Chirps from Center Ice

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

King Me! — Pens LOSE 4-1

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Oh boy.

After a promising preseason, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will wake up on Columbus Day tomorrow staring at an 0-2 record.

The numbers, and I will get into them this week as I roll out a feature I used late last season, will speak for themselves. Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, through two games, is 0-2, with a 4.51 GAA and a .735 SV%. 9 goals allowed on 34 total shots. That isn’t good.

But it’s not just on Zatkoff, and I hope to paint that picture as to why later this week when I construct and add up my chart I will roll out this week. I’m not teasing you to come back and I am, I just haven’t put it together yet and I want you to come back and look at it and see for yourself.

Anyway, this game, a 4-1 Penguin loss. It was Jeff Zatkoff vs. J-F Berube.

Lines were….

Anton Zlobin – Jayson Megna – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Conor Sheary – Tom Kostopoulos
Dominik Uher – JS Dea – Adam Payerl
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Brian Dumoulin – Philip Samuelsson
Reid McNeill – Taylor Chorney
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

In were Tom Kuhnhackl and Adam Payerl for Scott Wilson and Nick Drazenovic and Nick D’Agostino for Harrison Ruopp. The other scratches were Josh Archibald (shoulder) and Alex Boak.

First Period: :27 in, the Monarchs score. A seemingly harmless wrist shot from the blue line and in over Zatkoff’s shoulder and in. Penguins would get a few power plays and nearly scored on one, but Brian O’Neill would score for the Monarchs to push the Monarchs lead to two. Wilkes-Barre had a late power play that was a mess.

Second Period: JS Dea would get a goal for the Pens from the blue line, Adam Payerl was in the area and provided interference. The goal came on a delayed penalty call on the Monarchs.

The Penguins were finding the gas. They were creating opportunities. It looked like they were going to tie the game.

No. Vincent LoVerde found himself wide open in the slot, made a few moves and deked a puck past Zatkoff to re-establish the two goal lead.

You could feel all the air leave the building, because the Penguins would get no closer.

In fact, the Monarchs got father away. Zatkoff let in another questionable goal from the blue line and the Monarchs had a 4-1 lead.

Third Period: The Penguins did not allow the Monarchs a single shot on goal this period. The Penguins fired seven, all saved by Berube, including one while the Penguins were on a 5:00 power play when Kevin Raine crashed Adam Payerl into the boards. Payerl went to the locker room but came back and appeared fine.

This was especially impressive, because the Penguins played this period without the services of Reid McNeill, who left the game with some type of injury Coach John Hynes had no update on post game.

Three Stars: 3) Vincent LoVerde (goal, +3) 2) Kevin Raine (goal, assist, +2) 1) Brian O’Neill (goal, assist, +1)

Around the Division: No one else played.

Standings: Norfolk 2 — Lehigh Valley 2 — Binghamton 1 — Hershey 0 — Penguins 0

Conference: St. John’s has 3. Hartford, Lehigh Valley, Portland, Albany, Springfield, Manchester and Worcester have 2. It’s never too early to start counting points. Oh, the Penguins are dead last in the Conference.

Wheeling Update: Nailers are in their preseason, and lost a preseason game 5-3 to the Cincinnati Cylcones, 5-3. Eric Hartzell stopped 10 of 13, Clark Seymour was a -3.

SendToNews Highlights: I don’t think there is anything that any Penguins fan will want to see of the highlights, but for posterity sake, here they are.

My AHL Power Rankings hit the blog Monday at 4 p.m. New format this year, check them out then. Also, I’ll be debuting the chart this week at some point, probably Tuesday. I may be tweeting some things on it as I build it, so if you aren’t yet, follow me on Twitter, @nafsnep.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: vs. Manchester 10/12

vs. manch white



Home Game: 2

AHL Game: 24

Who: Manchester Monarchs

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 4:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game: Last night vs. Lehigh Valley in the home opener, the Penguins lost 5-2. Rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary had the goals for the Pens in the loss. For Manchester, this is their first game of the 2014-15 season.

Record: For WBS: 0-1-0-0 (0 pts., 4th place East Division) — For MCH: This is their first game.

Why you should care: Pens look to shake off a bad performance last night vs. the Phantoms quick against the defending Eastern Conference regular season champion Manchester Monarchs. More of the same from last night will spell bad things for the Penguins this afternoon.

Referee(s): Darcy Burchell / Ryan Fraser

Linesmen: Ryan Knapp / Matt McNulty

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay@MonarchsHockey

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /MonarchsHockey

Instagram: wbspenguins / monarchshockey

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky

Broadcasters: WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / MCH: Ken Cail @kenmonarchs

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep 

Radio: For WBS: WILK Newsradio / For MCH: WGIR 610 AM

Television: AHL Live

Promotion(s): None

Other Game to Watch: St. John’s edged the new look Bridgeport Sound Tigers last night, the two rematch today.

Next Five Games: @ STJ 10/17, @ STJ 10/18, @ ALB 10/21, SPR 10/24, @ HER 10/25

Spoiled at the Open — Pens LOSE 5-2

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I wrote this as a “Case Against” the Penguins in my East Division Preview that ran Friday, part of a weeklong series where I look at each team…

Youth and inexperience. A lot of second year guys and rookies may be relied upon to carry the offensive load this season.

It showed tonight. A 5-2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the home opener. The Penguins aren’t historically great in the first game of the season anyhow, but to lose a game on your home ice in front of your fans to a division rival you will see 12 times this season isn’t the way they drew it up.

Jeff Zatkoff vs. Rob Zepp

Lines were…

Anton Zlobin – Nick Drazenovic – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Conor Sheary – Bryan Rust
Bobby Farnham – JS Dea – Jayson Megna
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Dominik Uher

Brian Dumoulin – Philip Samuelsson
Taylor Chorney – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Harrison Ruopp

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

Scratches were Alex Boak, Tom Kuhnhackl, Adam Payerl, Nick D’Agostino. Josh Archbald was listed as injured and when introduced had a sling on his left arm.

Tom Kostopoulos is the Captain, we all knew that. Philip Samuelsson and Pierre Leblond are the alternates.

First Period: Ragged back and forth to start, both teams worked the bugs out. Finally late, on a Phantoms power play, Chris VandeVelde scored the first ever goal in Lehigh Valley Phantoms history on a rebound. The puck caromed off of bodies as it was sent towards the net from the blue line. VandeVelde found it, and stuffed it home for a 1-0 Phantoms lead.

Second Period: Zatkoff was leaving a few big rebounds to start but they didn’t end up behind him. But the Penguins fail to clear the puck out of the zone not once, but twice, and it cost them. Brandon Alderson made it 2-0 and then Mark Alt made it 3-0 not too long after.

Bryan Rust scored from just below the blue line as time expired. Referee Jamie Koharski immediately signaled goal, but then went to video review to confirm his call. You would think that this momentum would help the Pens in the…

Third Period: Nope. Nothing doing. The Penguins tried to push, but the Phantoms defense held firm. As time dwindled, the mistakes mounted and just like that, Zatkoff loses another rebound and Nick Cousins cashes for a 4-1 Phantoms lead then the Phantoms on a power play stuff home a Zatkoff rebound to make it 5-1.

Conor Sheary gets his first goal of the season with under a minute to play on a rebound Zepp just left lying there.

Thoughts: The rookies will need to learn that this isn’t juniors anymore and the cutesy dangle plays don’t work against trained professionals. The problems were all over the board tonight. Idiot penalties lead to goals for the other team or failed clears that end up in the back of the net. The problems better get fixed quick with the defending regular season Eastern Conference Champion Manchester Monarchs coming in Sunday afternoon.

Three Stars: 3) Bryan Rust (goal, +1) 2) Brandon Alderson (goal, assist, +1) 2) Chris VandeVelde (two goals, even)

Around the Division: Binghamton and Worcester play late in overtime and Worcester wins 3-2 when the sides are 3-on-3….Hershey loses a back and forth affair with Norfolk by a score of 5-4.

Standings: Norfolk 2 — Lehigh Valley 2 — Binghamton 1 — Penguins 0 – Hershey 0.

Conference: I will look at this once Hartford and Manchester, the only two teams yet to play a game this season, get their season underway Sunday.

Wheeling Update: The Nailers are in preseason, their season does not start until next weekend.

SendToNews Highlights: I prefer YouTube videos, just because they play nicer with the blog then the SendToNews package. So here you go…

Gameday vs. Manchester hits the blog at noon Sunday. No rest for the weary, back at it Sunday afternoon!

GAMEDAY: vs. Lehigh Valley 10/11

vs. lv-white



Home Game: 1

AHL Game: 19

Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Record: This is the first game for both teams.

Why you should care: Tonight is the beginning of a renewed rivalry with the Phantoms, whom the Penguins will see 12 times this season. It’s an important game for both teams, Lehigh Valley’s first ever AHL game representing their new area and Wilkes-Barre’s home opener. It’s also a divisional contest, so both teams will want to kick off their season on a winning note.

Referee(s): Jamie Koharski

Linesmen: Bob Goodman / Jud Ritter

Twitter: @WBSPenguins and @WBSGameDay / @LVPhantoms

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins / /LehighValleyPhantoms

Instagram: wbspenguins / lehighvalleyphantoms

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky / @gblockus

Broadcasters: WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For Lehigh Valley: Bob Rotruck @BobRotruck

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK Newsradio / For Lehigh Valley: Fox 1470

Television: AHL Live / MyNetwork TV (WQMY-TV / Wilkes-Barre)

Promotion(s): Team Magnetic Schedule, courtesy of Geisinger Health System

Other Game to Watch: The defending East Division Champion Binghamton Senators start their season at home vs. the new look Worcester Sharks on the Southern Tier.

Next Five Games: MCH 10/12, @ STJ 10/17, @ STJ 10/18, @ ALB 10/21, SPR 10/24

East Divison Preview

Regular AHL

We have reached the conclusion of the Fifth Annual Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews in all too familiar territory, the East Division. If you missed any of the other division previews in this fine League, please use the scroll down menu at the top of the blog.



The only change in the division is the Syracuse Crunch out and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in. Since the Penguins reside in this division, they obviously play all the teams listed multiple times. Home games are featured in bold.

Here we go…


NHL Affiliation: Ottawa Senators

Record: 44-24-3-5 (96 pts., 1st place East Division)

Playoffs: 3 seed — Lost in four games to the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Head Coach: Luke Richardson

Arena: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Evansville IceMen

Offseason Moves: Carter Camper, Aaron Johnson

The case for: Division Champs bolster an already solid lineup with excellent additions in Camper and Johnson.

The case against: This Binghamton team streaked like no tomorrow last season, good for bad, bad for good. That recipe may spell disaster this season.

Media Coverage: Matt Weinstein and Matt Verderame for the Press & Sun-Bulletin

Fan Blog: None — or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @BSens_Hockey

Facebook: /binghamtonsenators

Instagram: bsens_hockey

Broadcaster: Grady Whittenburg

vs. WBS: 10/26, @ 11/8, @ 12/20, @ 12/26, 1/2, 2/11, 3/21, @ 3/27


NHL Affiliation: Washington Capitals

Record: 39-27-5-5 (88 pts., 4th place East Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Troy Mann

Arena: Giant Center

ECHL Affiliation: South Carolina Stingrays

Offseason Moves: Tim Spencer, Philippe Cornet, Jon Landry, Mike Moore, Chris Conner, Tim Kennedy

The case for: New leadership under a familiar name in Troy Mann have Bears fans hopes for a return to glory sooner rather than later.

The case against: A lot of teams caught and passed the 11 time Champs. Can they recover?

Media Coverage: Tim Leone for PennLive

Fan Blog: Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Twitter: @TheHersheyBears

Facebook: /TheHersheyBears

Instagram: thehersheybears

Broadcaster: Scott Stuccio

vs. WBS: @ 10/25, 11/7, @ 11/16, @ 11/26, 12/6, @ 12/7, 12/14, 12/31, @ 1/3, @ 2/7, 3/11, 3/14


NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Phantoms

Record: 30-38-2-6 (68 pts., 4th place Northeast Division, playing as the Adirondack Phantoms)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Terry Murray

Arena: PPL Center

ECHL Affiliation: Reading Royals

Offseason Moves: Connor Knapp, Darroll Powe, Austin Fyten, Brett Hextall, Andrew Gordon, Blair Jones, Zack Stortini

The case for: The Phantoms may boast the most star studded lineup in the East Division, with names like Powe and Gordon. The new kid on the block may be able to contend in what’s called the toughest division in the AHL.

The case against: Goaltending. Probably the weakest in the division, if not the Conference. Inexperience in goal could doom this team early and often.

Media Coverage: Gary Blockus for The Morning Call

Fan Blog: The Horn and Bell

Twitter: @LVPhantoms

Facebook: /LehighValleyPhantoms

Instagram: lehighvalleyphantoms

Broadcaster: Bob Rotruck

vs. WBS: 10/11, @ 10/29, 11/14, 12/5, @ 12/13, 1/31, 2/14, @ 3/22, @ 3/28, 4/4, @ 4/8, @ 4/19


NHL Affiliation: Anaheim Ducks

Record: 40-26-3-7 (90 pts., 3rd place East Division)

Playoffs: 8 seed — Lost in six games to the St. John’s IceCaps in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Head Coach: Jarrod Skalde

Arena: Scope Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Utah Grizzlies

Offseason Moves: Jason LaBarbera, Steve MacIntyre, Nathan McIver, Brad Winchester

The case for: Might be the toughest team in the division, if not the conference.

The case against: What exactly did Norfolk do this offseason other than adding an aging goaltender in LaBarbera and Steve MacIntyre, who may only dress for less than half of their games?

Media Coverage: Virginian Pilot

Fan Blog: Admirals Aftermath / Beneath the Scope

Twitter: @NorfolkAdmirals / Ads Game Updates

Facebook: /NorfolkAdmirals

Instagram: norfolkadmirals

Broadcaster: Pete Michaud

vs. WBS: @ 10/31, @ 11/1, 12/28, 1/6, 1/9, @ 1/23, @ 1/24, 4/18


NHL Affiliation: Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 42-26-3-5 (92 pts., 2nd place East Division)

Playoffs: 6 seed — Lost in six games to the St. John’s IceCaps in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Head Coach: John Hynes

Arena: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

ECHL Affiliation: Wheeling Nailers

Offseason Moves: Taylor Chorney

The case for: The core that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals returns. While not as an impressive offseason as in prior years, I see no reason why this team cannot compete for a division title.

The case against: Youth and inexperience. A lot of second year guys and rookies may be relied upon to carry the offensive load this season.

Media Coverage: Jonathan Bombulie for The Citizens’ Voice and Tom Venesky for The Times Leader

Fan Blog: I do not know of another that does it better than I.

Twitter: @WBSPenguins / WBS Game Day

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins

Instagram: wbspenguins

Broadcaster: Mike O’Brien

Thanks for reading my previews. I hope you enjoyed read thing them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you have a team going tonight in the AHL’s Opening Night, Good Luck and Happy New Year. The Penguins open their 16th Season tomorrow at 7:05 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at home. The Gameday Setup for this returns to the blog Saturday at 3 p.m.!

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.

Northeast Division Preview

Regular AHL

Welcome back to Day Four of the Fifth Annual Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews. Today, we are in the Northeast Division. If you missed the Western Conference Divisions earlier this week or the Atlantic Division from yesterday, the drop down menu at the top of the blog is your best friend. Check them out.



The only change to this division is the Adirondack Phantoms relocating to the East Division as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Syracuse Crunch vacating their spot in the East Division and coming up and joining the Northeast Division. The Penguins play everybody in this division multiple times with the home games listed in bold.

Here we go…


NHL Affiliation: New Jersey Devils

Record: 40-23-5-8 (93 pts., 2nd place Northeast Division)

Playoffs: 5 seed — Lost in four games to the St. John’s IceCaps in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Rick Kowalsky

Arena: Times Union Center

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Paul Thompson

The case for: This criminally underrated Devils team snuck up on a bunch of teams last season and had their best season since the River Rats days. They’ll probably replicate it again this year.

The case against: This criminally underrated Devils team won’t sneak up on anyone this season.

Media Coverage: Pete Dougherty for the Albany Times Union / Bill Cain for The Daily Gazette

Fan Blog: Thoughts Inside the Box

Twitter: @AlbanyDevils

Facebook: /AlbanyDevils

Instagram: albanydevils

Broadcaster: Josh Heller

vs. WBS: @ 10/21, @ 11/21, 12/19, 4/17


NHL Affiliation: New York Islanders

Record: 28-40-2-6 (64 pts., 5th place Northeast Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Brent Thompson

Arena: Webster Bank Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Stockton Thunder

Offseason Moves: David Leggio, Harry Zolnierczyk

The case for: Bridgeport was in an offseason arms race with Hartford for who could add the most perennial AHL All-Stars. I think this club will contend and make playoffs this season.

The case against: As with any team, Calder Cups aren’t passed out in the Summer. The Sound Tigers will need to prove that they can sustain a winning environment for 76 games.

Media Coverage: Michael Fornabaio for the Connecticut Post

Fan Blog: None — or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @TheSoundTigers

Facebook: /soundtigers

Instagram: thesoundtigers

Broadcaster: Phil Giubileo

vs. WBS: 12/12, 12/27, @ 2/8, @ 3/1


NHL Affiliation: New York Rangers

Record: 37-32-1-6 (81 pts., 3rd place Northeast Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Ken Gernander

Arena: XL Center

ECHL Affiliation: Greenville Road Warriors

Offseason Moves: Ryan Potulny, Vinny Saponari, Chris Mueller, Nick Tarnasky, Chris Bourque

The case for: As with Bridgeport, the Wolf Pack added big name after big name this offseason. The streak of no playoff teams from the State of Connecticut is in jeopardy next Spring.

The case against: See Bridgeport’s.

Media Coverage: Paul Doyle for the Hartford Courant Mitchell Beck for

Fan Blog: None — or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @WolfPackAHL

Facebook: /HartfordWolfPack

Instagram: hartford_wolfpack

Broadcaster: Bob Crawford

vs. WBS: @ 2/22, @ 2/28, 3/15, 4/1


NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 47-23-1-5 (100 pts., 1st place Northeast Division)

Playoffs: 2 seed — Lost in five games to the Providence Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Head Coach: Jared Bednar

Arena: MassMutual Center

ECHL Affiliation: Kalamazoo Wings

Offseason Moves: Jerry D’Amigo, Brian Gibbons, Mike Hoeffel

The case for: Springfield improved itself in the offseason with the organizational acquistions of D’Amigo and Gibbons. Should either make it to Western Massachusetts this season, expect a solid Springfield team.

The case against: This division may be one of the more competitive divisions in the AHL. That can’t bode well for any club that goes on a run of losses. Springfield included.

Media Coverage:

Fan Blog: None — or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @TheFalconsAHL

Facebook: /falconsahl

Instagram: thefalconsahl

Broadcaster: Andy Zilch

vs. WBS: 10/24, @ 1/30, 2/3, @ 3/8


NHL Affiliation: Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 31-32-4-9 (75 pts., 5th place East Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Rob Zettler

Arena: Onondaga County War Memorial Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Florida Everblades

Offseason Moves: Matt Corrente, Jerome Samson

The case for: Getting out of the East Division is one.

The case against: Going to this pit of vipers in the Northeast is another. Every team could be listed as a playoff contender. I can’t say the same for Syracuse. It may be another long season in Central New York.

Media Coverage: Lindsay Kramer for the Syracuse Post-Standard

Fan Blog: Chairman How’s Glorious Army

Twitter: @SyracuseCrunch

Facebook: /syracusecrunch

Instagram: officialsyracusecrunch

Broadcaster: Dan D’Uva

vs. WBS: 11/9, 11/15, @ 1/10, @ 3/20

We close out the Previews tomorrow with the East Division Friday at noon!


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