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2014 Sports Blog of the Year
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A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
Interesting news out of Coal Street this afternoon. Eric Hartzell and Nick D’Agostino were re-assigned to the Wheeling Nailers.
For D’Agostino, it’s a chance to finally play. He has played just one game and has been the forgotten man in town.
For Hartzell, this signifies the imminent return of Jeff Zatkoff. Jonathan blogged Tuesday that Zatkoff practiced in full. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the Hartzell demotion means that Zatkoff is ready to go again.
So a question. Who leads the team out first at approximately 6:20 p.m. Friday night against Lehigh Valley? My guess is Matt Murray. Murray has been playing steady as of late. He played really well against the Phantoms on October 29. So, when does Zatkoff get a game? I think it’s Saturday against Syracuse and then Murray starts the 5 o’clock Sunday game against Hershey and the Bears.
I could be wrong and I probably am. One thing is for certain, Jeff Zatkoff is healthy enough to play again. He was injured October 21 in Albany and was out approximately three weeks. Murray and Hartzell held the ship together quite nicely.
Oh, Beau Bennett was recalled to Pittsburgh Tuesday.
Next blog entry will be Friday’s setup against the Phantoms at 3 p.m., but for more breaking news for me to speculate on.
Couple things going on at Coal Street this afternoon.
If you haven’t heard, Beau Bennett is back in town. He’s been re-assigned. John Hynes told Tom today that it is not a conditioning assignment. Bennett has straight up been re-assigned.
Bennett’s history of injury is vast. Has he done enough in your eyes to just be handed an NHL job as soon as he comes off yet another injury? I don’t think so. If his contract was structured a way to where he could only play in Wilkes-Barre on a conditioning assignment and return to Pittsburgh, then it’s an entirely different story. I would like to see Bennett string together 10 solid AHL games consecutively and then we can reassess whether or not Bennett deserves an NHL recall permanently. The idea is not so much how many points can he put up in ten games as much as it is not getting hurt again. It’s a cold reality and please don’t take it like I am ragging on or making fun of Bennett’s sheer inability to stay healthy, because I am not.
The other news of the day was the recall of Carter Rowney from Wheeling and the reassignment of Matia Marcantuoni to the Nailers. Zack Torquato was cut loose from his AHL contract and will return to the Nailers, where he is on an ECHL contract. I would not be surprised to see Torquato sign with another AHL team should the need arise in one of the other 29 cities.
Hynes gave Venesky some other injury updates…
Next blog entry, barring anything else, will be Friday’s Gameday setup vs. Hershey.
A few things to mention today as my AHL Previews continue….
– Coal Street was active Thursday afternoon, signing Tyler Murovich to an AHL contract and assigning him to Wheeling. Murovich was recently let go by the Pens this week, but picked up and signed today.
– Eric Hartzell will begin the season with the Wheeling Nailers, having been sent down Thursday. At this stage of Hartzell’s development, the Penguins felt that he would be better suited as a number one goaltender vs. backing up Jeff Zatkoff, fresh off of being an NHL backup to Marc Andre Fleury last season. I don’t consider Hartzell starting the year in the ECHL a bad thing at all. He’s not going to be number one in Wilkes-Barre, he’s a second year pro and not a rookie, let him prove his worth in Wheeling in the ECHL. Matt Murray, a rookie and Zatkoff’s backup, will get plenty of opportunities to show that he belongs in the AHL. Most likely we will see Murray start a game next weekend in St. John’s. If Murray falters and Hartzell shines, the two are easily interchangeable.
– The Penguins also announced their broadcast schedule. All games will be heard on WILK Newsradio and there will be eight television games. They will be all Saturday games and are as follows: October 11 vs. Lehigh Valley, December 6 vs. Hershey, January 31 vs. Lehigh Valley, February 21 vs. Providence, March 14 vs. Hershey, March 21 vs. Binghamton, April 4 vs. Lehigh Valley and April 18 vs. Norfolk.
– On Wheeling, they extended Head Coach Clark Donatelli for three more years and signed a three year extension with WesBanco Arena, guaranteeing that the Nailers remain in West Virginia through 2017-18.
– The Great Mike Fornabaio broke down the rules changes this season in the AHL. A good read for a rules nerd like me.
Oh, one more thing. I was notified today that Chirps from Center Ice won “Sports Blog of the Year” as part of the NEPA Blog Con contest that ran a few weeks ago. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me and this blog. Again, as I have said before in the past, this blog is a hobby which I enjoy very much. To see that my hobby is being rewarded with an award is very humbling. So thank you to all who voted for the blog. I honestly do very much appreciate the support.
We close out the AHL Previews with the East Division at noon tomorrow. Barring any more breaking news, the Gameday Setup vs. Lehigh Valley will be on the blog Saturday at 3 p.m.
Interrupting the AHL Previews with a note on some news of the day…
Coal Street made cuts today.Tyler Murovich, Patrick McGrath, Jonathan Narbonne, Carter Rowey, Kevin Ryan and Clark Seymour were released. McGrath, Rowney and Seymour will go to Wheeling. The other guys were on ECHL deals elsewhere.
NHL rosters have to have 23 names on them by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Only Chris Kunitz (illness) and Kasperi Kapenen (went home to see family) did not practice today for Pittsburgh. Guys like Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta did practice and could be ready for the start of the season, so it’s still possible that we see a name or three find their way back to Wilkes-Barre later today or this week. Front runners in my opinion are Taylor Chorney and Zach Sill, but who knows. Every time I try to talk myself through who can or can’t get sent back here I only end up confusing myself further. Who comes, comes.
Edit: After I published this, Pittsburgh announced that Oskar Sundqvist was returned to his Swedish club, Scott Harrington was assigned here and Andrew Ebbett, Taylor Chorney and Zach Sill were sent to Wheeling of the ECHL. Release here. The ECHL moves are so the team can get under the salary cap. I’d expect Sill, Chorney and Ebbett to be recalled back to Pittsburgh Wednesday.
Springfield announced where they are having the All-Star Classic this year. It’s Utica, home of the Comets. They will return to the East vs. West format that they’ve used in the past. Last year it was a cast of AHL All-Stars vs. Farjestad in St. John’s, while the NHL was on the OIympic break. I think fans like the East v. West format. I know I do. Tickets go on sale November 1.
Big day for minor league hockey as the ECHL announced it has granted membership to the seven remaining Central Hockey League teams; Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder. Details here. It brings the number of ECHL clubs up to 29, with Las Vegas sitting out this season while they finalize details on a new home to play in 2015-16.
Look for the next non-AHL Preview blog piece to come in the form of the Gameday setup vs. Lehigh Valley Saturday at 3 p.m.
Remember, you can always keep up with me @nafsnep on Twitter.
The wait is nearly over…
I’ll have the full breakdown of the Penguins who’s, when’s and where’s tomorrow here on the blog probably sometime after lunch.
Only other Penguins new related tidbit was the announcement that the Wheeling Nailers have extended their affiliation with the Penguins family.
See you tomorrow.
Very minor things to catch up on since the last time we did this…
– Penguins Developmental Camp is underway from Pittsburgh. Link here with information as to who was invited. Names familiar to fans of the AHL club include Nick D’Agostino, Brian Dumoulin, Reid McNeill, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp, Josh Archibald, Tom Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary, Dominik Uher and Anton Zlobin to name a bunch. They all scrimmage on Saturday.
– The Norfolk Admirals have a new Head Coach. His name is Jarrod Skalde.
– Coal Street produced a summer podcast series. Their first installment was Mike O’Brien speaking with Conor Sheary. A good listen.
– No labor strife on the horizon for the AHL and their players union, as it appears as if the Collective Bargaining Agreement was extended for another year.
– Stephane Da Costa is taking is talents to Moscow of the KHL next season. Da Costa had been with Binghamton last season.
– Ex Penguin and current Calder Cup Champion player Toby Petersen was named Assistant Coach of the Springfield Falcons.
– Depth signings to announce. Alex Boak and Clark Seymour, both giant defenders which were around late last season during Wilkes-Barre’s run. I project they start the season in Wheeling next season and are the first call-up to fill a bottom six role on defense, should the need arise. Both Boak and Seymour are in Pittsburgh this week for Developmental Camp.
That’s all for now.
Remember the Brian Gibbons Breakaway of the Game™?
With Pittsburgh knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the news was made official today that Brian Gibbons has been assigned to Wilkes-Barre. Gibbons should be available this weekend to play, from Jonathan’s Thursday update.
Zach Trotman for Providence is day-to-day with an injury. He was injured in Game 3, this news coming from Bruins beat writer Mark Divver.
Also, as soon as Derrick Pouliot is officially assigned and gets here and is acclimated to the Wilkes-Barre system, the Penguins will be at or near the best they’ve been all year. Could you remember a Penguins team more potent than this one? Think about it. No major injuries and we are running at full strength with both Pittsburgh and Wheeling out of the playoffs.
Speaking of Wheeling, Jonathan said that Tom Kuhnhackl, Peter Merth and Dustin Stevenson are on the way up as part of the Black Aces. There could be other guys, such as Cody Sylvester and Christian Minella are also eligible. Denver Manderson was hurt in the Nailers series with Greenville, so his status is doubtful to come here.
Oh, I started looking at last night’s numbers of who was on ice / off ice for the charts and Anton Zlobin is no longer perfect. He was on the ice for two of the Providence goals scored. On Simon Despres’ first goal, there were four forwards on the ice. (Zach Sill, Chuck Kobasew, Harry Zolnierczyk and Conor Sheary) I don’t think that’s right, but that’s what the scoresheet says. I’ll have a chart refresh this weekend, probably Sunday.
Game 4 goes tomorrow from Providence. The Gameday setup hits the blog at 3 p.m.
Let’s Go Pens!