There is a different feel to the Albany Devils’ schedule this season.
The American Hockey League released its schedules Wednesday morning, and the slate for the Albany Devils has a noticeable absence — no local rivalry.
The Northway Rivalry was contested with the Adirondack Phantoms for the Philadelphia affiliate’s five years in Glens Falls, but they moved this offseason to Allentown, Pa., to become the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Devils will play them four times.
League realignment moved the Phantoms to the East Division, which makes sense, geographically. Meanwhile, the new Glens Falls team, the Adirondack Flames (affiliated with the Calgary Flames) will be in the Western Conference’s North Division.
Albany will play Adirondack twice this season, a stark contrast to the 12 games between them each of the past two seasons. The Devils open the season in Glens Falls on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. The home opener will be against Bridgeport, Oct. 18 at 5:05 p.m.
Albany Devils general manager Chris Lamoriello said he saw the writing on the wall when the league released the new division alignments, and there’s nothing to be done except concentrate on the games they do have.
“We’re excited about some of the rivalries we’ve made with the teams in our division, and the rivalry we had in the playoffs with St. John’s and playing them in the regular season this year,” he said. “You can’t worry about things you can’t control. Our efforts will be as strong as they’ve been, and we’ll try to work off the momentum we’ve built over the last few years. We’ll do the best we can to put as many people in the building as we can.”
In the five years the Phantoms were in Glens Falls, their games in Albany brought crowds averaging 4,740 fans, well above the average Albany has seen in that time of 3,502.
During the Devils’ tenure in Albany the last four years, those numbers are a little lower, but not much. The games in Albany vs. Adirondack have drawn 4,670, while the average for the season was 3,438.
Last season, games against Adirondack drew only 3,773, while the season average was 3,359.
To make up the difference, the Devils will have to hope fans are spurred on by the team reaching the playoffs last season for the first time in the four seasons since coming back to Albany. They will host the team that eliminated them, the St. John’s IceCaps, twice.
Albany will play 36 games against fellow Northeast Division teams — 10 against both Bridgeport and Hartford, eight against both Syracuse and Springfield.
Another 36 will be played against opponents from the two other Eastern Conference divisions, and four against Western Conference teams (two vs. Adirondack, two vs. Utica).
The focus of the scheduling continues to be on competition for a division title, which the Devils challenged Springfield for late into last season.
“I felt we were competitive until maybe the last week or so for the division title,” Lamoriello said. “We expect it to be another division filled with parity, certainly a conference filled with parity, and our focus is on Game 1.”
The Devils will play both “home” games against Lehigh Valley at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, and they will host one against Bridgeport at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where the parent club plays.
“We wanted to try to get a game in Newark. We have not played an American League game in Newark since we have been in Albany,” Lamoriello said.
“It will be one more game in Albany for our fans, and a game in Newark, which we think will be exciting not only for the players, but for our fans, as well.