No Mike Sislo. Just hurt.
No Dan Kelly. Just suspended.
No Jim O’Brien and Pavel Zacha. Still hurt.
No Joseph Blandisi? He looked like he would be lost, too, after going down hard into the boards in the third period Thursday night and skating off in agony. But then the Albany Devils came back; it’s the playoffs, doncha know. But who knows if he will be available come Saturday?
Continuing . . .
No margin for error.
You can’t quite say that, even after the Albany Devils’ 5-1 loss to the Toronto Mar-lies Thursday at Times Union Center left them trailing in the series 3-2, with Game 6 and, if necessary, 7 north of the border.
The Devils could come back. Weirder things have happened, especially in hockey.
But it would have to be pretty darn weird for the depleted Devils to take two straight (and three-of-four overall, counting their Game 1 win) at Ricoh Coliseum.
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky is not looking at it that way.
“We got to win one. That’s our focus,” he said. “We got to win a hockey game. That’s all it is. You win the hockey game, then the pressure is back on them. It’s really that simple.”
Depth had been the difference between this Devils team and those of years past, but that asset has been spent, starting with center Jim O’Brien going down in the first seconds of this series. While the Marlies have been short, too — see the reason for Kelly’s suspension — the Devils have lost too many primary scorers, and it shows.
“We are down some very key players,” Kowalsky said Thursday. “We haven’t had a full lineup since the first shift of Game 1. But nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We have to find a way to win a hockey game.”
Kowalsky was fuming at the refs, who earned the ire of Times Union Center fans. The Marlies scored a pair of power play goals — that’s six in two games.
Adding to the coach’s foul mood on top of the loss was the 10-game suspension the American Hockey League handed down to Albany defenseman Dan Kelly for his elbow to the head of Andreas Johnson in Game 4 at Times Union Center, a hit that sent the wing to the hospital.
Kelly received a game misconduct as a result of the illegal hit. The Marlies went on to win the game 7-2.
When asked if he had a comment on the suspension, Kowalsky replied sharply, “None whatsoever.”
When asked if *that* was a comment, he replied curtly, “Yes, it is.”
So add a stalwart defensive defenseman to the mix of those off the ice. Sislo, hurt Tuesday, has a lower body and was a surprise scratch. There could be more lineup changes coming Saturday for Game 6 (3 p.m.), either out of necessity or to shake things up.
The Marlies, the team with the best record in the AHL, just have to keep playing like it.
“We are trying to keep our composure and our discipline and keep playing our game,” Toronto left wing Josh Leivo said.
Meanwhile, the Devils have to find a way to win a hockey game, just one, with the players they have left.
ANOTHER COACHING ISSUE IN SARATOGA
Last week, Saratoga Springs Superintendent Michael Piccirillo was asked if he would be shocked by another incident involving a varsity sports coach, after three were suspended in three years, including varsity lacrosse coach Jon Warner this spring.
“I guess I would be more disappointed than shocked,” he told The Daily Gazette. “That doesn’t mean I would necessarily be surprised. But I would be disappointed.”
Fast forward to this week, when a contingent of high school students appeared at a Board of Education meeting and reported alleged bullying incidents suffered at the hands of girls’ varsity soccer coach Adrienne Dannehy, The Saratogian reported.
According to the newspaper, three varsity athletes charged there were incidents of humiliation, intimidation and unsafe conditions. Meanwhile, three parents spoke out in favor of the coach.
Saratoga has suspended its lacrosse, baseball and boys’ basketball coaches since 2013 for alleged inappropriate language with teams. Now comes this.
I have no insight on whether these allegations are factual or the suspensions warranted, but it’s clear there is a disconnect somewhere. The district needs an independent audit of the athletic department and how coaches and athletes are trained to ensure that players no longer feel threatened, and coaches clearly understand what’s in bounds.
Society and sports have changed. Like it or not, everyone must adapt. Three suspensions and another allegation can’t be dismissed as isolated incidents.