The Albany Devils are on a roll in shootouts.
At least, after losing their first eight shootouts of the season, winning the last two has to feel like a pretty big roll. They beat Connecticut in a shootout last Tuesday, then beat Binghamton the same way Sunday, both games on the road and part of a three-game winning streak.
“Both shootouts got some goals early, which I think helps the goaltenders,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We haven’t had [Chad] Wiseman in a shootout much this year. He just hasn’t been in those games, hasn’t played because of injury or being scratched, and he scored two. You knew it was bound to change sooner or later, and hopefully, we can keep it on our side. Our goaltenders have been solid through it. We made the one in Binghamton exciting by giving up two late, but we’ve stuck with it. The goaltenders have been great, we’ve just now have got them some goals on the other side, and I think scoring early has helped as well.”
Wiseman, actually, had not been in a single shootout before Tuesday. He scored in both shootouts, so until proved otherwise, he must be the secret ingredient.
Another key ingredient, of course, was right wing Matt Anderson, who posted seven points (three goals, four assists and a shootout goal) during the streak. He was named the AHL Player of the Week.
“It was a great week,” Anderson said. “Not every week are you going to have the amount of offensive production that I had. It’s fun to enjoy, but just like when I went up to New Jersey two weeks ago, my ability to manage all this is crucial. To use the energy wisely and monitor myself. I’m skating very well, and that’s leading to a lot of the opportunities I’m getting.”
The last two wins in the three-game streak were over Syracuse and Binghamton, two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Those same two teams will play Albany twice each in the next five games, beginning Wednesday night at 7 when Albany hosts Syracuse.
“Especially [winning] on the road, they’re big wins,” Anderson said. “The ability to continue forging ahead and not looking back. Regardless of our opponent, we’re getting to a point with our game that regardless of our opponent, we’re understanding we have to play the same way, whether we’re playing the New Jersey Devils, the old Norfolk Admirals [Syracuse Crunch this year] or the Chicago Blackhawks. As long as we can continue to keep it within our dressing room and concentrate on the things we need to do, the rest will take care of itself.”
Anderson’s linemate Steve Zalewski said the wins were great, but they guarantee nothing for the week and a half ahead.
“Unless we keep our game at that level that it was at over the weekend, we end up maybe wasting those games,” he said. “Now we have home ice, and we have to as good, if not better, to continue to get points. It’s a tough stretch when you’re playing two of the top teams in the conference, and we have to be at our best to continue to win against them.”
FINDING A SPOT
Kowalsky said he’s still learning about Albany’s new forward Andrei Loktionov and figuring out the best line combination for the fourth-year centerman.
“He’s got skill, there’s no question,” Kowalsky said. “I think he’s reliable, defensively. I’d like to maybe see him attack the net and shoot a little more, from what I’ve seen. Very good in three zones. Just two games here, and I’m still trying to find some combinations and the right spot for him to play. I’ve liked him on the power play. He has good patience with the puck and good pace in his game. That’s a little bit of what I knew from watching him in Manchester, but getting to see him firsthand, you can definitely see the skill set is there.”
Albany captain Jay Leach (lower body) was hurt in Sunday’s win and is out “seven to 10, maybe, right now, we’ll see,” Kowalsky said. “He got hit in the first period, played a little bit in the second, then didn’t play much in the third.”
Centerman David Wohlberg (lower body) is ready to play, and left wing Mattias Tedenby (lower body) should be soon.
“Wohlberg’s good to go. Tedenby, we’ll have a conversation later today,” Kowalsky said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think we may be looking at Friday if he feels well. Parse is out, as well. Lower body. Day to day. We don’t have enough information. He played Saturday, did not play Sunday and didn’t skate today.”