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.
Joe Whitney and Graham Black have at least one point in each game during the team’s current run. Whitney has three tallies and three assists and Black has two goals and two helpers.
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.