Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Category Archives: The AHL

Here’s Chuckie

When Chuck Kobasew was recalled back to Pittsburgh, I had honestly thought that was the last time we would see him in Wilkes-Barre. Kobasew, assigned to Wilkes-Barre March 5, put up 10 goals and an assist in 11 games. Seemingly a man playing a kid’s game.

He’s back.

Kobasew was re-assigned today by Pittsburgh along with Harry Zolnierczyk and Simon Despres as the Penguins are about to embark on their run for their first ever Calder Cup. With the unknown status of Brian Dumoulin and the injury to Philip Samuelsson, the addition of Simon Despres is welcome and needed.

Having Kobasew back in town adds one more body over the veteran limit, but at this time of year having seven healthy veterans is a good problem to have.

Our neighbors to the north and south of I-81 loaded up too.

Ottawa sent Cody Ceci, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone to Binghamton yesterday, made official today.

Washington sent Julien Brouillette and Peter Leblanc to Hershey yesterday. Tyson Strachan was assigned today after clearing waivers. Chandler Stephenson signed his ATO and joined the team en route to Norfolk, for two huge games against the Admirals for seemingly the right to go to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Wilkes-Barre signed three guys to ATOs today. Jean-Sebastian Dea, Clark Seymour and Matthew Murray. A forward, defenseman and a goaltender. Seymour and Murray were with the team last Spring on ATOs. Dea wowed in the Fall and earned himself a contract. Out of the trio, I would bet we see Dea.

Sad news out of Abbotsford today, as it was announced that the Heat would not return for a sixth season. The five seasons in British Columbia have been a disaster at the turnstyle, with Abbotsford at the bottom of AHL attendance. To boot, the city had to subsidize the team for 10 years meaning that the taxpayers had to pay for the team. There’s speculation that the team may relocate to Glens Falls in the Fall, with the Phantoms already set to move to Allentown in October.

Be thankful you have a Penguins team that plays at or near capacity night after night.

Wednesday Notebook

A bunch of stuff to get to. Here we go…

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun was assigned to Wilkes-Barre today on a conditioning assignment.

In a reactionary move, G Eric Hartzell was sent to Wheeling to get games in. Also in that release is the recall of Cody Sylvester.

Scott Wilson has signed his ATO.

Two other teams are in playoffs. Reservations made for the St. John’s IceCaps and the Abbotsford Heat.

Kris Letang is back.

Andrew Ebbett is back too.

Jonathan had an update on the days news, with quotes from Vokoun. Coal Street put together an audio package that you can listen to here.

Some footnotes: The Ebbett re-assignment puts the Pens one over the veteran limit again. In case you were wondering, having Tomas Vokoun in town on conditioning does not affect the veteran limit because goaltenders are exempt from this rule…Cody Sylvester had his appendix removed a few days ago and was called up to get looked at medically here.

The AHL started rolling out its end of year awards. Schedule here. The All-Rookie Team was announced today. None of the Penguins were on it. But that game me an idea nevertheless. My own Chirps from Center Ice End of the Year Awards. We can do the standard Rookie of the Year, Best Forward, Best Defenseman, Best Goalie and MVP and any other category that comes to me within the final two weeks of the season. The good people at WordPress who host my blog allow me to use polls, so I am going to put it to you, the reader to decide who wins. Look for that in the coming weeks.

Next blog update will probably be the Friday afternoon setup for the game in Syracuse.

 

Peter Mannino Named Goaltender of the Month

Flashback to the evening of February 28. The Penguins had just been shutout by the Syracuse Crunch in Syracuse and were reeling.

Jeff Deslauriers had a terrible month in goal. He put up a 2-4-1 record with a robust 3.43 goals against average and a tepid 0.863 save percentage.

Rookie Eric Hartzell, the reigning January Goaltender of the Month, fared worse. A 1-3 record, with an even higher goals against average (4.45) and lower save percentage (0.838).

The Penguins as a whole, went 3-5-3 and were in fourth place in the East Division with 65 points and in a three way tie with the Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Playoffs, seemed like a longshot.

Enter Peter Mannino.

Mannino, suspended by the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins in November for failing to report to the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers, later reported to the Nailers in January and was re-assigned to the Penguins on February 28 in a swap for Eric Hartzell.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Mannino was named the March AHL Goaltender of the Month today. His March numbers are nothing short of staggering: 7-2-1 record, 1.09 goals against average and a 0.950 save percentage. In the 11 games Mannino appeared in, he never allowed more than two goals. The two losses to Utica and Providence were 2-1 defensive setbacks where, had the offense clicked better, we would have been talking about a goaltender that plays 10+ games in a month without losing a single one, with those numbers.

The Penguins now? Two points off of the division lead and solidly in playoff contention, sitting in the 5th seed in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference. The magic number the night of the 4-0 blanking at the hands of the Crunch was a robust 43. Mannino’s magical month trimmed that number to a paltry 10.

The Penguins can, with help, wrap up their 12th consecutive trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs this weekend and enter the postseason with the League’s hottest, best goaltender. Other teams better take notice.

Let’s Go Pens!

AHL Trade Deadline Wrapup

The AHL trade deadline came and went today. For the East Division, one team made a move.

Hershey acquired Kris Newbury from Adirondack in exchange for Derek Whitmore. For Whitmore, he’ll finally get to play as he’s been a scratch for the Bears. For Newbury, a chance to win with a contender. Newbury was second on the Phantoms in scoring.

Acquiring Newbury doesn’t solve the Bears veteran situation, either.

The Penguins, Senators, Admirals and Crunch went about their Wednesday and didn’t make any moves.

For Wilkes-Barre, they sent Tom Kuhnhackl and Harrison Ruopp back to Wheeling and retained G Eric Hartzell. Turns out that WBS had their goaltending coach in town and wanted Hartzell along with Jeff Deslauriers and Peter Mannino all on the ice for instruction.

One other piece of news, WBS signed Conor Sheary to an amateur tryout contract today. Sheary captained the UMass Minutemen and led them in points (9-19-28) this season. He’s signed to an AHL deal for next season, too.

So you are wondering what type of player the undrafted Sheary is. So am I. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look far:

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I really don’t excited for kids coming out of junior or college because it’s a totally different game, playing with men. Take ex-Penguin Casey Pierro-Zabotel for example. He comes over from leading the Western Hockey League in points in 08-09 and joins the Penguins. He goes on to play 9 games, registering one assist. He was sent to the ECHL and has never been seen again.

Reasonable expectation for Sheary is maybe a game in late March or mid-April or after the Penguins have clinched a playoff spot.

Next update here will likely be the Gameday setup for the Friday home game vs. Hamilton.

NHL Trade Deadline and the AHL East Divison

With all the hype surrounding trade deadline day for the NHL, let’s cut to the chase and examine how it affects the AHL’s East Division.

Let’s get right to it…

button_pit200       /       WBS

Pittsburgh / Wilkes Barre

Marcel Goc from Florida and Lee Stempniak from Calgary for draft picks. So, the Wilkes-Barre roster and prospect pipeline stays intact. Chuck Kobasew, who cleared waivers yesterday, to Wilkes-Barre. Chris Conner can NOT be sent to Wilkes-Barre because he was not on waivers yesterday. So, ideally from a Wilkes-Barre perspective, it’s Conner for Kobasew. I’ll reserve judgement on whether this is good or bad after I see what Kobasew and do in the AHL.

Jonathan tweeted that Simon Despres and Brian Gibbons were on the Wilkes-Barre roster at 3 p.m. and thus eligible to return to the Penguins at some point.

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button_wsh200      /      HER

Washington / Hershey

Bears end up netting Chris Brown from Phoenix / Portland in an NHL deal for Marty Erat and John Mitchell. Brown has put up solid numbers in Portland for the past two seasons. He’s 14-21-35 so far this year. Brown was also sent from Phoenix with Rostislav Klesla, but Klesla’s stay in Chocolatetown lasted less than 24 hours as he was sent to Buffalo with G Michal Neuvirth in the trade for G Jaroslav Halak.

Connor Carrick and Dmitry Orlov were eligible to be sent to Hershey, but were not and will remain with Washington for the duration.

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button_ott200      /      BNG

Ottawa / Binghamton

Initial returns are that the winners of the NHL Trade deadline in the East Division are the Binghamton Senators, who get a depth defenseman in Patrick Mullen from the Utica Comets and Alex Grant (yes, THAT Alex Grant) from Norfolk / Anaheim for Andre Petersson. Grant makes a dangerous Binghamton power play even more dangerous. Ottawa also papered down Cody Ceci and Mike Hoffman, making that duo eligible for the AHL if the need arises.

In another minor move, Ottawa loaned Joe Corvo to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. But Corvo, a Chicago area native, is hurt and isn’t expected to play the rest of the season. He also is making $900K this season.

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button_tb200      /      SYR

Tampa Bay / Syracuse

Dana Tyrell and Matt Taormina to Columbus for Jonathan Marchessault and Dalton Smith. Syracuse looks like the big winner in this trade. Marchessault was Springfield’s leading scorer (14-27-41) Richard Panik was recalled earlier today, meaning his AHL days are done at least for this year and Vlad Namestnikov was sent to Syracuse. If there is one downside, the moves today leave the Crunch a bit thin on the blue line.

button_ana200      /      NOR

Anaheim / Norfolk

Anaheim traded away G Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers and got RW Andre Petersson from Ottawa for D Alex Grant. Petersson’s 17-23-40 automatically makes him Norfolk’s leading scorer.

Jonathan’s take on today’s proceedings is here.

In my view, Wilkes-Barre has the most work to do in the divsion, with seemingly everyone else bolstering up their rosters. The Kobasew add is nice and should help, but you just never know with how a player who has spent most of his time in the NHL will take a demotion back to the AHL. You go from airplanes and caviar to bus rides and 3 a.m. McDonald’s stops.

Time, always tells.

Sunday Afternoon Scoreboard Watching

Another day, another afternoon left scoreboard watching in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. There were five teams playing all close to the Penguins in the standings of the Eastern Confernence Sunday afternoon. The Penguins were in the 8th and final spot of playoffs coming into Sunday morning…

…Sunday evening, the Penguins are back on the outside looking in but a point.

Here’s the scores and some blurbs on the games….

button_uti200     1
ALB     2

It was a perfect six point weekend for the Albany Devils who downed the Utica Comets, seeking their own perfect weekend themselves by a score of 2-1.

PRO     1
BRI     2

Sound Tigers do a favor for the teams in the Eastern Conference chase with a 2-1 win at home. But, Bridgeport draws within eight points of the ninth place Penguins.

NOR     3
button_spr200     2

Ol’ buddy Brad Thiessen stops 28 of 30 and the Norfolk Admirals are back in the playoff hunt with a 3-2 win in Springfield. The win for the Ads stops a two game slide.

STJ     6
POR     5

St. John’s explode for five goals in the third period and win in Portland 6-5 for their fourth win in a row.

HER     2
SYR     5

Well, the Crunch certainly wish they saw more of the Bears on the schedule. They defeat Hershey in the home of the Capitals 5-2 in a “home” game for the Crunch in the AHL Showcase.

So here is what the Conference looks like: 1) MCH (80) 2) SPR (71) 3) BNG (70) 4) STJ (68) 5) ALB (66) 6) PRO (65) 7) HER (64) 8) NOR (64) 9) WBS (63)

The Penguins have games in hand on St. John’s and Providence now and Norfolk and Hershey have a game in hand on the Penguins.

The Pens have a big week this week. A game Tuesday against Hershey, then on the road again with Syracuse Friday and in Atlantic City with Albany Saturday.

Week 21 AHL Power Rankings will be up Monday at 4 p.m.

Friday Night Scoreboard Watching

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins entered last weekend a point out of first place in the East Division.

Fast forward a week, and those same Penguins who have lost five straight games, are now on the outside looking in when it comes to playoffs.

There were three teams relevant to the Penguins in action Friday night. Here are the recaps of all of the affairs…

ALB     4
ADK     1

The reason the Penguins are currently out of the playoffs? The Albany Devils, two points out of the 8th spot in ninth at the start of the night, were in Glens Falls tonight and beat a Phantoms team decimated by League suspensions 4-1. Mike Sislo netted two goals for the Devils.

STJ     5
WOR     1

St. John’s, one of the two teams tied with the Penguins in points (62, Providence being the other) coming into Friday, leapfrog their way into fifth place in the conference with a 5-1 win in Worcester tonight. The two teams rematch tomorrow.

BNG     4
button_ham200     1

The B Machine continues to roll. The East Division leading Binghamton Senators were in Montreal tonight at the Bell Centre taking on the Hamilton Bulldogs and won 4-1. G Andrew Hammond has won four straight, for a .953 SV% and a 1.50 GAA. Oh, Binghamton has the most goals scored (199) in the East Division.

So the Eastern Conference Standings look like this three weeks into February:

1) MCH (76) 2) SPR (71) 3) BNG (70) 4) HER (64) 5) STJ (64) 6) PRO (63) 7) NOR (62) 8) ALB (62) 9) WBS (62)

Games in hand situation look like this: Pens have 53. Albany and Binghamton have a game in hand, Hershey and Norfolk have two.

In case you were wondering, Hershey, Norfolk and Providence were all off tonight as well. All 30 clubs are dancing Saturday. Norfolk is in Albany, Hershey hosts Syracuse, St. John’s rematches with Worcester and Binghamton hosts Utica.

The Penguins play the Providence Bruins Saturday night at home. It probably goes without saying that tomorrow is the biggest game of the season for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

Gameday for this affair will hit the blog at 3 p.m.

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