NEWARK, NJ — Introductions weren’t needed during the first couple of days of this year’s training camp. The majority of players, who have already reported to Prudential Center, are quite familiar with each other. Of the 33 players to skate Tuesday at AmeriHealth Pavilion, 24 have appeared on the Albany Devils roster at some point during the last two seasons.
The AHL Devils hope this familiarity will help the team start the 2014-15 season where it left off just months ago. The team is coming off a 40 win season and an appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“It gives a lot of positives to build off of,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “The fact that the group’s not going to change a lot and the young kids who are coming in we are pretty familiar with — they’ve spent time with us either last year or the year before.”
Sometimes a new season allows teams to hit the reset button. That might not be the case for Albany. Depending on how New Jersey’s roster aligns, Albany’s roster at its core could remain unchanged.
At the center of that group are Albany leaders. Captain Rod Pelley and alternate captains Tim Sestito, Chris McKelvie, Mike Sislo and Dan Kelly are all back with the organization.
“It’s really important and it makes our job as a coaching staff a little easier,” Kowalsky said. “We don’t have to pick a new leadership group. They know what is expected of them and they know what we expect. As a whole, I think the leadership group did a great job last year.”
Hearing from members of that leadership group, the first set in returning to the postseason is setting the expectations and take nothing for granted.
“We should set the bar very high for ourselves and demand nothing but the best on the ice,” McKelvie said. “We have to definitely build off last year, but we have to remember it was just last year. We have to continue to move forward and take big steps.”
Pelley reiterated nothing comes easy in hockey.
“Be hungry to exceed expectations,” Pelley said. “I know sometimes you can think it’s going to be easier just because you’ve done it already. The main message with the group that we have — guys will understand that it’s not going to get any easier.
Teams are going to be ready for us.”
For the next three-plus weeks, the players will be competing for roster spots, while at the same time growing as a unit. Albany’s first official preseason game is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 1 at Hartford. The regular season begins on Saturday, Oct. 11 at Adirondack.
Watch: Rick Kowalsky
Watch: Rod Pelley
Watch: Chris McKelvie