Devils vs. Syracuse: Sislo has it all, almost

Nobody knows whether having Mike Sislo on the ice Saturday may have helped the Albany Devils avoid a

Nobody knows whether having Mike Sislo on the ice Saturday may have helped the Albany Devils avoid a painful specialty teams night, but it couldn’t have hurt.

It may have hurt the right wing, though, who had just played three games in three days in three different cities, in two different leagues. Sislo had a great finish to October,

scoring five goals in four games, and he’s been reliable on both the power-play and penalty-kill units, so he was a natural choice for New Jersey to call up when the parent club needed another forward for a couple games last week.

He played last Wednesday in Albany, then Thursday with New Jersey in St. Louis (picking up his first NHL point, an assist) and Friday in Detroit before being reassigned to Albany Saturday when the team was in Bridgeport to begin a two-game series.

“I needed a day, with the travel and the games,” Sislo said. “I want to play as much as possible, but it was good to get some rest, because I had been moving around a lot.”

The Devils are home tonight at 7 against Syracuse, then move around a little, themselves, heading to Portland for a two-night series Friday and Saturday.

Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said he encouraged Sislo to head to the hotel in Bridgeport and get some rest Saturday, but Sislo wanted to be at the game.

From the stands, he saw the Devils’ penalty kill allow six power-play goals on Bridgeport’s first six man advantages. The Albany power play finished the night 1-for-8.

Sislo leads Albany with three power play goals this season in 11 games. He’s also been a valuable penalty killer. At even strength, he has another three goals and shows a plus-4 rating.

He seems poised for another good season, after he took a positive step last year to produce 23 goals and 18 assists in 59 games, sporting a plus-7.

He’s done it this year on an ever-changing second line. Injuries and recalls have moved guys around on all but the top line, and Sislo skated Tuesday at Knickerbacker Arena alongside rookie centerman Graham Black and left wing Reid Boucher.

“I think the biggest thing is communication, talking to guys, whether it’s in the locker room or on the ice, between shifts,” Sislo said. “And all the guys I’ve been playing with are good hockey players. It hasn’t been a bad thing, at all, and communication is crucial, especially when you’re with some new guys.”

Kowalsky said the next step — the one that would be necessary for him to spend time more consistently with New Jersey — is to bring some of the grit he played with on the fourth line last week with the parent club to his everyday game.

“I think everything’s there,” Kowalsky said. “He’s a guy I’ve trusted — he plays the power play, he plays the penalty kill. I think the next step for Sis is playing in those hard areas and finishing checks. He did it up there, where he was used more in a fourth-line role.

“Sometimes, [playing] a lot of minutes, it gets a little tough here, with our schedule and the amount of games, but he’s still got to get his bumps in, win battles along the wall, go to the front of the net, not have those nights where he’s maybe content playing on the perimeter. His speed, his shot, everything is in place. He’s in great shape, he’s strong. He has to use those assets consistently in order to be a regular NHL guy. He knows the system, he knows the game, he’s smart. He’s a guy I can trust and I’m sure they can trust, up there. It’s just those little details.”

Sislo echoed that belief, and perhaps getting that taste last week in the NHL will lead to that being a more consistent aspect of his game.

“No matter how many minutes you play or what your role is, you always have to kind of have a little bit of that fourth-line mentality,” Sislo said. “I’ve played different roles, different lines, at every level, so I felt pretty comfortable playing that role [with New Jersey]. Having that mentality is good, and I need to continue to have that, no matter where I’m at.”

Categories: Sports

Leave a Reply