ALBANY, NY – Entering the 2013-14 season, the Albany Devils knew Joe Whitney would have a bullseye on his back. It comes with the territory after leading the team in scoring the past two seasons.
“We usually get the top defensive pairing — bigger, stronger, physical guys,” Whitney said after Tuesday’s practice at Times Union Center. “It’s a good challenge and we just work hard every night.”
Whitney and his line mates Reid Boucher and Scott Timmins have met that challenge head on. Through the first three games, the trio has combined for six of the team’s 10 goals and 13 of its 26 points. Timmins connected with Whitney for the first goal during Monday’s 4-1 victory against the Adirondack Phantoms. The tally was Whitney’s third of the season and his 100th career AHL point.
“[Rod] Pelley told me couple of games ago that I was getting close,” Whitney said. “It was good to get the goal and help the team win and also pick up the 100th point as well.”
During his rookie season, Whitney contributed 15 goals and 29 assists for 44 points in 72 games. The following year, he produced 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points in 66 games. The biggest difference between the two seasons was the Devils winger went from a -8 in 2011-12 to a +13 in 2012-13.
“He really made great strides the second half of last season,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “I challenged him a little bit about playing with a bit of an edge, doing everything hard and just being intense. Sometimes when those skilled guys do that they clean up the rest of the parts of their game. They get more chances, they are in better position and they’re not a liability defensively.
“Joe has really developed into that and kind of put himself on the map not only here, but as a potential that may get a chance one day. It’s a credit to him. The wear and tear of the season is going to be the test for him — to see if he can maintain it and keep it up throughout the year.”
After three games, Whitney has three goals and two assists and is tied for the team lead with Timmins with five points.
Albany resumes play Friday with a 7:30 pm game against the Norfolk Admirals at Scope Arena. The team will travel Wednesday and practice Thursday on the game ice.
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