Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Wheeling Enforcements

Mumps in the Road

You think that you have heard the last of mumps, but today it was revealed that Marc-Andre Fleury, Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta weren’t feeling well today and were being tested for mumps.

As a result, Pittsburgh recalled Jeff Zatkoff. In a reactionary move, Coal Street recalled Eric Hartzell. Matt Murray, for the time being, is the man in net.

GM Jim Rutherford said today that the results on the tests for Fleury, et. al would be known in three days. They are quarantined. So forget about Zatkoff coming back this weekend.

There is no need for recall for Bortuzzo or Maatta, who were already down with injuries.

Wilkes-Barre has seen this fish before with Zatkoff going down with injury once this season in October against Albany. Matt Murray is more than capable of handling the number one job here with Eric Hartzell as his capable backup.

The Penguins host Albany Friday and travel to Binghamton Saturday.

Dropping the (Klink)Hammer


Above, you will find my reaction to the news that Pittsburgh traded defenseman Philip Samuelsson to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for forward Rob Klinkhammer this afternoon.

I’m sure I echo anyone who reads this blog and is a fan of the Penguins here in Wilkes-Barre.

But let’s face it, this move was inevitable. The Penguins had too many defensemen in the pipeline. Samuelsson was probably not going to see the blueline in Pittsburgh anytime soon, so the move was made in exchange for a player like Klinkhammer that can step in immediately and help out in Pittsburgh.

In case you are wondering, Klinkhammer hasn’t played in the AHL since 2011-12. He is a full time NHL-er.

In a reactionary move, Coal Street has recalled Alex Boak and Clark Seymour.

I would guess that we could see a body filter back to Wilkes-Barre at some point now that Klinkhammer is in the fold, but the Penguins play an afternoon game against Ottawa Saturday and who knows when Klinkhammer will get into town, get settled and acclimated to Mike Johnston’s system. I wouldn’t expect any movement back to Wilkes-Barre until the early part of next week, but who knows.

Other big news of the day that now seems like a footnote, Bryan Rust was recalled because Patric Hornqvist was injured in last night’s game vs. Vancouver.

We press on though. The Gameday setup vs. Lehigh Valley hits the blog at 3 p.m.

Macaroni and Fish

Roster moves announced this morning by Coal Street.

Matia Marcantuoni is back and he’s bringing Sahir Gill with him. The Penguins added Gill via professional tryout agreement (PTO).

When Marcantuoni was sent down, his impact was immediate. He scored a hat trick on November 7 against Evansville. He has a total of 10 points (4-6-10) in 11 games. Given the mass recalls of Penguins forwards to Pittsburgh, Marcantuoni’s recall was imminent.

Gill is a different story. He yo-yo’ed with Hamilton last season and has only appeared in just one AHL game. He is second on the Wheeling Nailers in points (4-10-14) and led the team in points last season with 54. Digging a bit deeper into Gill’s stats finds that he has a goal and three assists on the power play for Wheeling this season. Those four points on the power play would actually put him in a tie for third on the Penguins among active leaders on the power play. He could be a big help, if given the opportunity.

So, bottom line, it boils off as a win-win for everybody. The Penguins are getting two excellent players from their ECHL affiliate, including one in Gill that can help a 22nd ranked Wilkes-Barre power play. In Gill’s case, he’s getting what would appear to be his shot at the AHL.

One more thing. The Penguins didn’t make a recall for defense. I don’t really think they will need to unless there is a recall made by Pittsburgh. If Taylor Chorney isn’t ready, Nick D’Agostino could slot in.

We will see. Should be an interesting weekend.

Zatkoff? No. Zatk-ON

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.

News and Notes 11/5

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.

Hartzell Down, Murovich Signed, Blog of the Year

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.

All-Stars and Non

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.


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