and we had a workout,” Kowalsky said. “He looked really sharp today, and I think with Keith, he’s just anxious to get back and get playing. He’s certainly going to get that opportunity this weekend.”
Kinkaid enters the weekend ranked seventh in the AHL with a 1.95 goals-against average. He is 4-0-2 with a .920 save percentage.
“I haven’t played in three weeks now,” Kinkaid said. “I’m definitely eager to get back in. Obviously, I was a little frustrated that I didn’t get a game up there. Right back to work and just play well down here again.”
“They’re getting better,” Kowalsky said. “We’re still not 100% sure on a timeline on Kelly, but it’s a while. Cam’s slowly feeling better here, so not available this weekend, which is really all that matters right now.”
How to Follow
Fans who can’t make it to Times Union Center Friday and Sunday or to Binghamton Saturday can follow the action online at ahllive.com. Additionally, Friday and Saturday’s contests can be heard on 104.5 “The Team” ESPN Radio.
No one seemed to know much about Raman Hrabarenka when he made the Albany Devils on a tryout during the 2012-13 season. But for the past three seasons, the Belarusian has been developing his game in the American Hockey League alongside many of the New Jersey Devils prospects.
After the first 15 games, Hrabarenka is in the middle of what to appears to be a career year. He is third on the team and tied for seventh among AHL defenseman with 11 points, backed by three goals and eight helpers. Additionally, he is third on the team with a +7 rating.
“I think it’s about learning, you learn every practice and game,” Hrabarenka said. “I feel comfortable. I know what I have to do on the ice, I have to play the same way and pinch up. I have to do different little things so they have helped me a lot and it makes me feel more comfortable on and off the ice.”
During his first two years, Hrabarenka battled for playing time. Consider Seth Helgesson, Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson and Jon Merrill — all players in the NHL — were filling some of the six defensive spots at one time or another.
Hrabarenka did appear in 34 games his rookie season, posting a goal, four assists and a +1 rating. The following year he played 48 games and had six goals and 15 assists, but was a -3.
For Head Coach Rick Kowalsky, Hrabarenka’s success comes when he is paying attention to details.
“He is a big guy and when he is in the right position he is tough to play against,” Kowalsky said. “Sometimes he ends up on the wrong side or he doesn’t get underneath guys, meaning being in a good position to defend, and then he is chasing back to his net. He [needs to focus] on those little things and takes pride in doing them night in and night out.”
Before making the jump to professional hockey, Hrabarenka played parts of two seasons with Cape Breton and Drummondville of the QMJHL. He scored a combined six goals and 23 assists in 107 regular season games.
Now at age 24, Hrabarenka has adjusted to the professional game and has been a constant on the Devils blueline, appearing in 14 games so far this season.
“I think it’s all about the little things,” Hrabarenka said when asked about lifestyle adjustments since turning pro. “You have to do take care of yourself and take care of your body and just working hard. You have to be smart about everything if you want to be a professional player. You have to play hard every night.”
Hrabarenka and the rest of the Devils are preparing for their first three-in-three weekend of the season. The team hosts the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday (7 pm) before traveling to face the Binghamton Senators Saturday (7:05 pm). The Devils return to Times Union Center against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who Hrabarenka has two goals and four assists against this season, Sunday (3 pm).
Fraser will miss the next three games as a consequence of an illegal check to the head at Portland on Friday. Thompson will sit for two outings as a result of a charging incident against the Pirates on Saturday.
Both players will miss Friday’s home game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Saturday’s road affair against the Binghamton Senators. Thompson will return return for Sunday’s home contest against Bridgeport.