In the last six games, Albany Devils rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas has shown what his coaches knew he had, an offensive acumen.
What he’s working on developing is a better defensive reputation to round out his skill set and get him to Newark.
“I didn’t set any expectation, point-wise or whatever, I just wanted to adjust to the level and try to fit, try to create some stuff,” Gelinas said. “Points will happen when things are going well for you. I just need to get better, defensively. When you’re good defensively, offensive stuff will happen. That’s what I’m working hard on this season.”
The Devils host Syracuse at the Times Union Center tonight at 7, the first of five games in eight days.
Gelinas has booked four goals and four assists in the last six games. In the Jan. 6 game at Norfolk, he scored the tying goal to force overtime in what became a 5-4 win, after the Devils entered the third period trailing, 4-0.
The next night, he kept that
momentum alive by scoring the first goal in a 3-1 win over the Admirals.
He also had an assist in both games.
“He had a big weekend for us. He moved the puck well,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “He’s just got to make sure it’s not a high-risk, high-reward situation. I think he’s starting to get that a little more. He’s playing a lot of minutes for us as a young guy, picking his spots a little more.”
The rookie, also the youngest player on the team at 20, has shown a knack for getting the puck through traffic and planting it on frame.
“One thing I’ve figured out is you can’t be stationary,” Gelinas said. “You have to move all the time. I’ve been moving a lot lately, on the blue line, and that helps a lot. You’ve just got to find a way to get it through. Players will get rebounds, get tips, and get it in.”
He’s logged a lot of time on the power play, where he has four of his seven goals on the season and three of his six assists. Kowalsky said his passing is what makes him so valuable with the man advantage.
“He’s got an NHL skill set that way,” Kowalsky said. “He sees the ice well. He can rip the puck, pass that puck hard. He’s above a lot of guys that way, for a 20-year-old kid.”
As he tries to improve in his own zone, Gelinas looks to several of the vets on the team for advice.
For general advice, he goes to forwards Stephane Veilleux and Steve Bernier, with whom he can easily speak in his native French. For positional tips, he said defensemen Jay Leach and Peter Harrold have been his go-to guys.
“Leacho and Harrold, they’re really steady defensemen, so I try to watch them and learn how they play, defensively,” Gelinas said. “I’m just trying to learn from them and ask them how to play.”
Kowalsky said the rookie is coming around to some of the big-league ideas of what has to be done at his position, learning what will be expected if he is to play at the next level.
“At first, I think he maybe realized, ‘Hey, I can play at this level and get away with some things.’ ” Kowalsky said. “Then he realized pretty quickly it didn’t happen. Just his overall compete level and staying in your shift [have to improve], doing things hard right till it’s over. It may just be a positioning thing, or beating a guy back to the net and getting body position. Little things like that, and for a lot of guys, that’s the biggest difference.”