The Albany Devils had a December to remember this season. From breaking franchise records to continuing their climb up the Eastern Conference standings, the Albany Devils will be heading into 2014 on a high note. The Devils broke a franchise record for most consecutive victories with six straight wins during a stretch from November 30th-December 14th. They have also won their previous six games at Times Union Center and established a new franchise record for most consecutive home wins in the process. The Devils won all five of their home December contests and they have a chance to extend their record streak on Friday when they host the division-leading Springfield Falcons.
The Devils picked up a point in all but one of their ten games in December as they went 7-1-1-1 during the month. After starting the month by winning their first five games, the Devils slipped a bit and won just two of their final five but still picked up points in the standings. Entering January, the Devils have a record of 19-8-2-2. Their 42 points through 31 games have them sitting second in the division and fourth in the conference. They are eight points ahead of their next closest divisional foe, the Adirondack Phantoms, and two ahead of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Providence Bruins.
Scott Timmins returned to the Albany lineup on December 21st at Binghamton after last playing on November 8th against the Penguins. Timmins notched an assist during his December debut and picked up right where he left off before his injury. In just five games this month he scored two goals and added three assists for a season total of eighteen points. Despite an absence of 14 games he still ranks 3rd on the team in points. With Stephen Gionta and Bryce Salvador returning to the New Jersey Devils lineup, Tim Sestito was returned to Albany after the holiday roster freeze and quickly reacquainted himself with the score sheet by notching a goal in his second game back.
A Look Back at The Albany Devils Last Five Games in 2013
The Devils record breaking streak ended at Binghamton on December 21st when the Devils fell to the Senators in overtime 3-2. Harri Pesonen, finally scoring after a treacherous goal scoring slump to start the season, netted the Devils only two goals in the game. He tied the score early in the second period at 1-1 when he backpedaled to the circle from behind the goal line and slid it under goaltender Andrew Hammond. Pesonen also tied the game at two goals apiece after receiving a drop pass from Scott Timmins, who earned his primary assist on the play by starting the rush up the ice before feeding the trailing Pesonen. Keith Kinkaid stopped 26 of 29 shots but did not pick up a victory for the first time since a 4-3 overtime setback against the Phantoms on November 29th.
Less than 24 hours later, the Devils dropped a close and nasty contest to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4-3 at Webster Bank Arena. It was the Devils first regulation loss in exactly one month (Nov. 22nd 5-3 loss at. Springfield). The teams combined for 77 penalty minutes during the first two periods and finished with a total of 81. Scott Wedgewood made 22 saves on 26 shots and lost his first road game of the season. His personal three-game winning streak was also snapped in the defeat.
The Devils opened the scoring when Pesonen fired a wrister from the top of the right circle for his 5th goal of the season and third in two games. John Persson answered for Bridgeport midway through the second period. Timmins put the Devils back ahead with a shorthanded tally at the doorstep of the crease but the Sound Tigers tied the game once again late in the second. Bridgeport took the lead when Mike Halmo scored his team’s third power play goal of the game early in the third period. It was his 12th goal of the season. However, Albany would not go down quietly and knotted the game when Mike Hoeffel scored on a rebound off of a Joe Whitney shot to pick up his fifth goal of the campaign. Unfortunately for the Devils, Dallas Jackson put the Sound Tigers ahead for good with 1:27 left to play when he fired the puck into a wide-open net after Whitney collided with Wedgewood and pushed him into the trapezoid to the left of the net.
The Devils bounced back from their pointless defeat with a 2-0 shutdown of the Phantoms two days after Christmas. Timmins buried his seventh goal of the season a little over six minutes into the game to give the Devils the only goal they would need. On the play, Whitney reached the 20-assists plateau for the third consecutive season. Chris McKelvie added an empty net goal with 3.7 seconds remaining. Kinkaid shut the door by stopping all 19 shots he faced as he picked up his fourth shutout of the season. The lone dark spot for the Devils was their power play as they went 0-7 with the man advantage.
Kinkaid started for the second straight night when the Devils hosted the Pirates last Saturday. Kinkaid saw more than double the amount of action than the previous night but remained stellar as he stopped 38 of 39 shots in the Devils 4-1 victory. Whitney scored his 11th of the season off a soft pass from Timmins to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. The Devils added to it less than two minutes later when Seth Helgeson scored his first AHL goal. Timmins won the draw cleanly and before Pirates goaltender Mark Visentin had a chance to properly react Helgeson ripped it through the screen. Mike Sislo put the Devils ahead 3-0 with his 9th goal of the season after a give-and-go with Kelly Zajac. The Pirates ended Kinkaid’s shutout bid late in the period and Pelley sealed the victory for the Devils with an empty-net goal in the waning seconds of the game. Once again, the Devils power play remained the only negative as they finished 0-8.
The Devils ended 2013 at Bridgeport as they faced the Sound Tigers for the fourth time in December. Tim Sestito and Whitney scored for the Devils but two third period goals by the Sound Tigers sent the game into overtime. After a scoreless five minutes, Sislo, Pesonen, and Reece Scarlett scored three goals in the shootout but Bridgeport won 3-2 ensuring a December split in their four contests. The Devils went 1-5 on the power play.
A Glance at The A-Devils First Five Games in 2014
The next five games for Albany shows a common opponent for three of them. Other than a road game at Glens Falls and a home contest against the Manchester Monarchs, the Devils will battle the Springfield Falcons three times. Both teams have played 31 games but the Falcons lead the Devils by six points. In their last ten games, both teams have won seven games. The two teams have met twice already this season with each team picking up a victory on their home ice. The Devils will face the Falcons three more times this season with two of those games at Springfield after this stretch of three battles in five games.
In their last meeting against the Falcons, the Devils won 6-4 with six different Devils lighting the lamp:
Dividing the two games against the Falcons at Times Union Center is the next edition of the Time Warner Cable Cup. The Devils are one point ahead of the Phantoms in the race for the Cup but each team has won three games. Whitney has five points in the six games and Timmins has two goals and an assist despite playing in just three of the match-ups. Sestito leads the Devils in the season series with three goals and six points.
Following their game at Springfield, the Devils return to Albany for a matchup on home ice against the Monarchs. This will be their first meeting this season. Last season, the Devils dropped both matchups against Manchester including a season-opening 2-1 setback. Kinkaid started for Albany and made 25 saves on 27 shots. In their only meeting at Verizon Wireless Arena, the Monarchs won a high-scoring affair 7-4. Of the Devils five goals in the two games, the only goal scored by a current Albany player belongs to Pesonen. Their next and last meeting will be on February 9th at Manchester.
Leo is in his second year with THW. He covers the 3-Time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. You can follow Leo on Twitter, @LeoScaglioneJr.