As the Albany Devils prepared for tonight’s Game 5 against the Toronto Marlies, they continue to struggle with how to keep out of the penalty box — while being concerned how long one of their defensive stalwarts may be penalized.
In the Devils’ 7-2 loss Game 4 loss Tuesday night at Times Union Center, the Marlies had nine power plays, scoring on their first four and turning what had been a 1-0 Albany lead into a rout the other way.
This came on the heels of Game 3 (a 3-2 Albany win in overtime), in which Toronto had eight power-play chances. Albany not only killed off all eight, but score twice shorthanded, including the game-winner by Nick Lappin.
But Toronto’s high-powered offense, statistically the best in the league, caught up with the Devils in Game 4.
“I said the other night we were playing with fire,” Albany Devils coach Rich Kowalsky said after Tuesday’s game, “and we got burned.”
Amid all the whistles Tuesday came perhaps the most devastating call for the Devils, one that could impact the rest of the series, and beyond.
Defenseman Dan Kelly received a game misconduct penalty in the second period for his elbow to the head on Toronto’s Andreas Johnson, a blow that sent the Marlie wing to the hospital. After the game Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe called the hit “sickening.”
The AHL said Tuesday there is no timetable for announcing a possible suspension for Kelly, but expect a ruling by this morning. Keefe is calling for 12 games, citing league precedent.
Keefe said the blow, which Kelly delivered away from the puck skating in front of Johnson, “the worst kind of hit that there is in the game today.”
Game 5 is slated for 7 tonight at Times Union Center, with the teams tied 2-2. Each team has won alternating games thus far, with the Devils winning Games 1 and 3. Both coaches said each game has been individual contests with little carryover from the previous contests.
“The score is going to be zero-zero,” Keefe told reporters Wednesday. “We are going to reset.”
Kowalsky, who downplayed potential momentum from his team’s dramatic win Sunday night, is taking the same approach after a blowout loss.
“Both teams didn’t have the years that we had not bouncing back from losses,” he told reporters Wednesday.
“At the end of the day the series is tied.”
The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors Wednesday unanimously granted conditional approval of the sale of the Springfield Falcons to the Arizona Coyotes, which will move the team from Springfield, Mass., to Tucson, Ariz., starting in the fall.
The Board of Governors is reviewing a potential transfer of the Portland Pirates to Springfield, which has been a traditional AHL city and hosts the league’s offices.