ALBANY, NY — The Albany Devils already have a hefty roster of 27 players. That number can and will very easily inflate to more than 30 and likely near the mid-30s mark before the end of the season.
The bulk of new players will come from the New Jersey Devils, who have six AHL playoff eligible players on their roster. They are Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Vojtech Mozik, Blake Pietila, Damon Severson and Mike Sislo.
The watch is also on if Pavel Zacha — the sixth overall pick during the 2015 NHL Draft — will sign an ATO after his season concluded with Sarnia. His teammate and second-round draft pick in 2014, Joshua Jacobs, is also a possibility.
With a spot in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs already secured, Head Coach Rick Kowalsky is thinking postseason lineup and line combinations.
“We certainly think about it,” he said. “We have to wait and see what happens with some of these players whether their coming from junior or if we start to get some down.
“I’ve gone back and looked at some of the lines that had success throughout the season to get an idea of what the best combinations may be moving forward. Some of the guys who have come in here new have made a case to potentially be part of this.”
The Devils roster has fluctuated in size all season. At times there has been a scramble to bring players in to have a 20-man lineup and other times, players have been rotated in and out of the lineup.
The team experienced the latter during their playoff appearance two seasons ago. An overly populated roster forced the team to practice in two groups, but most importantly it added to the Devils’ depth.
“When the playoffs start, there’s no question you want to as much as possible get down to your game numbers or close to that for practice,” Kowalsky said. “We know once the schedule picks up with playoffs there isn’t a lot of practice time anyway. That “black ace” group if you will; those guys who aren’t in the lineup have to stay sharp and they need ice. We have development coaches who can get involved in that.”
Expect Kowalsky to dig into his bag of line combinations as situations and opponents change during the playoffs. The physicality, speed, goaltending, etc. will all play factors in who is on the ice and when.
“The fact that we have strength in our depth,” Kowalsky said. “We can play all types of games and can have guys who come in based on the team we are playing and the style of game that we play is an asset. Then just having that depth to sustain through potential situations like injuries.
“These guys have stepped in all year and have done a good job. I’ve said it all the time, it’s only going to make us that much stronger down the stretch and in the playoffs. Hopefully that proves true.”