He must have eaten his Wheaties.
Look at a guy who has grown to 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and who has played as many games as third-year Albany Devils defenseman Corbin McPherson, staying healthy while playing in the corners, blocking shots, avoiding injury and illness as well as anyone, and that could be the first conclusion one draws.
It would be wrong, though.
“I drank my milk,” McPherson said.
So much for the Wheaties sponsorship.
McPherson is the only Albany Devils player who has played in all 31 games this season. A product of Colgate, he played nine games here after finishing his senior season, then played 72 of Albany’s 76 games his rookie season and 69 of them last season.
While so much of the Devils’ organization, from top to bottom, has missed at least some time due to illness or injury this season, McPherson and winger Joe Whitney had been the only constant presence on the ice for Albany, then Whitney was recalled by New Jersey on Monday, leaving McPherson.
He said it’s been a little odd watching all the comings and goings, the new faces and new pairings, but everyone is playing the same system and has the same goal in mind, which makes it easier to deal with it.
What has made him the one constant, aside from milk, is something he learned from Altamont native Jay Leach, who was Albany’s captain during McPherson’s rookie season.
“I think getting into a routine [is the key], as far as maintenance goes, stretch a lot and riding the bike, keeping up a fitness regimen and working out, not trying to lose too much muscle mass during the year, just trying to maintain — you can’t really build muscle with so many games so close together during the season,” McPherson said.
“I just watched the older guys who did it my first year. I watched Jay Leach work out all the time, ride the bike, so I learned from him a little bit. In my second year, I fell into that routine and did it consistently. My goal is to play and help the team as much as I can, and you do that by being on the ice. I don’t want to sit out games.”
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said although McPherson may not be a vocal force in the dressing room, he already, as a third-year guy, leads by example with his day-in, day-out consistent approach to preparation.
“Mac’s had that since he was a young kid, and on top of that, he’s by far one of our best-conditioned athletes, from top to bottom,” Kowalsky said. “Whether it’s workouts in the gym or skates after practice, he works and he’s all business. In that way, whether he wears a letter or not, I think guys respect that and appreciate that. He’s got a little bit of an old pro mentality for a third-year guy, in how he approaches the game and carries himself.”
Last season, he was paired with fellow big-body Seth Helgeson, and the two formed a formidable obstacle for opponents. McPherson finished with a plus-16 rating on the season, up from his rookie campaign’s plus-8. He has been paired with several different defensemen this season as Helgeson has spent much of the season with New Jersey, but has been with Brandon Burlon more often recently, which adds an offensive element to his pairing.
McPherson said he continues to take pride in being a shut-down defenseman and enjoys facing opposing teams’ top lines. He also has been a valuable part of the penalty kill. His further development lies in his play in the offensive zone, he said.
“I’m trying to work on maintaining some poise, definitely in the offensive zone, with the puck,” McPherson said. “I don’t get the most points on the back end, that’s for sure, but when I can contribute, I’d like to. I don’t feel like I have a problem getting the puck out of the defensive zone, so once I get in the O-zone, that’s more the area I need to work on as far as confidence with the puck.”
As the Devils enter a three-in-three weekend — home tonight at 7 against Syracuse, then in Bridgeport at 7 p.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, respectively — Kowalsky will likely be pleased as long as McPherson continues to be “Steady Eddie,” as he called him. Nothing flashy, just being in the way, reliable on the penalty kill and strong in the corners.
Also, so long as he stays healthy enough to play, as Albany is short-handed at forward and used all eight of its healthy defensemen on Tuesday. They may need to use extra blueliners throughout the weekend unless centerman David Wohlberg recovers from an illness or New Jersey reassigns someone.
“He’s a big-body presence in the corners and in front of the net,” Kowalsky said. “Not overly physical, but when he’s on his game, he’s difficult to play against in that he’s hard to get around.
“When he’s moving pucks quick and gets it out of his hands quick and reads the pressure of the forecheck, he’s good. He’s playing a ton for us, and he’s a durable guy, for sure.”