After four games in six days between two leagues, two speedy forwards are staring at another three-in-three with no concern for fatigue.
With the NHL training camp in Newark draining the Albany Devils of seven of their top players, centerman Kelly Zajac and right wing Bryan Haczyk were recalled to play with Albany Sunday in Atlantic City after playing Friday and Saturday for Trenton in the ECHL.
After the game, they were returned to Trenton. They played an 11 a.m. game Wednesday, then they packed their bags again for another recall to Albany.
They were two of just 11 forwards skating Thursday in preparation for tonight’s game at 7 in Glens Falls against the Adirondack Phantoms. The Devils added a 12th later in the day with the recall of Harry Young from Kalamazoo of the ECHL. Also, The Bergen Record reported New Jersey placed Tim Sestito on waivers Thursday, so he should be with Albany once he clears.
Zajac and Haczyk will be of most use to the Devils, if they have the energy to skate and use their speed. The question is whether their youthful exuberence and desire to grab this opportunity can help them avoid heavy skates late in the weekend.
“I’m definitely feeling good, so, hopefully, I’ll be flying this weekend,” Haczyk said.
“Absolutely,” said Zajac, a Union College graduate. “You get amped up for these games. You’ve got to make the most of it, because you don’t know if you’re going to stick around here.”
What Albany’s lines will look like this weekend will depend on who New Jersey sends down when it decides later today on its opening-day roster.
Regardless of who Zajac and Haczyk share the ice with, their approach has to remain the same.
“I know what my game is out there,” Haczyk said, “and regardless of who I’m playing it with, I know I have to keep things simple, chip pucks in and use my speed out wide to get shots on net.”
“My feet are my weapon,” Zajac said. “I’m quick in the corners. If I get in, I can be in the forecheck and muck things up a bit, create some opportunities . . . just keep it simple for guys on my line.”
The simple game has, in recent weeks, been the best for the Devils and helped the third and fourth lines produce key goals. More of the same could help the team through this transition in personnel.
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said he liked what he saw from the young duo Sunday in their first AHL game of the season.
“They’re both smaller guys, but both have a fairly good skill set and they’ve got speed,” Kowalsky said. “They need to skate and keep it simple with the puck, which they did. Bryan has enough speed where he can create some stuff off the rush. He had a couple good shots, made a nice play off the goal.
“Kelly’s more of a three-zone player. We’re going to use him on the penalty kill and maybe move him forward. He might find himself on the power play. This is a kid that under normal circumstances may have started the year here, and who knows where he’d be in the lineup.”
Both come in with a bit of momentum, too, having registered their first AHL points in Sunday’s loss to Bridgeport — Haczyk with an assist in his second career AHL game, Zajac with an assist and a goal in his fourth career AHL game. They returned to Trenton and were instrumental in an overtime win, both booking an assist, Zajac’s the primary helper on an overtime game-winner.
“Your confidence is definitely high there,” Zajac said. “You’ve got to have confidence to play this game, I think that’s a big part of it. Whatever role we get in, if we get in the lineup, whatever they need us to do, we’ll do and try to help the team out.”
The Albany injury report includes Chad Wiseman (lower body) and Scott Parse (hip).
Kowalsky said the team is taking slowly with both players to avoid setbacks. Wiseman’s injury is something that has been nagging for some time without properly healing. Parse has been skating recently without the team, but is at least a week away from returning.
The AHL announced its all-star rosters on Thursday, including right wing Bobby Butler, who is currently with New Jersey and is not likely to be returned to Albany anytime soon. A substitute from Albany will have to be chosen if Butler is unavailable.
Last season, the same happened with Albany defenseman Matt Taormina, and Alexander Urbom was selected by the AHL to be his alternate as Taormina had been recaleld to New Jersey.