ALBANY, NY — Is it time to start to watch the standings? With 27 games remaining on the Albany Devils schedule, we say why not? For the majority of the season, the Devils have owned the second-place position in the North Division and the third-place position in the Eastern Conference.
If the regular season would end today, the Devils would meet the Utica Comets in a first round, five-game series. The first two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs this year are divisional matchups, meaning Albany would face third-place Utica.
The two teams meet Saturday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Devils have an eight-point lead on their in-state rival.
“The message to the guys, slowly from the coaching staff, has been we are going to start these divisional games and they are going to get more important,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “You are going to see some teams that are below you in the standings, but they are going to be gunning for you. They are trying to make up ground. ”
That was the case heading into last weekend’s games when the Devils had a home-and-home series against the Rochester Americans. Thanks to a pair of shutouts, Albany increased its advantage.
“Rochester was no different,” Kowalsky said. “We go into the weekend against a team that is 10 points behind us. That’s a four-point swing either way. Now they are 14 points or more behind us after Sunday. That’s certainly what we are going to discuss and some extra motivation for us as a team.”
Looking past Saturday, the Devils travel to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Sunday for a 5 pm outing at Webster Bank Arena. The game is the second of three straight Sunday contests against the Sound Tigers.
If you remember, the Devils erased a two-goal deficit in the third period to down Bridgeport, 3-2, in overtime last Sunday.
“That’s just the tendency of the way the schedule goes at times,” Kowalsky said. “Sundays in their building are always an adventure. We seem to struggle there. They are a team that we are going to have to get some points off here moving forward with the amount of games we have against them in a short period of time.”
The Devils have a rare Friday off and will practice at Knickerbacker Ice Arena before switching into game mode Saturday.