Preseason: Devils Down Islanders in OT

The Devils traveled up to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut today for an afternoon preseason tilt against the New York Islanders. The Isles scored early, the Devils tied it late and the Devils won in overtime 2-1.

The game was being played in Bridgeport, home of the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Islanders (they rebranded this past offseason with the parent club’s identity – a Lou Lamoriello special), because they are done with the Nassau Coliseum and the new UBS Arena does not open until mid-November. The Isles will begin their regular season on the road for the first month or so.

The Devils made some cuts this morning, as per team reporter Amanda Stein. Ryan Schmelzer a forward, defensemen Jeremy Grodleau and Michael Vukojevic and goaltender Marek Mitens were all assigned to the AHL Utica Comets. Groleau and Vukojevic played on Friday versus the New York Rangers while Schmelzer and Mitens had AHL-only contracts. Utica’s camp begins on Monday, October 4.

In net for this game, Mackenzie Blackwood made his preseason debut, playing the first period in net for New Jersey. He finished with a .938 save percentage, giving up one goal on 16 shots against. Scott Wedgewood took over in the second frame, stopping all eight shots he faced. The Isles totaled 33 shots against Devils goaltending.

For New York, Ilya Sorokin played the first two periods getting all 11 thrown his way. Former Devil Cory Schneider, trying to make his way back to the NHL with the Islanders faced two shots – including in overtime, which he played – and let in both.

The Islanders got on the board just 3:23 inot the game when Kieffer Bellows scored off of a 2-on-1. He broke in after getting the puck from Mat Barzal and snapped a shot off himself, one which beat Blackwood to make it 1-0 New York. Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist.

And then Islander low-event hockey settled in for the majority of the game.

The Devils would eventually break through when Mark Jankowski scored at the 15:45 mark of the third period. Jankowski shot quickly off the rush, beating Schneider under the blocker to make it 1-1. The Devils finally broke through via the rush, which is the best way to beat that Islander low event hockey, as we saw for many years here in New Jersey. Aarne Talvitie had the lone assist on Jankowski’s goal.

One thing to note is that Jack Hughes did not play much in the second period and did not play at all in the third. Nothing was given as to a concrete injury or anything. It is possible he was just rested on the back end of the back-to-back with a day game after a night game. He got his reps in and was done. We will try to update should any injury be announced.

The overtime proved two things: one I was right about a strong transition game beating low event hockey and two, Yegor Sharangovich continues to play very well.

It developed very quickly, as suddenly, Sharangovich was racing up the right-wing boards and roofed a shot by Schneider to give the Devils the win in OT and remain unbeaten in the preseason. The goal came unassisted 3:35 into the OT period.

(I am sorry about lack of details on the goals. I was watching the stream supplied to the Devils’ official website by the Islanders. Which was the feed from the Webster Bank Arena in-arena boards and did not show replays. It was either see everything initially or risk having less detailed notes. I went with the less detailed notes as I could not get everything as it was happening.)

Once again, as last night against the Rangers, the teams decided to forego the shootout practice, of which they have the option after every preseason game, no matter the outcome.

So that was that with the Devils coming away with the 2-1 victory, the Isles handed their first loss of this preseason.

Team-wise, the Devils finished 0-for-5 on the power play while the Isles were 0-for-3. That is all of the stats I am seeing on the scoresheet, so I am sorry this is incomplete.

In the limited player stats available, Sharangovich led the Devils in shots on goal with five.

Now that this nightmare of a recap is in the books, I will tell you that the Devils next play in Newark on Monday against the Washington Capitals. That game will not be televised over the air in our market or Washington. I would suppose that the Devils will stream the scoreboard feed, but who really knows.

Until then.

Devils Sign Players to PTOs Ahead of Training Camp

The Devils have signed three players to professional tryout (PTO) contacts ahead of training camp and the preseason schedule starting up on September 22. These are unsigned veteran free agents who will attend camp hoping to land a job for the 2021-22 season.

According to a press release that I accessed through the Devils’ app, forwards Jimmy Vesey and Mark Jankowski and defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon have inked PTO deals.

Vesey, a one-time highly sought-after college player from Harvard, split last season with the Maple Leafs and Canucks totaling five assists, five goals and ten points. He was drafted by the Predators in the third round (88th overall) in 2012 but chose to sign with the Rangers in 2016.

Over his time with New York, he had his best offensive season, notching 35 goals in 2018-19. In 2019, he moved to the Sabres. His career totals include 64 goals and 56 assists for 120 points along with 92 penalty minutes over 354 NHL games. He has a goal and four assists (five points) over 12 playoff games.

The Boston-native has been given number 16 for camp.

Jankowski spent last season with the Penguins where he had four goals and seven assists (11 points) over 45 goals.

He was drafted by the Flames in the first round, 21st overall, in 2012 and played three seasons in Calgary. The press release notes his career total of 40 goals, 35 assists (75 points) over 235 games at the NHL level. He also has 75 penalty minutes as well.

The left-shooting center, a Hamilton, Ontario native, who attended Providence College, will wear number 14.

Wotherspoon has played the majority of his pro career in the American Hockey League after being drafted in the second round (67th overall) in 2011 by the Flames out of the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League.

He has played for the Stockton Heat in the Calgary organization, the San Antonio Rampage (AHL affiliate of Arizona at the time) and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Flyers organization). According to the press release, he served as an alternate captain with Stockton and Lehigh Valley.

He has played in 433 AHL games and 30 NHL contests. In the NHL, he has five assists (five points). All of his NHL appearances have come with Calgary.

The Burnaby, British Columbia native will be assigned number 34.