ALBANY, NY — Inevitably, a hockey team will face adversity at different times during a 76-game schedule. The Albany Devils were tested Wednesday at Utica, playing without Eric Gelinas, Mike Sislo and Darcy Zajac.
New Jersey recalled Gelinas earlier in the day and Sislo and Zajac sat out with ailments sustained in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout win at Norfolk. Mike Hoeffel and Kelly Zajac fitted right in to complete Albany’s 20-man lineup.
“It was only Hoeffel’s second game and I though he provided some energy and did some good things,” said Head Coach Rich Kowalsky. “Kelly Zajac has basically had no training camp on and I thought he came in and did a pretty good job. He’s had a couple of setbacks injury wise. It was good to get his first game in.”
Before Gelinas recall, the Devils had been rotating through their defensemen. After five outings, Gelinas and Jon Merrill were the only two to appear in every contest. The game plan has been successful so far; Albany’s 1.83 goals-against average ranks third in the league.
“We’ve used all seven defensemen up until this point pretty regularly,” Kowalsky said. “Obviously, Gelinas is a big hole to fill. We have been playing a good team game pretty much from day one. I thought our five-on-five play last night was pretty solid.”
“That’s the game of hockey,” Zajac said. “You have to be ready at all times. It was an exciting game; it was their home opener. It’s a big game to play in and that’s the kind of games you want to play in. That’s why you are a hockey player.”
“You are going to see changing lineups all throughout the year,” Kowalsky said. “We just have to keep doing what we are doing. We keep talking about it — keep getting better and improve on what we need to improve on. Each game there is something to work on. It’s good to be back home. We have to be smart this weekend.”
Puck drop Friday is slated for 7 pm.
Reid Boucher, Mike Hoeffel, Cam Janssen, Stefan Matteau, Chris McKelvie, Rod Pelley, Harri Pesonen, Tim Sestito, Mike Sislo, Scott Timmins, Joe Whitney, David Wohlberg, Darcy Zajac, Kelly Zajac