Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

AHL Power Rankings: Week 18

We are in Week 18 here and almost to the middle of February. There are sure thing teams like Toronto and Ontario and then a patch of about 20 or so teams then teams that may as well pack it up and restructure for the Fall.

The Toronto Marlies are again the number one team here in Week 18.

As we have maintained for pretty much all season, the Central Division is the Division to watch. The Atlantic is getting cozy as well with the Hershey Bears closing in on the Atlantic Division lead, a lead that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have had since October.

Lots more to look at this week, so if you didn’t link in direct, hit the jump to see where everyone ended up this week.

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All Star Catchup 2/1

Had to do a double take there on the date. Is it really February 1st already?

Anyway, a couple things to note on here a few hours from the AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse. 

The West beat the East 19-14 in the skills competition last night. Tied 9-9 in the second to last event, the West won the breakaway relay by a score of 10-5. Penguins defenseman Will O’Neill participated in three events. 

This morning, Dave Andrews met with the media here and held his annual State of the AHL. I’m still working on raw audio and thought about different ways to summarize everything here on the blog but found Sean Shapiro from Wrong Side of the Red Line in Austin, TX already did a fantastic job in summarizing the event. 

Essentially Andrews hit on a few different things. First was balancing the schedule. California teams play 68 games and everyone else plays 76. You are going to see that again next year and probably the foreseeable future unless you convince teams to play less games which the independently owned teams in Hershey and Chicago won’t go for. 

Second was the two referee system. It’s coming. The biggest problem now is that the League doesn’t have enough qualified guys to work a game. 

Third is the way that playoffs are dictated financially. Basically the ticket deals that your team gives you during the season is taken away if your team qualifies for playoffs. That’s not on the team, that’s the AHL telling them what to do. That’s going away. 

There were other small things like on ice time. All teams track it but the NHL teams don’t want it made public because of confidentiality on how a certain prospect is being used. I don’t know why they would try to hide that, honestly. Games are easily available online and anyone with a stopwatch and a piece of paper can manufacture how much time a certain player is getting. 

Also, the dry scrape is sticking around. Lots of fans don’t like it because it kills momentum, but some buildings are more suited to do it the way the NHL buildings do it and others aren’t. So to make it fair for everyone they dry scrape the ice. 

Same divisions and parent clubs for next year too. I think that may be the first time in a while that nothing would change from one year to the other. 

There was some Pittsburgh news that had an affect on Wilkes-Barre today. 

First, the news that Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson are back with Pittsburgh after the parent Penguins come off of NHL All-Star break. That was to be expected. Chris Kunitz did not participate in practice today, so recalling both makes sense. The Pens play the Ottawa Senators Tuesday.

The other news today was that Tom Sestito was signed by the Penguins to an NHL contract. He will be on waivers until noon Tuesday and if no one claims him, he will be assigned to Wilkes-Barre. 

More later after the games tonight. The Atlantic Division plays the Central Division in the second game of the night, the Pacific Division in the fourth and the North in the sixth and final game of the night before the championship game. Game is local on My Network TV or on Root Sports Pittsburgh tonight at 7.

AHL Power Rankings: Week 17

We are officially at the AHL All-Star break here in the 2015-16 AHL season. If you aren’t headed to Syracuse, then it gives you extra time to read this weeks version of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings.

At the break, it looks like that a lot of teams in the Eastern and Western Conference are playing for second place, respectively. The Toronto Marlies of the East and the Ontario Reign of the West have been the classes of their respective Conferences from the beginning. It may take a lot for another team to step up and beat these two teams.

But it isn’t the Marlies and Reign who are one – two this week. It’s…well, I am just going to let you read to see who and where all the other teams ended up this week. Click the jump if you didn’t link in directly.

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Goodwill: O’Neill Added to AHL All-Star Classic

It was announced Saturday morning that Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins defenseman Will O’Neill was added to the AHL All-Star team for the Atlantic Division. O’Neill will replace Penguins winger Dominik Simon, who will miss the games due to injury.

O’Neill has nine points in his last ten games. While he may not have had All Star quality like numbers when the teams were announced a few weeks ago, he has been producing like an All-Star of recent.

O’Neill’s addition gives the Atlantic Division one extra defensemen by my count. Here’s the team as of about 1 p.m. Saturday…

G: Mike McMeknna, Portland Pirates
G: Anthony Stolarz, Lehigh Valley Phantoms

D: Connor Carrick, Hershey Bears
D: Cameron Gaunce, Portland Pirates
D: Ryan Graves, Hartford Wolf Pack
D: Ryan Pulock, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
D: Will O’Neill, Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

F: Chris Bourque, Hershey Bears
F: Nick Cousins, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
F: Seth Griffith, Providence Bruins
F: Dustin Jeffrey, Springfield Falcons
F: Alexander Khokhlachev, Providence Bruins
F Rob Schremp, Portland Pirates

When they put these plans together, teams were supposed to be comprised of seven forwards and four defensemen. Unless I am missing something, it looks like the Atlantic will be the only division with the extra defenseman.

The Gameday setup for the rematch with Lehigh Valley will be up on the blog at 3 p.m. today.

Murray Out for All-Stars, Simon?

Had a feeling Wednesday night when I was hammering out the blog post after hearing on the postgame show that Dominik Simon left the game in the second period with injury and didn’t return that I would be blogging today.

But not for what you think. Well, at least not yet.

It was announced on Thursday that Matt Murray will not be making the trip to Syracuse to participate in the AHL All-Star Classic this weekend. He will be replaced by Portland’s Mike McKenna.

Murray has a minor lower body injury and did not practice today.

On the status of Dominik Simon, he too did not practice today. Penguins Head Coach Clark Donatelli listed Simon, as well as Sahir Gill as “day to day.”

I have a pretty good idea of where and how Matt Murray was injured. From the first period Sunday in Providence.

They initially called it a “maintenance day” today but Seth confirmed that Murray has a minor injury and is expected back after the All-Star game. The Penguins play Lehigh Valley in a home and home this Friday and Saturday before taking back to the ice next Friday in Springfield.

Another angle brought up was that assuming that Murray had started one of these two games this weekend, that’s five games in the last fourteen games for Murray. Perhaps the ruling from Pittsburgh was to allow him to rest.

Personally, I do not think that Murray is injured to a point to raise alarm. I watched carefully after Murray was slow to get up Sunday to see if he received any medical assistance. He didn’t. He played 40 plus minutes Sunday and started Wednesday and played close to sixty minutes.

If the Penguins as a whole want to make a run for a Calder Cup they will need Murray, and Simon at or as close to 100%.

Seth had more in depth analysis with quotes on his blog.

Now onto the subject of Dominik Simon. I expect him to miss the All-Star Classic also. The question then becomes with him out, Murray and Pouliot already ruled out, who do the Penguins send?

My initial thought would be any combination of Conor Sheary or Scott Wilson. But, they may have vacations planned already with the mandatory break. Families involved and such. Who knows. My guess is that if or when Simon is going to be ruled out it will come Friday. Again, who knows.

Gameday setup for Lehigh Valley will be here Friday at 3.

AHL Power Rankings: Week 16

We are a week away from the All-Star break and the Toronto Marlies are running away with things.

There have been some teams; Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Wilkes-Barre to name some that have been at the top of the Rankings week to week, but the Marlies have been consistent and are again the Week 16 Chirps from Center Ice number one team this week.

While it doesn’t look like there is any stopping the Marlies right now, click through the jump if you didn’t link in direct to see where the other 29 other teams rank in the hopes of being number one some day.

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Weekend Setup 1/22

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are in Portland, Maine for a pair of games against the second place team in the Atlantic Division and against a team that has won five in a row and is 12-2-1 in their last fifteen games. It’s an important series for both teams. Wilkes-Barre is among the AHL’s elite teams this season and the Portland Pirates are on the rise and looking to knock off the division leader.

But before you get going on your Friday, a couple things happened on Thursday that I’d like to touch on.

First, goaltender Brian Foster was recalled from the Wheeling Nailers. The reason apparently was to get him some work with Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry with Mike Buckley in Portland, as the Penguins goaltending coach is meeting the team there for some work this weekend. Initial concerns about a trade, call-up or injury were unfounded by all who speculated, myself included.

Second, ex-Penguins captain Dave Gove had the interim tag removed and was named Head Coach of the Wheeling Nailers for the remainder of the season.

Third, Tim Erixon will probably be back Sunday and don’t expect new acquisition Ryan Parent yet.

Regarding Providence, Frank Vatrano was sent back to the P-Bruins Thursday. Vatrano had ten goals in ten games for the Bruins prior to his recall to Boston. That’s a big time boost for a Providence side who is 6-2-2 in their last ten games.

Mark Divver from The Providence Journal has this story running in the paper Friday on Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Head Coach Clark Donatelli.

Gameday for Portland hits the blog at 3 today.

Let’s Go Pens!

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