Photos by James DiBianco Jr.
The New Jersey Devils announced several roster moves Tuesday, including the recall of Albany Devils defenseman Seth Helgeson. The 24-year-old has appeared in 12 games for Albany this season, posting an assist, a +3 rating and 11 penalty minutes. Last year, he led the team with 75 games played and finished fourth with a +12 rating.
New Jersey activated Martin Havlat from injury reserve and played Ryane Clowe on IR retroactive to Nov. 6.
The NJ Devils host the Minnesota Wild Tuesday at 7 pm.
The Albany Devils are preparing for their third game of a stretch that includes five contests in eight days. On Tuesday, the team was on the ice at Knickerbacker Ice Arena practicing ahead of Wednesday’s 7 pm outing against the Syracuse Crunch at Times Union Center.
Albany, which started the season 6-0-0-1, has slowed during the last two weeks, earning points in two of five games.
After Saturday’s 7-2 loss at Bridgeport, Head Coach Rick Kowalsky shuffled his lineup to spark the Devils for the next day against the Sound Tigers. Two players – Joe Faust and Mark Fraser — made their season debuts on the Devils blue line.
Faust, who turns 23 on Nov. 15, made his first professional appearance.
“He played with confidence and it was kind of what we needed,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “We’ve been struggling a little bit and lacking confidence and I think it showed in the first game. We pulled a bunch of guys out and put some fresh faces in there. We had a couple of guys get their first games of the year and him and Fraser did a good job for us.”
Fraser entered the season with 308 career AHL games and 185 NHL contests logged. He signed as a free agent with Albany on Nov. 2 and practiced with the team leading up to last weekend’s games.
Despite Fraser’s experience, Kowalsky was hesitant to not rush him into the lineup.
“He did a pretty good job and I was pleasantly surprised how he was with the puck,” Kowalsky said. “Usually, you are really worried about that especially against a team that really pressures. He stuck his nose in there a couple of times in front of the net and put some guys on their butts. I was happy with his first game and hopefully we continue to get him in the lineup regularly.”
The Devils will hold a 10 am morning skate at Times Union Center before facing off against the Crunch for the first time this season.
Despite practicing with the team, Kelly Zajac (upper body) is unlikely to see game action this week. Kowalsky said he is definitely out Wednesday and highly doubtful for the weekend.
Cam Janssen (upper body) is the only other Devil sidelined. Kowalsky did not have an updated timetable for his return.
Time to Rest
Mike Sislo logged a lot of miles last week. He played in Wednesday’s game at Hartford, was recalled by New Jersey the next day and played at St. Louis. The next night (Friday) he played at Detroit and returned to the AHL Saturday. Even though he was in Bridgeport he did not play for the first game, but was in for Sunday’s affair.
“If you would have asked him, he probably would have played,” Kowalsky said. “He was there in plenty of time; we even encouraged him to go back to the hotel and relax. He wanted to come to the game. So I got to talk to him before. Just with his travel and playing and leaving right after our game during the week, I think it was the right decision to give him the night off.”
When it Rains, it Pours
The Devils allowed six power-play goals against the Sound Tigers during Saturday’s setback. The team spent time on the penalty kill during Tuesday’s skate.
“It gets to the point where you lack confidence and you second guess a little bit. You have a tendency to be too passive and if all four guys aren’t on the same page than you are going to get exposed. We caught some bad breaks. I can’t say that all six of them were legit power-play goals, but sometimes when it rains it pours.”
|The Albany Devils welcome the Syracuse Crunch to Times Union Center for the teams’ first meeting of the year on Wednesday. In their six home games this season, the Devils are 4-1-1-0.|
|The Syracuse Crunch are now in the Northeast Division along with the Devils. Albany has played Syracuse 34 times and have a record of 14-17-1-2, including a 4-11-1-1 record against the Crunch at home. The Devils went 4-2 against the Crunch last year, including a 2-1 record at home. So far this season, the Devils have gone 4-3-0-2 against teams in the Northeast Division.|
|Albany takes on the Portland Pirates in their only trip to Portland, ME this season. The Devils will play the Pirates on Friday and Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena. This will be the second meeting of the year between the two teams, with Portland winning 2-1 in overtime in their previous matchup. Overall, the Devils are 19-20-2-8 in 49 games, including a 10-11-1-2 record in Portland. Albany went 3-1 in four games last season and won both their meetings on the road against the Pirates.|
|Mike Sislo was returned from loan by the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. While in New Jersey, Sislo recorded his first NHL point, an assist on a Marek Zidlicky goal that came in a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Former Albany Devil Steve Bernier picked the second helper on Zidlicky’s tally. Sislo has netted 6 goals in the last 8 games for Albany, three of which have come on the power-play which is a team high.|
|Wednesday’s game feature’s “Dollar Dawg Night” with $1 hot dogs and $1 sodas. For the fifth consecutive season, the Devils and Price Chopper have partnered for the “Thanksgiving Food Drive” running at all home games through Nov. 23. Fans who attend these games and donate a nonperishable food item will receive a free ticket voucher to the team’s Nov. 26 outing.|
When Scott Clemmensen signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils this offseason, his career came full circle. The 37-year-old netminder began his professional life with the Devils as a 24-year-old in 2001. That season he played two NHL games and 29 with the Devils AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats.
New Jersey loaned Clemmensen to Albany on Wednesday and he started that same evening against the Hartford Wolf Pack at XL Center. The game was his 401st professional game – 190 in the NHL and 211 in the AHL.
“Having started my career with the Devils organization and playing the majority of my first three seasons here in Albany at Times Union Center, it’s very nostalgic,” Clemmensen said after his first practice with the team Thursday at Knickerbacker Ice Arena. “I have good memories playing for the Albany team and just the area in general.”
Clemmensen stepped into Albany’s lineup after playing the backup role in New Jersey, appearing in two games. On Wednesday, he made 16 saves in his first start at any level since Apr. 18 when his team, the San Antonio Rampage, hosted the Abbottsford Heat.
“I thought he was sharp, especially the five on three that we killed,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “That was certainly his best of the game. But he hasn’t played a lot. I know with [New Jersey’s] schedule and travel they haven’t had a lot of opportunities to practice, as well. He looked good for his first showing.”
Clemmensen said he doesn’t look at being sent to the AHL with a negative perspective. He will have more time to “get his game in order” while playing and not just practicing.
As for the layover between starts, he believes his 14-year career has prepared him to step in at any time and be ready to play.
“At this point in my career, I’ve kind of carved out that niche for me and I think that is the reason why I’m still playing at age 37,” he said. “So I take some pride in that. Having said that, I believe that a good backup goalie is one that can sit on the bench for long periods of time and get thrown in there and play — among other things.”
Clemmensen, who was a four-year starter at Boston College before turning pro, joins a group of veterans on Albany’s roster who started their careers with the organization, left, and have since returned. The collection of players includes captain Rod Pelley, Mark Fraser and Cam Janssen.
“Once my contract was up with Florida in the offseason, New Jersey was a team I really wanted to return to and play for once again,” Clemmensen said. “Even though I left, I was always kind of a Devil. I always thought it was the one organization that I identified my career with the most.”
Despite that veteran presence, Albany’s roster is still full of up-and-coming players in their early to mid-20s. Clemmensen hopes he can make an impact within the locker room, teaching the younger group the ins and outs of the professional game.
Twenty-two year old Scott Wedgewood, who will share goaltending responsibilities, rode back to Albany after Wednesday’s game with Clemmensen.
“When I was young, I had guys that I looked up to or learned from,” Clemmensen said. “Just being around them every day and that’s how I learned how to be a pro. I thought that was the right way to do things. I have experience in other organizations — some good and some bad. You come back to the Devils organization now where hopefully I’m that older, positive presence on the ice and off the ice as well.”
Entering this season in the AHL, Clemmensen had a 70-107-24 record, a 2.82 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage with more than 12,000 minutes logged. In the NHL, he had a 73-59-23 mark with a 2.77 goals-against average and a.906 save percentage with just under 10,000 minutes played.