Game 1: Devils vs. Comets, 7 PM
ALBANY, NY – Finding similarities between the Albany Devils and the Utica Comets isn’t hard to accomplish. Not only do they share real estate in upstate New York, but they’ve been neighbors in the North Division standings for the majority of the season. Both teams are well coached, structurally sound and have proven their roster depth at different times this season.
Albany is making its second playoff appearance in the last three seasons and Utica returns to the postseason after reaching the Calder Cup Final a year ago.
The Devils 6-0-2-0 record against the Comets this season is a bit misleading. Four of their eight meetings ended in overtime and five were one-goal games.
“If you really look at it every game has been tight,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “They’ve had a lot of injuries, call ups this year as well. We’ve seen all kinds of different lineups from them. Every game we’ve played against them the last couple of years has been tight, has been intense. Both teams play with structure and are solid defensively. I think that all goes out the window. If anything we should have confidence in our game, but for the most part, they are a good hockey team and well coached. It’s going to be a battle.”
What To Watch For
• Albany: The Devils lineup has fluctuated all season, but with the New Jersey Devils season coming to an end, Albany’s roster has stabilized. Come Friday, Albany could have as many as 17 players dressed with NHL experience. Mike Sislo, who represented the Devils at the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic, leads that group. He registered a team-high 27 goals and finished second with 54 points. He was dominant on the power play, collecting 24 points, including a league-leading 14 power play goals.
On the blueline, the Devils’ projected six for Game 1 includes four players with NHL experience: Marc-Andre Gragnani, Seth Helgeson, Vojtech Mozik and Damon Severson. Vojtech Mozik and Seth Helgeson led that group with +28 and +15 ratings, respectively.
Yann Danis and Scott Wedgewood backstopped the Devils to one of the lowest goals-against averages in the league (2.20). Danis tied a franchise record with 28 wins and eight shutouts and finished with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. Wedgewood, who missed significant time throughout the season with various injuries, was 14-3-3 with a 1.55 goals-against average, a .933 save percentage and two shutouts.
• Utica: During the NHL Trade Deadline, the Comets lost their leading scorer, Hunter Shinkaruk, when Vancouver shipped him to Calgary. Alexandre Grenier picked up the pace and finished with a team-high 48 points, backed by 16 goals and 32 helpers in 69 games. T.J. Hensick, who began the season with Charlotte, averaged nearly a point per game with Utica. He had 15 points, including two goals and 13 assists, in just 19 games.
Defenseman Jordan Subban played the Devils strong all season long. He led Utica against Albany with six points (1g-5a) in eight outings. For the year, he tallied 36 points (11g-25a) in 67 contests.
Like the Devils, the Comets have options in goal. Joe Cannata went 20-13-6 with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. Richard Bachman was 17-12-5 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.
Devils vs. Comets Series
• All-Time: The Devils and Comets have met 14 times during the last three seasons and Albany is 12-0-2-0 with six wins a piece at Times Union Center and the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
• Last Meeting: Backed by Jim O’Brien’s three-point performance, the Devils defeated the Comets, 5-1, on Mar. 19 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. O’Brien registered a pair of goals, while Nick Lappin and Blake Pietila also registered multiple points, registering a goal and an assist each. Matt Lorito also scored and Scott Wedgewood made 21 stops.