Chirps from Center Ice

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

Oof Size, Large — Pens LOSE 6-2

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I am not blaming this loss, a 6-2 Bears win, on fatigue. Here’s why.

Penguins went up 2-0 in the first. Doing everything right, scored a power play goal and looked great.

But Hershey is a good team, and a great team when they play the Penguins for some reason, and pushed back to lead 3-2 after the end of the second. The Penguins has no answer for Hershey in the second period.

But a 3-2 deficit is not insurmountable, and they looked better in the third. But, Wilkes-Barre’s special teams has been an abject disaster all season and it was a Joe Snively shorthanded goal that made it 4-2. What happened after that was really insignificant.

So it’s 1-7 against Hershey so far this season with four meetings left.

Alex D’Orio opposed Pheonix Copley.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Sam Houde for Jan Drozg was the only change for the Pens for Monday vs. Cleveland.

First Period: Pens opened with relentless pressure, outshooting the Bears 8-1 at one point and were given a power play. Well, just five seconds into said power play Juuso Riikola rips a shot that goes in for his first ever AHL goal.

Penguins would tack on another goal when Nathan Legare leads a two on one, keeps it himself and scores to make it 2-0.

Hershey slowed things down in the final six minutes of game play which seemed to drag on a bit as they worked a plan to try to respond for maybe a goal.

Second Period: They got flattened in the second.

They went over 10 minutes without a shot on goal, and Hershey runs them over and takes a 3-2 lead.

Garrett Pilon scores on a wraparound when he peels a puck off of D’Orio, races around the net and scores to put the Bears on the board.

Marcus Vela scores to tie the game with another rebound taken off of D’Orio.

Was only a matter of time. The Penguins were hanging on and Hershey was coming in waves.

Ex-Penguin Chris Brown wins a race to a puck and scores on a snipe to push Hershey ahead and made it 3-2.

Brown’s first AHL goal.

One note of the first two goals by the Bears, they almost scored again seconds after the drop of the puck after the goals.

Another note, good on referees Justin Kea and Jeremy Tufts for staying out of the way and letting them play, legally.

Third Period: Better response, Penguins finally go on a power play after a delay of game call on Hershey. But it was Joe Snively with this goal that buried any chances of a comeback.

Ballgame.

Bears get a goal from Kale Kessy crashing the net then an empty net goal by Snively to run it up to 6-2.

There were shenanigans, as there sometimes are when tensions boil between these two sides. I’m not going to give it the attention it craves. Here’s my description of it real time.

Three Stars: 3) Christopher Brown (goal) 2) Dylan McIlrath (two assists) 1) Marcus Vela (goal, assist)

The Good: The start. They caught Hershey flat footed and had a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

The Bad: They forgot hockey has three periods? No response to the relentless push that Hershey put on them in the second to go up one.

Turning Point: Snively’s shorthanded goal that pushed it to 4-2 ended any hopes of a comeback for the Penguins.

Around the Division: One other game in the AHL, Providence was shutout in Utica 4-0.

Standings: Back to last for the Penguins with a .457 winning percentage.

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

Bears will probably put up video highlights which I will run in a later edit.

Much needed rest before a bus trip Thursday out to Cleveland. I’ll have the Weekend Preview either Thursday or Friday for you here on the blog.

Let’s Go Pens!

The April Effect — Pens WIN 5-1

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So unlike Heather from Friday, I actually know April. I like to make fun of April. Why, I don’t know. April and her pals is looking for a new place to sit next year. This was me a few days ago.

Wouldn’t you know it, but April was in the house Monday, a 5-1 Penguins throttling of the Cleveland Monsters, so I would like to formally apologize to April and say that she and her entire family are indeed welcome in Section 104.

That said, this was a very good win for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

They opened up to a 5-0 lead after two periods and actually didn’t get any scoring from Valtteri Puustinen or Alex Nylander tonight and boat raced the Monsters out of the building. It was top to bottom a very fine effort. Three straight now for Wilkes-Barre, as well as three straight wins for Alex D’Orio, who started tonight.

But the true test of whether or not there is anything there with this team will come Tuesday night in Hershey. The Bears have utterly dominated the Penguins and the Pens haven’t won in Giant Center in a while.

But that’s for Tuesday. Let’s look at what they did Monday.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: No changes from Saturday. However, Teddy Blueger has a broken jaw so expect a recall. I am actually quite surprised they didn’t make one before the game.

First Period: Pens put up three goals on just nine shots in the period and chased starting goaltender J-F Berube.

Matt Bartkowski got the scoring started with a low angle shot that beat Berube. Then Felix Robert fires on an open net that makes it 2-0. Finally Kyle Olson goes off the post and in for a 3-0 lead late.

Second Period: Jet Greaves comes in for relief of Berube.

It didn’t matter.

Sam Poulin connects with Anthony Angello and Angello backhands this one in for a 4-0 Penguins lead.

Kasper Bjorkqvist redirects a pass into the goal for a 5-0 Penguins lead.

Third Period: Cleveland gets on the board and spoils the D’Orio shutout bid with a nice play by Justin Scott. Scott bats in a puck deflected off of D’Orio and in to give the Monsters their only goal of the night.

Cleveland made a hell of a push in the third I thought, as evidenced by the 14-6 shot advantage they had in the period but the Penguins withstood the charge and the visitors got no closer.

Three Stars: 3) Cam Lee (two assists) 2) Alex D’Orio (31 saves) 1) Felix Robert (goal, assist)

The Good: They showed they can win without any offensive output from their top guys in Puustinen and Nylander. One is likely going up Tuesday and won’t be in Hershey.

The Bad: Cleveland had a 3-on-1 rush and a 2-on-1 rush on a penalty kill in the first period. The Pens now have not given up a power play goal in the last two contests, but there are still glaring holes that a good team can exploit on the power play (Cleveland was in the bottom third coming into Monday on power play)

Turning Point: Gotta go with Kyle Olson’s goal late in the first which made it 3-0. 1-0 is easy to come back from, so is 2-0. Down 3-0? That’s a bit more of a challenge, especially on the road, on a Monday, in a make up game.

Around the Division: They all watched us.

Standings: Providence .613 percentage points – Hartford .603 – Springfield and Hershey .597 – Charlotte .556 – Lehigh Valley .485 – Penguins .471 – Bridgeport .463

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: 

Back tomorrow when the Pens wrap up this hellacious stretch in Hershey. In the meantime, the AHL Power Rankings dropped earlier Monday. Check those out here.

Let’s Go Pens!

Power Rankings – Utica, Again

OK, so a quick note on these, they are based off of games through this past Sunday. I like having AHL puck to watch on a daily basis on AHL TV, but in situations (like these) you have to cutoff where you are going with these and put together a rankings. That’s where we are here and why they are out on a Monday as opposed to a Tuesday.

Utica reclaims the top spot in the Rankings this week hotly pursued by the Manitoba Moose, who are second. Stockton and Ontario are joined at the hip and the Providence Bruins round out the top five.

Here’s the whole list in all it’s glory. The Last Week column is back. Belleville didn’t play, so they remain in 23rd.

RankTeamBlurbLast Week
1Tidy weekend sweep of the Syracuse Crunch show other teams in the division that if you come at the North Division Kings, you better not miss.+1
2Did what they had to and swept the Wolves at home. Now host the Canucks this weekend. Could it be a trap series for the Moose?+3
3I didn’t particularly like the way that the Heat coughed up a 3-1 lead and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Silver Knights Saturday night. Long week to stew on that before the Reign come calling. n/a
4Reign stay hot, outgunning the Roadrunners at home for a pair over the weekend and stay in step with the Heat in pursuit of the Pacific Division crown. Ontario has three games in hand on Stockton, too. Three of the next four are with last place San Jose.n/a
5Split a weekend pair with Bridgeport or took two out of three? Are still at the top of the division and will likely yo-yo with Hershey for a bit here. +1
6Swept Iowa at home this week. Eagles not getting enough credit with how good they really are. +9
7Wolves lead in the Central is now in serious danger after getting swept by second place Manitoba.-6
8Split with Hartford. Winnable games this week it would seem. +2
9Tenacious way to claw back for a win Saturday in Stockton. Clash of the Pacific Division titans this weekend when the Silver Knights host the white hot Colorado Eagles this weekend. +2
10Got some help back from the Rangers Sunday and were a lot more competitive against the Bears, who they managed a split with. +2
11Three straight with Tucson this week in Arizona, so this is a golden opportunity to make up some ground on the top four.+3
12Only played one game this week and won Wednesday in Utica. There’s talk of a lot of the North Division teams struggling, not Laval. 8-2 in the last ten. +4
13Split with Springfield and Lehigh Valley this week. It’s not bad, but also not that very good. Utica and Syracuse on the road this week.n/a
14Lost in Grand Rapids then split a pair at home against the Americans. +5
154 of 6 points isn’t bad, gives the Phantoms some breathing room on 7th in the division. +7
16Swept the Marlies at home in blowout and comeback fashion. Anomaly or are they pulling themselves out of the Atlantic basement for good?+9
17Split a pair in Cleveland. Everyone has been really average here of late in the division, Americans are one of them. -8
18IceHogs let Texas take 3 of 4 points from them this weekend. Iowa – Milwaukee – Chicago this week. +2
19Obliterated in Wilkes-Barre and in Hartford this week. It comes at a good time, as a lot of the teams in the North are struggling. -12
20Hottest team in the Central is actually Milwaukee, who haven’t lost in regulation in their last five games. +9
21Swept San Diego at home, now head east to Winnipeg to take on a white hot Moose side in what should be a decent enough test.+5
22Bleeding points away. Thunderbirds used to be all alone at the top of the division but now they have a lot of company.-14
23The Senators did not play this week. They host Toronto for a pair this weekend. n/a
24Light week for the Griffins who beat Cleveland (okay) and lost to Milwaukee (bad) – can’t do that if you want to contend with the Moose and Wolves of the world. -6
25Managed a split with Providence and then an OT win at home against the Thunderbirds.+5
26Took 3 of 4 away from Rockford this weekend. Trip up to Chicago this week. then Laval comes in for a weekend pair. Haven’t lost in regulation in four games, so like Milwaukee, the division may be a bit upside down.+5
27Well, that wasn’t good, swept in a home and home against the Comets. Cleveland drops by Wednesday. -10
28Swept in Colorado in a pair of close contests. Seems like it is a step forward and a step backwards with this club. -7
29Nice to pick up a win Sunday against Bakersfield. There’s time to push, but three against Ontario makes for an uphill climb!-5
30Swept in Abbotsford. Host a very good Colorado side Wednesday then travel to ornery Iowa this weekend.-2
310-5 against an array of opponents (good and bad) – this team may be cooked already.-4

Heather Needs to Drive More — Pens WIN 3-2 (OT)

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Twitter is a fun place. There are these folks that are on there that tell me that when Heather drives them to the game, the Penguins win. I have never met these people in real life. I have never met Heather. I am sure they are upstanding citizens and all around good people. Moral of the story is, Heather needs to drive more.

Quite the turnaround for the Penguins this last week, eh? You could say that this game, a 3-2 Penguins comeback and overtime win, was a microcosm of the last few weeks. Down by multiple goals but that doesn’t deter them. They pull themselves up from their bootstraps and come back and win.

That’s exactly what the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins did to the Toronto Marlies tonight. The Marlies had the Penguins down 2-0 to start the third, the Penguins allow the visitors just three shots on goal in the period and storm back to get it back to one about halfway through on a dart by Valtteri Puustinen and then a goal by Alex Nylander with starting goaltender Alex D’Orio pulled to tie the game and force overtime. Then, in overtime, Nylander and the Penguins score a power play goal to send the large crowd home happy on a Saturday night.

Comeback complete. The Penguins sweep the Marlies for a pair at home. A huge set of wins against a really sound, good hockey team.

The Pens played the same way they did Friday, but didn’t get a goal before half the patrons were in their seats and didn’t then see their opponents spiral out of control and lose it. They ran up against old buddy Michael Hutchinson in goal for the visitors, who owns the Penguins it seems going back to his days with the St. John’s IceCaps. Hutchinson stymied the Penguins at every opportunity and the Marlies got goals from Jack Kopacka and Mikhail Abramov in the first period. After a scoreless, quick moving second, this set up the Penguins and their epic comeback.

Alex D’Orio started in back to back games. I think it was more of a merit thing that J.D. Forrest gave him off of his first win of the season on Friday. Go right back to the kid when the team ahead of him picked up a clean win the night before. No shame in the goals he gave up either.

Oh, let’s get those out of the way here.

I mean it was OK.

That was a dart and seconds after the Penguins killed a Jonathan Gruden cross check.

Then in the third, the Penguins mount their comeback.

That pass from Robert had a river of sauce behind it.

Taylor threaded the Nylander goals together there, so check those out. The first came with D’Orio pulled. This was after a timeout. Again, from last night, keeping it simple reared big results for the Penguins. Again in overtime, the Penguins employ the same method, wait for the moment to arrive and Nylander does it for a power play goal that caps off the comeback.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup: Jan Drozg for Jamie Devane was the only change. Devane listed as out week to week. Scuttlebutt around the arena was a broken jaw. Listen, Curtis Joseph is almost as tall as I am. If I hit you as hard has he hit Devane in that fight from Friday, I am probably going to break your jaw too if I land one clean on you.

I’ve never been in a fight though, so who knows. If we were ever in real street fight and you every got close enough to hit me, it would be all over.

Three Stars: 3) Juuso Riikola (two assists) 2) Valtteri Puustinen (goal, two assists) 1) Alex Nylander (two goals, OT game winner)

The Good: Never say die attitude was in full effect these. last two games, moreso tonight when they were down two. They didn’t go down more in the second, found their you know what and came back in the third.

The Bad: I can’t think of anything. The penalty kill was perfect. They scored a power play goal when they needed to.

Turning Point: Nylander’s goal that tied it with :47 left was Toronto’s fait accompli. You had a sense that if the Marlies did something bad in three on three overtime it would cost them. It did.

Around the Division: Charlotte beats Lehigh Valley 4-1…Providence beats Bridgeport 5-3…Hershey is in a runaway game against the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Standings: The Penguins aren’t in last anymore! They are in seventh now with .455 percentage points. Lehigh Valley is in sixth for now with .469 and Bridgeport now occupies last with .449. Lots of games with the Islanders yet to go, it’s the one divisional opponent the Pens have yet to play.

Wheeling Update: Nailers lose at home to the Iowa Heartlanders 4-2. Patrick Watling had a goal and an assist, Niclas Almari had an assist.

Video Highlights: 

Pens are home Monday against the Cleveland Monsters. 10 days ago this was a game I looked at and said no to attending. But every time I think I am out, these idiots pull me right back in.

See you Monday.

Let’s Go Pens!

D’Win — Pens WIN 5-1

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I would like to thank MageBoySA for the assistance with the headline tonight.

I can always use the help.

Anyway, a big win for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins tonight, winners 5-1 over the Toronto Marlies in what has to be the signature win of the season. I discount the 6-0 pasting that the Pens laid on a hapless Springfield Thunderbirds team a while back because that was an ECHL team that the Penguins played back then. This Marlies team was 7-1 coming into the week and a really good team coming in.

Alex D’Orio, the hard luck loser in every game thus far this season for the Penguins. picked up the win in goal. His first of the season. He opposed Erik Källgren.

Here is how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Add Chris Bigras to the walking wounded. Week to week with an upper body injury….Niclas Almari was sent to Wheeling….Taylor Fedun was back after the birth of his second son and so was Cam Lee, replacing the aforementioned Bigras and Will Reilly.

First Period: Well if you were late by :31, you missed the first goal. Alex Nylander scores to put the Penguins ahead 1-0 just thirty seconds into the game.

Turning Point: I am giving it to you now, because it was that huge. Penguins take back to back penalties and the Marlies have 1:56 of two man advantage. Alex D’Orio with probably his best save of the season here keeps it scoreless.

Penguins employ the K.I.S.S. method the rest of the way and lead 1-0.

One note, Jamie Devane was lost in a fight with the 6’8 Curtis Douglas. Douglas made mincemeat out of Devane and they had to step in to break it up before it got a lot worse than it already was. Devane did not return.

Second Period: Two goals, :55 apart, one of them a power play, and the Penguins were up 3-0!

Emphasis added, because it hasn’t happened in a while and honestly I didn’t expect it against this Marlies team.

Valtteri Puustinen on the power play then Filip Hallander against his former team.

Antti Suomela scores a late power play goal to get the Marlies on the board.

Puck looked to have deflected off a Penguin and in.

Third Period: The worry was that the late goal by the Marlies in the second would give them all the momentum in the third.

Nope.

Kasper Bjorkqvist is sprung by Jonathan Gruden after Gruden was called for a suspect holding the stick call. Gruden is released from the box, back checks, finds a streaking Bjorkqvist and the rest is history.

Alex Nylander threw in his second of the game and the second power play of the game for the Penguins and the game turned into a runaway at that point.

Good to be on the right side of one of these arse kickings once in a while.

A word about that, Toronto was BIG MAD as the game wore on and their deficit grew.  If you are looking for something to do tomorrow, be there for round two Saturday night between these teams.

Three Stars: 3) Alex D’Orio (21 saves) 2) Valtteri Puustinen (goal, assist) 1) Alex Nylander (two goals, assist)

The Good: The power play was alive tonight. 2/4, and you could say it was what carried them through tonight. That and the stellar play of Alex D’Orio.

The Bad: It’s nitpicking, but the penalty kill gave up another power play.

Turning Point: Go up a couple paragraphs, I gave it to you there.

Around the Division: Light night in the AHL for a Friday. One other game in the division, Bridgeport beats Providence 3-1.

Standings: Penguins are still in last, at .438 percentage points. If they play like this tomorrow and beyond, it won’t be for much longer.

Yeah, I said that after the Hershey win Sunday and they laid an egg Wednesday against the Phantoms. Expect the Marlies to be juiced up and ready Saturday. The Pens will need to withstand that charge.

Wheeling Update: Nailers strike three times on the power play and win 6-2 over Kalamazoo. Shaw Boomhower with a goal and three assists.

Video Highlights: 

Rematch between these two team Saturday. 6:05 start. Don’t be late.

Let’s Go Pens!

Not So Special — Pens LOSE 3-1

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Penguins power play: 0/4.

Phantoms power play: 2/3.

That should tell you all you need to know about this one, a close game through two scoreless periods when the Phantoms power play comes to life. Lehigh Valley wins 3-1 to start a hellacious five game, seven night stretch for the last place Penguins.

Alex D’Orio opposed Felix Sandstrom. Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Anthony Angello, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Filip Hallander and Juuso Riikola replaced Jan Drozg, Sam Houde, Pat Watling and Taylor Fedun.

Watling was sent back to Wheeling. Fedun’s wife had their second child. The Pens signed Tristan Cote-Cazenave to a PTO. Reason? Tommy Nappier (along with Sam Houde) are in COVID protocols.

Filip Lindberg isn’t practicing anymore with his bad ankle and Michael Chaput is still week to week.

That was a lot.

First Period: Went scoreless. Alex D’Orio’s finest period I thought. He had a series of saves here which kept it deadlocked at zero.

He was indeed dialed in.

Second Period: Well if you are abhorrent to change, this period was for you! Same as the first! No scoring! I couldn’t tell if it was a battle of two evenly matched teams or two teams that weren’t very good.

Third Period: Jamie Devane takes a questionable interference call and seven seconds later Wade Allison scores.

The Penguins answer back when Jordy Bellerive tips in a Juuso Riikola shot from the point to tie the game at one.

But Jonathan Gruden staples a guy to the wall and is called for boarding….

It wasn’t seven seconds this time, but about a minute or so into the power play Linus Sandin scores to make it 2-1.

Here’s both power play goals.

Maksim Sushko scored an empty net goal to seal it for the Phantoms.

Three Stars: 3) Jordy Bellerive (goal) 2) Adam Clendening (two assists) 1) Linus Sandin (goal, assist)

The Good: Alex D’Orio deserved a better fate. He kept the Phantoms off the scoreboard through two periods and was let down by his special teams unit.

The Bad: They had two clean power plays, one in the second and one in the third, and couldn’t do anything with them. Lehigh Valley scores seven seconds into their first real chance of the night. Special teams are an abject disaster.

Turning Point: Sandin’s goal in the third turned the game into a runaway at that point.

One note from the postgame, I heard Pens play by play man Nick Hart say that the Phantoms haven’t scored an even strength goal against the Penguins in some time. I don’t know where it matters when the Phantoms take two of three from the Penguins but it’s a stat!

Around the Division: Only other action in the division was Hartford hosting Toronto. Wolf Pack cool off the Maries with a 5-2 win. Toronto ran into Keith Kincaid and it didn’t turn out well for them.

Standings: I’m not hammering out percentage points for eight clubs when the club which matters most is in last with .419

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: 

Back Friday against the Toronto Marlies.

A Note About Friday’s Game: It’s the AHLTV Game of the Week.

More after that game. Tune in if you can if you are from out of town. Should be a decent enough test.

Let’s Go Pens!

Weekend Preview – Home Is Where The Heart Is

After a 2-1 home win Sunday against Hershey, the Penguins set up shop at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for a very busy stretch of home games. Four home games in six games, five games in seven with next Tuesday’s road trip to Hershey.

It is hellacious, but at least it is at home and not that far away from home. It also isn’t fair at all and is borderline dangerous, but that is AHL President Scott Howson and his circus for you.

Anyway, talking points aside, there are a lot of points at stake for the last place Penguins this week. Let’s dive right in.

The Setup

Home games Wednesday against Lehigh Valley, then a pair with the Toronto Marlies Friday and Saturday then back at it for a home game Monday against the Cleveland Monsters then a road game Tuesday in Hershey.

The Penguins played the right way against the Phantoms in both games last weekend and won one and lost the other. The Phantoms are still recovering from COVID ripping through their locker room having lost to the aforementioned Marlies on Sunday in overtime.

Toronto makes a stop in Hartford this Wednesday before two this weekend in Wilkes-Barre. They are one of the North’s hottest teams at 7-3 in their last ten and winners of six straight. These wins are against last place in the North Belleville (who are a .500 team, that’s how stacked the North is) Utica, (who have been the best team in the AHL for months) Springfield, (a very good team) Belleville again then overtime wins against Hershey and Lehigh Valley.

Call Cleveland the worst so far of the bunch in the. North, just 3-5-2 in their last ten but underestimate this club at your peril. They have played exclusively Central Division teams in 2022 thus far. If you were going to get me to rank divisions, it would probably go North, Central and Atlantic. I don’t know enough about the Pacific to be dangerous other than Stockton and Ontario are the head of the class and that’s it. The Central will have Chicago, Manitoba and Grand Rapids play leapfrog for the division lead from now until April and wouldn’t you know it but, after a weekend split in Rockford, the Monsters played Chicago and Grand Rapids close but lost both.

The moral of the story is, they are a good team.

Hershey is who they are, you know them like you know your brother or sister, if you have one. They will play host to the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday and Sunday before the Pens come in on their fifth game of the week.

The Records

Lehigh Valley comes in sixth in the Atlantic at 10-12-6-2 and a .467 win percentage, Toronto clocks in at third in the North at 17-10-1-1, good for .621 percentage points. Cleveland is fifth in the North, 12-10-4-3 with a .534 winning percentage and Hershey is third in the Atlantic with 18-11-3-2, good for a .603 win percentage.

The Penguins are last in the Atlantic with 11-15-1-3 record and a .433 win percentage.

But, if they play like they did this past weekend, it will not be for long.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Wilkes-Barre signed Pascal Laberge to a PTO Friday. He played in one game (Saturday) he was replaced by Patrick Watling on Sunday and Watling goes out and scores the game winning goal. The Penguins released Laberge Tuesday. Thanks for the fish, Pascal!

Pittsburgh sent Juuso Riikola back down Monday, then Anthony Angello, Kasper Bjorkqvist and Filip Hallander back Tuesday, so look for them to be inserted right in the thick of things with all these games coming up.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Are they serious playoff contenders or are they pretenders? I think a lot of that will be answered (yes, I realize it is January) this week because in the playoffs, it’s one game after another, kind of like what you will be seeing this week.

Sticking to the game plan reaped big rewards this past weekend. It may just be a style thing against the Phantoms and Bears, so I will really be interested in seeing how they fare against the Marlies this coming weekend and what, if anything, they have left for Cleveland Monday and in Hershey Tuesday.

Ten possible points at stake. Six of those ten should be a reasonable enough request. That may be shooting a bit too low, but you need to remind yourself you are looking at a last place team with 11 wins coming off an 0-7-1 skid. Remember what I said in my game stories about crawling and baby steps?

How they get those six is important too. Wins over Lehigh and Cleveland and a shootout win over Hershey still leaves a stale taste in the mouth if Toronto comes in and stomps you for a pair Friday and Saturday.

Who is in goal?

Good question. I think it’s stock up Tommy Nappier and stock down Alex D’Orio. D’Orio is still winless. How good do you feel when he gets the nod? Is Filip Lindberg back? I think he is close. They sure can use him.

It’s a fools game to play trying to predict goalies for the next five games. Nappier, Nappier, D’Orio, Nappier, D’Orio? Maybe. Mix in a Lindberg if he is back.

I’ll do it for the opponents though. Garrett Metcalf goes Wednesday for the Phantoms, Joseph Woll and Erik Källgren split the net this weekend for Toronto and J-F Berube goes for Cleveland next Monday. Pheonix Copley is likely out first against the Penguins on Tuesday in Hershey.

Who is running the show?

Peter Schlittenhardt and Casey Terreri in the orange arm bands Wednesday with Ryan Knapp and Jud Ritter on the lines.

Mitch Dunning and Casey Terreri (again) are the referees Friday with Josh Cleary and John Rey working the lines Friday then Justin Kea and Michael Zyla (what, no Terreri for the umpteenth time this month?) dole out penalties with Brian Wasilewski and Josh Cleary on the lines.

League website doesn’t have the crews listed for Monday and Tuesday yet.

One interesting note about one of the referees assigned this weekend is Justin Kea. Kea spent last weekend in San Diego and Ontario, California. At some point this week he’s boarding a plane back to the Northeast where the high temperature this weekend will be below freezing. The average temperature in Southern California this time of year is 75 degrees. I’ve always wondered what goes through a referees mind when they look at their itinerary and it has them in sunny California one weekend then the cold Northeast the next.

Looking Ahead…

Cleveland rocks. The Penguins play a pair in Ohio next Friday and Saturday.

Give us a bold prediction…

Justin Kea will be wishing he was still in the California sun.