Even thought the Devils are off today, the team decided to return Tim Sestito to AHL Albany, which clears up a roster spot. With Ilya Kovalchuk not ready to return, this raises the question of what the Devils plan to do with the free space. Could Dainius Zubrus be ready to return?
As Gulitti points out, it would be out of character for Zubrus to return to the lineup without getting so much as one full practice with the team. As we saw with Alexei Ponikarovsky, Martin Brodeur and Henrik Tallinder, the Devils prefer an injured player get at least one full, non-morning-skate practice in and sometimes more than that. However, there was no one placed on waivers Sunday and there’s no reason for the Devils to clear a spot so far in advance of any possible trade. It could be that the Devils wanted Sestito to do play, something he wasn’t going to do in New Jersey. Maybe Zubrus will take part in tomorrow’s morning skate, practice with the team Wednesday and return to the lineup Thursday. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens at tomorrow’s morning skate.
Albany (AHL) signs Reid Boucher to amateur tryout contract.— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) March 29, 2013
This on the heels of Jon Merrill’s ATO becoming official earlier Friday, meaning the Devils’ farm system will have a pair of top prospects on their roster for the rest of the season. It should be a good test of what both can do against professional competition, although I wouldn’t expect what happens over the final month to be anything other than a brief glimpse into the two players’ talent. Boucher, in particular, will likely need some time to adjust from the pro game after spending his career in junior. While Merrill’s college experience should help him transition better, Boucher could struggle at first when faced with a bigger, faster game. It’ll be fascinating to see how his high-scoring potential translates to the AHL, though
Jon Merrill officially signed to tryout contract by Albany (AHL)— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) March 29, 2013
Prospect Buzz: Albany Goaltending Has Not Been A Problem
While the New Jersey Devils goaltending has been a source of recent stress, the Albany Devils have not struggled with such problems.
The three-headed monster of Keith Kinkaid, Jeff Frazee and Scott Wedgewood have combined for an .899 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average in 59 games.
Toss out Wedgewood’s so-so three games, and Frazee and Kinkaid have combined for a 2.62 goals-against and .912 save percentage.
“(Kinkaid) has been good for us all year,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said Sunday after Albany’s 2-0 loss to Bridgeport. “Our goaltending hasn’t been an issue.”
The problem is, Kinkaid and Frazee — and more recently Wedgewood — have been doomed by Albany’s sudden lack of offense. As was discussed Sunday, Albany’s power play is converting just 11.4 percent of the time.
“We’d be sitting in a lot better position than we are now if it was better,” Kowalsky said.
With Tim Sestito called up — and perhaps another forward making the jump after Alex Ponikarovsky’s recent injury — offense may continue to be the A-Devils’ downfall.
Most of you know that Stefan Matteau was sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Sunday.
But what does that actually mean?
Matteau was eligible to return to Blainville-Brisbois because he is only 19-years old. When Blainville-Brisbois’ season ends — the Armada open a best-of-seven series with Acadie-Bathurst Thursday — Matteau will be eligible to complete the year with Albany or return to New Jersey.
Matteau, who only recorded three points in 17 games, already has played in enough NHL games to start his waiver clock. I imagine since Matteau obviously was not quite NHL ready yet, the Devils are trying to let him gain some confidence and keep him from reaching the 160 games which also would remove him from waiver exemption.
Life On The Farm Is No Glamorous Road
No Albany Devil has recorded more points in two years than Joe Whitney.
The 5-6, 170-pound winger’s game is tenacious and feisty. Playing such a game has enabled him to record 85 points in 122 AHL games in Albany.
“He’s playing with intensity, he’s competing,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said Sunday after Albany’s 2-0 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. “He’s not a big guy, but he’s strong on the puck. He’s been doing it all for us.
“I’ve really liked his play.”
Still Whitney’s not gotten his call. Many of his teammates have. Heck, his linemate — 30-year-old winger Matt Anderson — even got his brief moment in the show, recording an assist in two games in New Jersey earlier this year.
“I’m happy for those guys who get to go up,” Whitney said Sunday after the Devils’ 2-0 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
But Whitney’s not concerning himself with all that. The recently-turned 25-year old is working to help the A-Devils’ struggling power play and trying to help Albany reach the Calder Cup playoffs.
“We haven’t gotten rewarded much,” Whitney said of the power play. “We’ve got to figure it out down the stretch if we want to win some games and get into the playoffs.”
Albany sits in ninth, just one point behind eighth-place Syracuse, with only 16 games left.
“I’m giving it everything I’ve got every night,” Whitney said. “Right now, it’s about wins.”
The road to the NHL is littered with stories like Whitney’s. Anderson was one until he got his call this February. But after only two games, he was sent back to Albany.
Likewise, A-Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid spent eight days with New Jersey — playing in just one game — before being recalled for Jeff Frazee on March 6.
“It’s just more stuff to work on,” Kinkaid said. “It’s a battle to get back up there.”
With Martin Brodeur’s return imminent, Frazee likely will be sent back to the AHL life of riding buses and playing three games in three days over a weekend that takes you from Rochester, N.Y. to Syracuse to Bridgeport, Conn. like this past weekend did.
The Albany Devils’ power play ranks 28th out of 30 American Hockey League teams– firing at just 11.4 percent. Albany entered Sunday’s game in Bridgeport having scored just 1-of-its-last-20 man advantages.
Yet, somehow Albany’s power play found a way to be worse.
Albany was 0-for-3, failing to score on a 5-minute first-period major. Plus, when given a third-period man advantage, the Devils surrendered a shorthanded goal– the game-winner in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ 2-0 win.
“It’s killed us,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “It’s up to the guys to execute and make plays; ironically, on their shorthanded goal, it looked like our defenseman was afraid to make a mistake.”
Keith Kinkaid stopped 41 of 43 shots, taking a tough-luck loss. He was named the game’s No. 3 star.
“We just couldn’t get inside shots,” Kinkaid said. “I thought we played well defensively … unfortunately, a turnover leads to a goal, and that’s the way game goes.”
Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson each scored goals. Rick DiPietro stopped 33 shots, taking home the No. 1 star.
Through two periods, the A-Devils and Sound Tigers were scoreless. Kinkaid stopped 28 shots through two periods.
The Tigers and Devils engaged in three fights through two periods. Cam Janssen, shocker, dropped the gloves early. Unlikely scrappers Chad Wiseman and Steve Zalewski dropped the gloves as well.
Albany’s top scorer, Joe Whitney, had his six-game point streak snapped.
The Devils’ top line, Whitney, Phil DeSimone and Matt Anderson, were each a minus-1.
Albany defender Raman Hrabarenka left the game after just 34 seconds after being boarded by Kirill Kabanov. Kabanov was given a major penalty.
Eric Gelinas led the Devils with six shots on goal.
Albany dropped its second straight, falling back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Matteau netted just one goal and had two assists in 17 games with New Jersey. The 19-year old was a healthy scratch for three straight games before Saturday and had not recorded a point since New Jersey’s loss in Buffalo on March 2.
As of 5:30 Sunday, the Devils had not announced any forwards to replace Matteau on their active roster.
UPDATE: (6:43 p.m)– The Devils public relations released a statement confirming Matteau’s return to Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL.
I asked Albany Devils’ coach Rick Kowalsky if he knew whether his club was losing a forward with the move, and he said “I have no idea.”
Jacob Josefson has been an Albany scratch the last three games. I’m not sure if that pertains to this scenario, but it may.
The 20-year old netminder won his first two AHL starts, beating Adirondack 3-2 on Sunday.
Wedgewood had stopped 23 shots the night before in his AHL debut, beating Springfield 4-1. He
To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Albany Devils will need to be road warriors.
Albany opened a six-game road trip last night in Rochester. The A-Devils will trek to the East’s top seed, Syracuse Saturday, before taking on Bridgeport Sunday in a St. Patrick’s Day matinee.
The A-Devils, who beat Rochester to jump ahead of Connecticut and Manchester into the East’s No. 7 spot, will face a similar challenge next weekend when they substitute Rochester for Binghamton, then meet Syracuse and Bridgeport on Saturday and Sunday.
Joe Whitney, a 25-year old, 5-6, 170-pound forward, leads Albany with 40 points in 48 games. Whitney tallied an assist in Friday night’s 3-2 win over the Americans.
Keith Kinkaid made 31 saves in Albany’s win Friday.