Albany Devils’ defenseman Dan Kelly didn’t know what to expect when he first stepped onto the rink as a pro just four seasons ago, but one wouldn’t know it today watching the self-admitted “crash-and-banger” block some of the best offensive players on the ice.

“Last year was trying to show myself as capable of taking out those top lines (of offensive players),” says Kelly, who currently ranks first all-time in American Hockey League franchise history, with a plus-24 rating. “I have to do my job — keeping those top lines off the board.”

The AHL Albany Devils will return to Boardwalk Hall this winter for a series of four regular season games, beginning 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, when they take on the Hershey Bears.

The Albany Devils serve as the top developmental team for the three-time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils. The Devils also played a four-game series at Boardwalk Hall last year, when the team had 15 players play in both the AHL with Albany and the NHL with New Jersey. Five of those players made their NHL debuts last season.

The Albany Devils will again play the Bears in Atlantic City on Feb. 14, before taking on the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins on March 1 and March 23.

“Fans can expect high-level hockey — hopefully, the next wave of New Jersey Devils in these four games,” says Albany Devils General Manager Chris Lamoriello. “It’s a young team … and they’re playing very well. Certainly, with the two opponents that we have … you’re going to see some pretty good rivalries — divisional rivals — so there is a lot for people to be excited about.”

Kelly, an upstate New York native who grew up a New Jersey Devils fan, is particularly excited about returning to Atlantic City to play.

“It’s a huge honor and a huge milestone in your life — I’ve been playing hockey since I was 5 years old, and it’s a long time in the making,” says Kelly, 24. “And with New Jersey (Devils) being one of my childhood favorite teams, it’s really an honor to be in the franchise.”

“I hope people come out and have a good time,” Kelly says. “We have a good time when we’re down there.”

For the Albany Devils, the Atlantic City series helps to expose the team to new fans.

“I think for us to be able to play an American League game in New Jersey is important,” Lamoriello says. “Being able to expose our brand to another part of the state has been important for us. We’ve enjoyed our experience (in Atlantic City) greatly. The fans have done a great job of supporting the hockey and supporting us, and have showed us what a great host Atlantic City can be.”

“For the price and the opportunity, in that location, to see the next best league in the world, in such a nice venue — you really do get the best of both worlds.”

Albany Devils Four-Game Series Atlantic City Schedule

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12: vs. Hershey Bears

7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14: vs. Hershey Bears

5 p.m. Saturday, March 1: vs. Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins

4 p.m. Sunday, March 23: vs. Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins