Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Wheeling Enforcements

Have No Fehr, It’s Sunny Tomorrow

With Eric Fehr down with what Mike Sullivan told Pittsburgh media a, “significant lower body injury” which will sideline the Penguins center for at least a month, the Pittsburgh Penguins recalled rookie center Oskar Sundqvist Thursday from Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.

Sundqvist is 5-11-16 in 39 games with the Penguins this season. He has a goals for percentage of 46.81% and an even strength goals for percentage of 50%. He’s a penalty killer and a center, which fills the role left when Fehr went down with injury.

Wilkes-Barre hasn’t made a recall from Wheeling as of this writing, but Clark Donatelli told media today he’s going to recall two players. Dominik Uher, Dominik Simon and Sahir Gill all did not practice today so if I was a betting man, I’d call up Anton Zlobin and probably Patrick McGrath. All of Wheeling’s other top scorers are either already recalled to the AHL or not on AHL deals meaning that the Penguins would need to sign the player in order for him to play here.

Or the Penguins can go beyond Wheeling and sign another ECHL contracted player from another team. I’d expect the news on a recall to come Friday morning.

Here is Seth’s post on the Sundqvist recall.

Gameday setup for Pens at Falcons hits the blog Friday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

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!

Sunday Shakeups 1/10

Coming off of the 4-2 win vs. Utica, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins fifth overall, there were some moves made Sunday morning.

First, defenseman Adam Clendening was recalled from his conditioning stint by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Clendening had six games of AHL action and recorded three assists.

Second, forward Matia Marcantuoni and defenseman Harrison Ruopp were recalled by Wilkes-Barre from Wheeling, presumably as extra bodies as the team heads to St. John’s today to take on the IceCaps Tuesday and Wednesday in Newfoundland.

Third and in the same transaction which recalled Marcantuoni and Ruopp, forwards John McCarron and Patrick McGrath were returned to the Wheeling Nailers. Goaltender Casey Desmith was released from his professional tryout agreement.

Wheeling hosts the Indy Fuel Sunday afternoon.

Saturday Quick Hits 1/2

Three things you simply must know heading into tonight’s game against the Springfield Falcons.

First, and most importantly, Matt Murray was reassigned by Pittsburgh back to Wilkes-Barre with Marc-Andre Fleury coming off of injured reserve and ready to play again. Murray’s assignment is an obvious huge boost to the Wilkes-Barre goaltending corps which consisted of Brian Foster and Casey DeSmith.

The question on the status of Tristan Jarry should be answered with the next move that the Penguins make. If it’s Brian Foster down to Wheeling, then my guess is that Jarry isn’t too far away from returning. If it’s DeSmith, it may be a bit longer.

Personally, I think it will be DeSmith just because, but Franky Palazzese has played in every game since the recalls of Foster and DeSmith for the Nailers, nearly 300 minutes worth. Wheeling hosts Brampton tonight and Norfolk tomorrow and ideally you’d like to see Palazzese start one of those two and get a break, but who knows.

Second, Patrick McGrath was recalled yesterday and Harrison Ruopp was reassigned back to Wheeling. The reason for this is simple. With Adam Clendening down on conditioning and Ruopp essentially your eighth defenseman, you call-up McGrath to make room for Ruopp since there are roster limits in the ECHL. McGrath is your thirteenth forward, depending on the health and status of Kael Mouillierat.

Finally, Jay Leach was named coach of the Atlantic Division All-Star team in Syracuse later this month. He gets this opportunity because the Penguins had the best percentage in the Atlantic Division on December 31. Leach joins Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe, Milwaukee’s Dean Evanson and Ontario’s Mike Stothers.

More in a bit, as the Springfield Falcons are in town tonight at 7. The Gameday setup hits the blog at 3.

Clark Donatelli Installed as Head Coach

It was announced Tuesday afternoon that Wheeling Nailers Head Coach Clark Donatelli has been named the 10th Head Coach in Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins team history.

From the team’s press release…

“Clark Donatelli brings a wealth of head coaching experience and has been with the organization for five years,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton general manager Jason Botterill. “Donatelli has helped develop 11 players in Wheeling that are currently on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster.  Coach Donatelli and Associate Coach Jay Leach will make a dynamic team that will continue the path set by Mike Sullivan.”

Donatelli, 50, is Wheeling’s all-time leader in coaching wins, posting an overall record of 133-109-9-20. He is also the only coach in Nailers history to take the team to consecutive playoff appearances.

Jay Leach stays on and is named Associate Head Coach. Under Leach’s guidance, the Penguins went 3-0-0-1 in four games, including three shutouts.

Before I get to my thoughts, some tweets regarding the hire…

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My guess as to how all of this came about is as follows. This all started when John Hynes and Alain Nasreddine both left for the NHL in the summertime. Donatelli probably applied for the job here in Wilkes-Barre and was given strong consideration. However, with the uncertainty of then head coach Mike Johnston up in Pittsburgh, Mike Sullivan comes in to coach the squad here in Wilkes-Barre, a guy with NHL coaching experience. Thereby, leaving Donatelli in Wheeling and Johnston in Pittsburgh to his own fate. Johnston is fired, Sullivan hired to replace him and automatically Donatelli becomes the number one guy for the job on Coal Street from the whole, “promoting from within” philosophy.

That’s how I see it. I could be 100% out in left field, and it wouldn’t be the first time, but that’s how I see it.

Take nothing away from Jay Leach and the job he did here. I don’t know how you could have auditioned anymore perfectly than he did in his four game tryout if you want to call it that. The Penguins shutout opponents three out of the four games where Leach was Head Coach. As Tom Grace used to say, “it’s OK if you like perfect.” After Johnston was fired and Sullivan hired to replace him, I don’t think there was ever a situation where Donatelli wasn’t going to become the head coach, it was simply just a matter of when.

Ex-Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins Captain Dave Gove will take over the interim head coaching duties in Wheeling for the time being while the Nailers search for a new head coach.

Donatelli’s first piece of business as the new man in charge is the 11-time Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears at Giant Center this Saturday before a Sunday afternoon home game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Let’s Go Pens!

Increasing Difficulty for Yucks

He lasted the whole game last night and even recorded a shutout, his second in a row, but it was announced today after Penguins practice on Coal Street that Tristan Jarry will miss this weekends games with a lower body injury. Brian Foster will start tomorrow vs. the Toronto Marlies and will have Casey DeSmith as his backup.

Bob Rotruck is the Voice of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and had this to say about Jarry’s situation last night.

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Seth had more with quotes from Penguins interim head coach Jay Leach after practice Thursday…

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More from Seth here.

The Penguins play at home Friday against the Toronto Marlies and in Syracuse Saturday against the Syracuse Crunch before breaking for the Christmas holiday. The Penguins are back after Christmas in Hershey on December 26.

Alright, let’s get to the Toronto Marlies. The Penguins haven’t played the Marlies since 2014. Let’s take a look at them.

  • They are first in the North Division and the second best team in the AHL percentage wise, only behind the Penguins. They have a record of 21-5-2-0.
  • Ex-Penguins Scott Harrington and Kasperi Kapanen play for this team. Kapanen is actually with Finland for the World Juniors.
  • T.J. Brennan leads AHL defenseman in points. In 27 games he’s 9-14-23.
  • William Nylander leads the entire AHL in points. He’s basically setting the league on fire. In 26 games, he’s 14-20-34. That may partially be because the North Division is full of terrible teams like Syracuse, Binghamton and Rochester, or it may not. We don’t have long to find out for ourselves.
  • Toronto is 13-1-1-0 on the road. The Pens are 12-2 at home.
  • Whoever scores first tomorrow may win the game. Both the Penguins and Marlies are 15-1 when they score first.
  • They aren’t great on the power play but have the third overall best penalty kill and are best in the road.
  • They are the second best offense in the AHL scoring 3.89 goals per game. The Penguins have the third best offense in the AHL scoring 3.68 goals per game.
  • The Penguins have the second best defense in the AHL only allowing 1.96 goals against. The Marlies are fourth best, only allowing 2.43 goals a game.

So it’s an even matchup on paper. The Toronto Marlies will be the best team that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have faced this season to date as will the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will be the best team that the Toronto Marlies have faced to date.

Buy the ticket, hell they cost just $14 bucks tomorrow, and take the ride.

Gameday setup for this clash of Eastern Conference Titans hits the blog Friday at 3.

Three Going Up…On A Tuesday

Let’s get right to the news of the day.

Goaltender Matt Murray and forwards Conor Sheary and Kevin Porter were recalled to the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday. The purpose of the Murray recall was because Marc-Andre Fleury went to the coaching staff after last nights 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals last night not feeling well. It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that it was announced that the Penguins goaltender does have a concussion and is out for the next two weeks.

Beau Bennett was hurt (again) last night on a hit along the boards by T.J. Oshie. Pittsburgh was already playing light with no extra forwards, so the recall of Sheary and Porter were imminent if not permanent for one, with the recent retirement of Pascal Dupuis.

With Steve Oleksy week to week with an upper body injury, Coal Street announced the recall of defenseman Harrison Ruopp on Tuesday morning. Ruopp is 2-24 and a -1 in 23 games for the Nailers. I would consider him the extra defenseman for now as Clark Seymour played well in his AHL season debut for the Penguins Saturday paired with Derrick Pouliot.

In reaction to the trio lost to recall by Pittsburgh, Coal Street recalled goaltender Brian Foster, forwards Ty Loney and Sahir Gill from the Wheeling Nailers. Brian Foster has won his last three starts and has given up two or fewer goals in all three starts. Gill is 3-15-18 and a +1 in 24 games while Loney is 5-7-12 in 18 games and an even +/- rating.

If Conor Sheary does dress tomorrow in Boston against the Bruins, it will be the Massachusetts native NHL debut. He’s a bit undersized, but leads the AHL Penguins in points and has a 71.74 GF%. He’s been on the ice for 33 goals scored and just 13 against. He’s excellent on the power play and uses his speed to get to areas where he can generate offense.

Matt Murray’s NHL call up is long overdue. He has nothing left to prove in the AHL and is just biding his time. I am hopeful that Sullivan and Company give him a shot to show how good he is. Also, when it was the tandem of Jeff Zatkoff and Matt Murray here last year in Wilkes-Barre, Murray outplayed Zatkoff and won nearly every goaltending award imaginable.

This is Tristan Jarry’s team now. There were some that had Jarry projected higher than Murray prospect-wise. Jarry is more than capable of stepping in and taking the job and running with it.

Seth said today that Tyler Biggs didn’t practice today because of a lower body injury. I don’t know how that could have happened, he hasn’t played since December 6 in Hershey.

Pittsburgh is in more dire straits than Wilkes-Barre or even Wheeling. Both minor league affiliates lead their respective divisions while their NHL counterpart sits on the outside looking in. Wednesday’s matchup with Boston is pivotal for the Pittsburgh Penguins as Boston is the first wild card team. The AHL Penguins and ECHL Nailers have enough of a cushion that personnel losses now won’t deal them as harsh as a blow as it could for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Interesting days and weeks ahead.

Gameday setup for Wednesday’s tilt in Allentown against the Phantoms hits the blog at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!


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