ALBANY, NY — The start of the North Division Final did not go as planned for Albany Devils forward Jim O’Brien. Just seconds after the opening faceoff, he was injured by a cross check, sending him to the locker room and sidelining him for at least Friday’s game.
The Devils won the contest 2-1, but lost one of their top centers.
“This changes the look of our team,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “Jimmy is a veteran guy, he’s a two-way guy, so we’ll see how it looks tomorrow. We will continue to discuss this afternoon and really look at this and figure out what is the best scenario for us.”
O’Brien, who has two goals and two helpers this playoffs, was the Devils top contributor during the last two months. Before Wednesday’s game, he had 11 goals and 11 assists during his previous 22 AHL games, including nine goals and nine assists during his last 18 regular season outings.
Down to only 11 forwards during Game 1, Kowalsky decided to move Blake Pietila into a center role to fill the void, He will remain at that position.
“Definitely Pietila is going to stay in the middle,” he said. “He’s played the most out of all of our options. We have some different things we can look at here. Graham Black‘s played as a centerman and Max Novak has played some center for us too. Pietila, because he finished the game at center and did a good job, will play the middle tomorrow.”
On Thursday, only the players who did not play during the first game practiced. Albany will have a few more hours to decide who will step in to O’Brien’s role. Game 2 is slated for Friday at 7:30 pm.