Things were looking very rosy for the Albany Devils at the start of their AHL season. They won their first five games, something no Albany team had done since 1992-93, when the Utica Devils franchise moved to then-Knickerbocker Arena (now Times Union Center).
But underneath the layers of that five-game winning streak, Devils coach Rick Kowalsky knew not everything was perfect. There were flaws in the Devils’ game.
“I think there were still some holes in our game back then,” Kowalsky said. “We got some goaltending. We got some timely goals. We won some games on specialty teams. And we had a couple of shootout wins. Back then, I said finding ways to win is certainly a good thing.”
Since that hot start, the Devils have gone cold. They are 1-4 in their last five games. They hit rock bottom last Saturday when they dropped a 4-0 decision to the Hershey Bears.
This week, Kowalsky and the Devils have gone back to the basics in order to get out of their slide. Kowalsky hopes that will bring success this weekend, when the Devils play two games at TU Center.
Ironically, the Devils host the Bears tonight at 7. The St. John’s IceCaps come to TU Center for a 5 p.m. game Saturday.
“We’ve got to get out of this funk sooner rather than later,” Kowalsky said. “We’ve lost some key guys over the course of this little four-to-five-game stretch. Nick Lappin’s gone up [to New Jersey] and done a good job. Carter Camper is still injured. We lost [Karl] Stollery and [Vojtech] Mozik at different points here. But we have to be better as a team. I think some guys individually have to pick up their game, as well.
“We’ve had a full week here to work on some things and get some things covered. There’s no question that we can play better.”
The biggest problem Kowalsky has seen during the slide has been the Devils’ puck management.
“[It] hasn’t been good,” Kowalsky said. “Our decisions, our support and just our execution, we’ve just been sloppy when we have got [the puck].
“And then on the other side of it, we haven’t defended it as well as we did the first couple of games. When you don’t do that, you don’t have the puck and you can’t play on offense. That’s all it is in a nutshell. It’s a big part of the game if you’re constantly chasing, which in a lot of games we have been.
“It gets tiring, it gets frustrating and, obviously, you can’t scoring if you don’t have the puck.”
Devils forward Ben Sexton believes the team has gotten away from focusing on the details needed to win games.
“We’re not coming out of the D-zone the way we want, and we’re chasing the puck a little bit right now,” Sexton said. “This week, we’re kind of focused on getting back to competing hard on pucks, focusing on details, especially in the defensive zone. Hopefully, we’ll carry that into this weekend.”
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