Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said after Friday’s practice at Knickerbacker Arena in Troy he has heard nothing new about Mattias Tedenby, who remains in the hospital after taking a skate to the face a week ago in Glens Falls.
Here’s the rest of our talk, in Q&A format because I’m feeling lazy.
Bill Cain: “What about [defenseman] Jay Leach?”
Rick Kowalsky: “I think we might get him on the ice tomorrow [Saturday], but we won’t know until after our afternoon meeting [Friday].”
BC: “I see [right wing] Scott Parse (lower body) was skating with you today. Has he been skating with the team all week?”
RK: “He has been out there with us all week. I’m not 100 percent sure how he’s feeling. He’s questionable for the weekend.”
BC: “After that busy stretch where you had seven games in 11 days, how good has this little break been for the guys?”
RK: “I think it’s good we’re getting back at it. We were able to give them Tuesday off, then Wednesday we just had an off-ice workout. So two days where you’re not on the ice is good. We also had a couple good hard days of practice. We’ve got to play better hockey, and we need to play with more urgency, more energy, more life, more desperation. We took a step back this week that we didn’t want to, and we let some points get away from us. You pick up an extra two to three points, and instead of five points out, you’re looking at being right there at one or two. We just can’t afford to fall off too much. We’re still in a spot where we’re within striking distance of that eighth spot, but all these other teams are thinking the same thing. This is a big weekend. We’ve talked about it. We’ve got to play hard, we’ve got to play with more urgency in our game and realize that, slowly, these points are becoming more and more important.”
BC: “There’s just 27 games left to play, though I guess they should want to play another 40-something [deep into the postseason]. Do they have the energy to finish?”
RK: “I think as these games start to come down, it becomes about your mental toughness and your will. That’s what it’s about. It’s a fun time of year to play. Yeah, we’re maybe still in the dog days a bit, but this is where you’ve got to be mature as a pro and as a hockey player and fight your way through it.”
BC: “What’s the goalie situation right now? Keith [Kinkaid] had that hot hand you talked about earlier in the season, especially in December and again for a stretch in January, but there’s also been times he hasn’t. He still has been getting most of the work, though, so has it changed from riding the hot hand to riding the younger prospect?”
RK: “I don’t think I’d phrase it like that. Keith has looked sharper in some games, and sometimes it’s a feeling that maybe the team plays a little bit better in front of him. Jeff [Frazee] has had some bad breaks in the sense that he hasn’t got a lot of offensive support. This is going to go right to the end. It still can change. It’s a good, competitive tandem. Jeff has played well and probably deserves a better record than he has. Keith, maybe his game has tapered off a bit, but that’s going to happen. It’s not about the goaltenders winning games for us every night. It’s about them giving us a chance.
“We’ll continue to use both guys. Obviously, with a lot of three-in-threes coming up, we have to use both. With that being said, whoever we like better at the time is going to get the two out of the three every weekend. That, for the most part, in a lot of these situations has been Keith, but that doesn’t mean that’s going to stay the same.”
BC: “How do you feel your defensemen have done filling in for Leach while he’s been out?”
RK: “The three major guys for that are [Dan] Kelly, [Alexander] Urbom and [Corbin] McPherson. Raman [Hrabarenka] has got some confidence back in his game, starting to use his big body more. We’ve eaten up some minutes by committee. [Eric] Gelinas and [Brandon] Burlon have been better. They’re guys we look to on the power play. But Urbom, Kelly and McPherson in particular, those are guys we rely on for the penalty kill, defensive-zone faceoffs, those key situations in one-goal games or when we need to get pucks out. They’ve done a good job. If anything, fatigue is starting to creep in for that group, just because they do play a lot of minutes. When you’ve got to eat up ... Jay Leach is a 20-minute-a-night guy and they’re all defensive, hard minutes. Those are minutes we’ve done a pretty good job [of filling], but as soon as we can get him back and healthy, he’s a big part of our lineup and he’s a strong voice in the room and on the bench.”
BC: “The three guys you recently sent down to Trenton — Harry Young, Kelly Zajac and Jean-Sebastien Berube — they haven’t seen much time here. How much will the game time in the EHCL help them, and have you seen enough growth from them when they are here to warrant them being here?”
RK: “It’s just a numbers thing right now. I think they could all come into the lineup, they’re just boxed out from the numbers. It’s similar to what we had during the lockout. You can only sit here and skate after practice and work on things for so long. The only way a player is going to get confidence and feel good about his game is to play. We’re able to use Trenton and Kalamazoo for that, and I think it’s important. In practice, you can’t just keep your game shape up in practice. We’re expecting to potentially see one, two, if not all three of them back here. I think they can get in the lineup and they can play, and they can help us. Right now, they’re not going to play ahead of some guys. They’ve been working hard and doing a good job here, and I have seen a lot of good things about them in practice that I like, and could potentially use down the road, but right now they have to go get their confidence, get in game shape and play.”
BC: “New Jersey is doing pretty well right now [10-3-4, 24 points, first in Atlantic Division, tied with Montreal for for first in Eastern Conference]. What does seeing that success do for these players in Albany?”
RK: “I think the big thing is seeing guys that they’ve played with go up there and be a part of it. I think if anything, watching the New Jersey Devils play, you see if you play a team game, no matter your talent level — and obviously, there’s there’s some guys that are pretty good up there — but they win as a group. They don’t rely on one guy every night. I know [Ilya] Kovalchuk plays a ton of minutes. But if anything, our guys can take away from it that, one, the opportunity is there — we saw [Steve] Bernier and [Stephen] Gionta spent a lot of time here, and [Peter] Harrold last year. New Jersey having success warrants an opportunity not only for these guys to play, but to potentially play long into the playoffs. A lot of us were there watching guys we spent a lot of time with in the minors have success in the playoffs. I think they should be hungry for that opportunity.
“There’s been a constant flow. Even though they’ve played well, they’re trying different guys. [Bobby] Butler started there, now he’s back [up]. Tedenby started there, [Jacob] Josefson, [Andrei] Loktionov ... it’s not going to be the same guy every time. [Matt] Anderson’s got a chance. Even though they continue to win games, they’re still looking for pieces of the puzzle that they think will, ultimately, get them back to the Stanley Cup.”