During the first two months of the season, Raman Hrabarenka was off to the best start of his young career. He had four goals and 10 assists through 20 games and was tied for fifth among AHL defensemen with 14 points.
Then the Nov. 29 game happened.
During the third period, Utica Comets winger Darren Archibald blindsided Hrabarenka along the blueline. The Devils defenseman needed help off the ice and Archibald received a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.
While Archibald was suspended for three games, Hrabarenka sat out the next 27. He returned to the lineup just last weekend for all three games.
“It’s disappointing when you’re injured,” he said. “You have to work hard to get back into the game and get better.”
To stay sharp during this leave of absence, Hrabarenka said he worked with the Devils coaching and training staff to maintain his fitness. He resumed skating with the team on Jan. 8, but needed more than a month to work his way back to game days.
On Jan. 20, Head Coach Rick Kowalsky reported Hrabarenka, who is playing with a full face shield, was not progressing as quickly as he’d hoped. It wasn’t until the beginning of February that it appeared he would be ready for games.
“He felt he was ready two weeks ago,” Kowalsky said. “He had some skates he didn’t recover well from and he was getting tired quickly. He wanted to still play, but we felt he wasn’t ready. Coming into last weekend, we said, ‘we have three days of practice and you need to be sharp.’ It’s not really a tryout, but it’s similar to that because we do have healthy [defensemen]. He had a good week of practice and proved us right by making that decision.”
Like most injured players, Hrabarenka, who has 40 career points in 105 games, had to participate in the unlikeable task of watching and not participating in games.
“It’s really tough to be out and watch games from the stands,” Hrabarenka said. “It’s just life and it’s hockey. It’s just injuries and you can’t do anything about it. You have to look forward.”
The near future for the Devils includes a three-game road weekend, including the first meeting between the Devils and the Comets since the incident.
The Albany Devils begin their five-game road trip with a pair of games west on the New York State Thruway. The team travels to face the Syracuse Crunch Friday at 7 pm and the Utica Comets Saturday at 7 pm. Albany is facing Syracuse for the fifth of eight games this season and Utica for the second of a two-game series.
Crossing State Lines
On Sunday, the Devils stay on I-90 to travel into Massachusetts to play the Springfield Falcons at 3 pm. Albany is 3-2-0-0 against Springfield this season, but all three victories have come at Times Union Center.
Goal Light Special
Mike Sislo continues to terrorize AHL goalies. The 27-year-old has five goals in the last five games and is third on the team with 14 goals in 40 games. Sislo, who has appeared in 10 NHL games this season, has 25 points, including 10 points (6g-4a) in the last 12 outings.
Where They Stand
The Devils have dropped five straight games and are fourth in the Northeast Division at 22-20-4-5. With 53 points, the team is in a three-way tie with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the St. John’s IceCaps for 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins are in eighth place with 57 points and the Portland Pirates are ninth with 55 points.
Catch The Action
All three games this week can be streamed online or on mobile devices at ahllive.com. Fans can pay-per-view or take advantage of special mid-season packages.