The month of December began with a bang for the Albany Devils. In one felt swoop the club eclipsed its season win total. Albany flourished by winning its first five contests of the month and made headway in the Northeast Division in the process. On the month, Albany finished with a record of 7-3-1-1 (16 points) and has an overall mark of 11-11-1-6 (29 points). Although there is more work to be done, the Devils have risen from the depths of the Eastern Conference.
The Good: As mentioned above, the Devils stabilized themselves by winning their first five games of December and recording at least a point in the first six. Against Northeast Division foes on the year, Albany boasts a record of 7-3-0-1 (15 points). Four of those division victories occurred in December. On the penalty kill, Albany ranks an impressive third in the AHL, at 87.5%. At the box office, the Devils are still enjoying their best home average since returning to Albany, drawing an average of 3,574, a total which includes a game in Atlantic City which was less than that average. Additionally the return of former Captain Stephen Gionta and Eric Gelinas coupled with injuries that have opened up opportunities for players hungry for playing time has added a spark to the Devils.
The Bad: Scoring has still been a struggle and a wrist injury to Adam Henrique hasn’t helped in that department. Albany still ranks at the bottom of the AHL in power play goals (13) and percentage (9.7). Additionally, the Devils have yet to win a shootout, going 0-for-6 thus far on the campaign.
Impact Players: To say it has been a superb month for Bobby Butler would be an understatement. Albany’s point streak coincided with Butler’s. During that six-game span, Butler registered seven goals and three assists for ten points. That streak also included a four-goal, five-point effort against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins. That performance garnered him AHL Player of the Week honors. On the month, Butler has eleven goals, five helpers and 16 points. Overall, Butler leads the club with 14 goals and 21 points on the year.
Also giving the team a boost in the scoring department is Joe Whitney. In December, Whitney has four goals and four assists, giving him five goals and nine assists on the season. Harri Pesonen also registered four goals and three assists in December. Jacob Josefson put together a nine point month and has a team leading +/- rating of +9 on the year.
In net the Devils have ridden the hot hand of Keith Kinkaid. During the Devils’ winning streak, Kinkaid was in the cage for all five. In that streak, Kinkaid stopped 44-0f-46 shots against the Adirondack Phantoms and shutout out the Connecticut Whale with 30 saves. Later in the month, Kinkaid helped Albany knock off Springfield. Kinkaid also finished strong with 36 stops against Hershey. All four of those mentioned starts came on the road. For the month, Kinkaid boasts a mark of 7-2 with a 2.23 goals against average, .928 save percentage and a shutout. On the year, Kinkaid is 8-7 with a 2.47 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and two shutouts.
Additionally, Devils netminder Jeff Frazee ranks tied for fifth in the AHL with a goals against average of 2.15.
Looking Ahead: A hearty slate of home games and divisional rivals greet the Devils in the New Year. Albany has seven (two in Atlantic City) home contests in January and four on the road. Albany will begin the 2013 portion at home against the Springfield Falcons on January 5. The Devils play the Falcons three times in January. Topping that, Albany faces Adirondack four times during the month. As of this writing, the Devils’ January schedule features six games against opponents who currently qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs and five against teams on the outside looking in.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.