by Kevin Zalaznik | AHL On The Beat Archive
Twice during a pair of games last week, Mike Sislo raced down the right side and put, what appeared to be, innocuous shots on goal. Both attempts fooled the netminders enough to get the Albany Devils on the board.
During his four years with the Devils organization, Sislo has scored his share of goals. Some have been routine, while others make goaltenders do a double take.
In 219 career AHL games, Sislo has registered 56 tallies, placing him just three behind Tim Sestito and two behind Stephen Gionta on the franchise’s all-time goals list for the second and third spots. However, according to head coach Rick Kowalsky, Sislo’s total could be higher.
“I’d still like him to shoot the puck more,” Kowalsky said.
Shots lead to more goals, but also more secondary chances for his linemates. Not surprisingly, Sislo’s numbers during his career have been balanced with 60 assists to go with his 56 goals.
Last season, the University of New Hampshire alum took major steps in his development. Not only did he produce a career-high 41 points with 23 goals and 18 assists, but he also made his NHL debut and served as an alternate captain with Albany.
Already this season, Sislo has 10 games with New Jersey and he still wears the “A” on his chest.
“It was a step last year, leadership wise, and I’ve tried to do the same this year,” Sislo said. “It’s not something that you need to force or push on yourself. I’ve tried to be myself while I’m here and grow into that and just make sure I’m bringing a work ethic to the rink every day and lead by example.”
Kowalsky said: “He’s progressed. Even though he’s still a young guy, the way he carries himself as a pro on and off the ice is one of the reasons he wears the letter.”
For Albany, the 27-year-old is relied on regardless of the circumstances and is one of the team’s leaders for ice time.
“He’s a guy I rely on in all situations: five-on-five, power play, penalty kill,” Kowalsky said. “He’s always been a big minutes guy. He’s developed into that role.”
Sislo and the Devils find themselves preparing to battle for a Calder Cup Playoff spot. With 28 games remaining, the team is just two points out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference and six points out of fifth place.
As injured players begin to return to Albany’s lineup, Kowalsky has juggled the lines a bit. For the last two games, Sislo has been on the right winger of the Devils top line.
He is in a position to draw on his experience and add to his season totals. He is tied for fourth on the team with 22 points — 11 goals and 11 assists — despite playing in just 37 games.
“I’ve gained more experience here, had more time here and the game kind of slows down,” Sislo said. “You start to notice different things like the mood on the bench and in the locker room and just try to be the best player and teammate you can be.”