Between the 22 regular-season games remaining and the potential playoff slate, the equivalent of a full college season remains in front of the Albany Devils.
Having already played in every one of the team’s first 54 contests — 11 more than when he went to the Frozen Four as a junior with the University of Minnesota two years ago — rookie defenseman Seth Helgeson said he feels fit enough to play every night.
He never felt too tired at the end of his college hockey seasons, and said he is even more rested and energetic now that he doesn’t have any of the distractions of college life.
“I don’t have to go to classes,” Helgeson said. “I don’t have so much stuff going on like I did in college, where there wasn’t a lot of time to maybe take a nap.
“You’re living in a college town or college neighborhood where people are out late when you have games the next day, and that could disrupt some of your sleep. The biggest thing is getting your rest and making sure you’re eating well. That’ll help you be able to play however long your season is.”
Helgeson is the only Devil who has taken the ice for every game. He has a goal and seven assists, a plus-seven rating and 78 penalty minutes.
He will play his 55th game of the season tonight at 5 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. The Devils will then travel to play Providence on Sunday at 3:05 p.m.
“He’s shown no signs of slowing down,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “When some guys have looked tired, we’ve switched them out. But the thing with him, for a big guy, he’s an energetic guy. Every day in practice, he’s talking, he’s yapping, he’s doing extra. He’s in great shape, and you know what? Him and [Corbin] McPherson have consistently been our best pairing back there.”
Helgeson said the way he and McPherson work together also helps both of them conserve their energy.
“If we muck it up in the corners or are battling, you use a lot of energy to do that, but you’re not going to see us leading the rush like some of the other defensemen we have,” he said. “That might be the difference. We use our energy in the defensive zone, and when it’s time to change, we get to the boards and get off, trying to maintain that energy so we’re ready for the next shift. Working with him has been great. We kind of feed off each other and work off each other. We’re pretty comfortable playing together and communicate well.”
McPherson leads the team with a plus-10. He has seven assists in 48 games.
Together, they take up quite a bit of space. Both are 6-foot-5, Helgeson tipping the scales at 215 and McPherson at 220.
“I know the guys from Utica, and the assistant coach said, ‘There’s just no room against those guys,’ ” Kowalsky said. “That’s the thing. We’d love all these guys to be bone-crushing defensemen, but it’s tough to play like that all the time. I think they just take away time and space so well, and because of their size and their reach, their range is there.”
Kowalsky said when he showed film clips to the team Thursday morning of the weekend’s games, 70 percent of the positive D-zone and rush-against clips featured the pair.
Still, the day might come when Kowalsky tells Helgeson he’s getting a day off, whether the rookie wants it or not.
“I want to be around the guys, I enjoy being around the locker room, I enjoy everyone’s presence. It’s a lot of fun for me,” Helgeson said. “It would be a hard pill to swallow, but if that happens and it’s helping the team, then I’d accept it. But I want to do as much as I can to help the team win.”