In the thick of a playoff race, the Albany Devils have an opportunity in front of them this weekend.
Sure, they are on the road to play three games in three different cities in three days. However, those three games are against the three worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to get some points against some teams who aren’t having as good a season as they want,” said Albany assistant captain Tim Sestito. “I don’t think we’re overlooking them, by any means, especially going into their rinks. With some travel, they’ll be some tough games, three of them in three nights. The guys, as a whole, are looking forward to it, trying to make up for the points we lost out on last weekend. So it’s a big weekend for us.”
Last weekend, the Devils lost to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 2-1, and lost in a shootout at Providence, 3-2. With 20 games still to play, they are two points behind sixth-place Providence and tied (but with a game in hand) with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 67 points. The ninth-place Hershey Bears have 65 points, and a little further out of the picture, the 10th-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers have 57.
Only seven points separate ninth-place Hershey from fourth-place St. John’s, and seven points separate Albany from Northeast Division leader Springfield, which is currently in second place in the conference.
Now the Devils get to play No. 15 Portland (21-26-2-7), No. 14 Hartford (23-27-0-6) and No. 13 Worcester (24-27-3-1).
“Every point’s huge. The past weekend, playing teams that are either directly in front of us or directly behind us, it shows how much the standings can change in one weekend,” Sestito said. “It’s probably going to be like this all the way to the end, so we know how big these points are. Just because we’re playing a couple teams that may not be in the race doesn’t make the points any less valuable. We’re going in with the mindset that we have to try to do pretty well, and grab them all.”
The Devils have played Portland twice, both in Albany, and split those games, both in regulation. They have played Hartford six times, three at each venue, and are 4-1-0-1 against the Wolf Pack. Albany has shut out Hartford twice and owns a goal differential of 21-13. Both losses to the Wolf Pack came in Connecticut.
Albany and Worcester have not played this season, but the Devils won both their meetings last season in regulation.
Portland has the worst home record in the Eastern Conference at 9-13-0-6. Worcester has the third-worst at 12-12-0-1, and Hartford the fourth-worst at 12-11-0-4.
Albany, meanwhile, has the sixth-best road record in the conference at 13-9-1-5.
Another scoring streak from the hot hand of Mike Sislo would help that road record look even better.
The Devils’ loss at Providence snapped Sislo’s four-game goal streak, in which he tallied five times. Sestito centers Sislo and Harri Pesonen.
“He’s hot right now,” Sestito said of Sislo. “We’re trying to get him the puck. He’s definitely riding a nice little hot streak, so hopefully, we can keep it going.”