Chirps from Center Ice

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

Asked and Answered 10/15

Opened up the Mailbag for your questions after four games. Let’s jump in…

Scarfo up. I wonder if there is an as yet undisclosed injury in WBS.
– CyGuy

Here’s a little insider information for anyone that wants to get ahead of these things. Normally, when a guy is coming up from Wheeling it is tipped a day in advance in the ECHL Transactions which always hit around 5 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time. The ECHL has very complex rules about rosters and such that I frankly don’t care to comprehend. Anyway, in the Transaction release Monday, Scarfo’s name was on it. Coal Street later made it official Tuesday morning.

I don’t think it’s an injury per se as much as it is just trying to get a look at what you have depth wise. Mike Vellucci went with the same forward lineup and didn’t switch up the lines at all Sunday in Hershey from Saturday at home against Utica. For all of he misconceptions about the way that Clark Donatelli ran a bench, he always switched things up. Perhaps its a coaching philosophy thing, I don’t know.

Here were Sunday’s lines…

Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi and Adam Johnson are all in Pittsburgh. That leaves you with…

  • Ben Sexton. Hurt.
  • Justin Almeida. They kind of forced him into duty Friday in Allentown when Andrew Agozzino was returned to Wilkes-Barre late that day. I didn’t notice him as much as I should have but collectively, the Penguins were bad Friday.
  • Jamie Devane. Hurt.

So it does make sense to have an extra healthy forward if you aren’t going to use Almeida with Devane and Sexton are still a few weeks away. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice Nick Hart on radio call out that a player was missing on the bench Sunday. They didn’t practice Monday so we will have to wait and see if someone did pick up a knock, but I like my theory better.

Steve Oleksy was released Saturday. Seems they didn’t really give him a shot.
– Dave

I disagree. They have nine defensemen on the NHL roster that they don’t know what do do with and a lot of defensemen in Wilkes-Barre on NHL contracts. They also have a veteran overage problem when healthy. Oleksy has those two things (he’s a veteran defenseman) working against him. There is no practical room for yet another defenseman, a veteran no less, eating up minutes that your rookie defenseman could be in the same situation in. It’s just how development at this level works.

Who do you think Matt Abt has incriminating photos of?
– Mike

I know I haven’t released my expanded charts quite yet because of the busy week of the mailbag, a Wednesday home game and the AHL Power Rankings coming Thursday, but Abt has been on the ice for six total goals against (five at even strength). I’d counter that Abt in comparison to his other defensive partners has company, because everyone as a unit have all been bad. Wilkes-Barre is only carrying seven defensemen right now, with Michael Kim as the extra. There are no players with Pittsburgh right now other than John Marino and Juuso Riikola who can come down without waivers. (Zach Trotman maybe, but he is currently injured and needs waivers) In Wheeling you have Blake Siebenhaler and Macoy Erkamps as viable recalls. Both are righties (Abt is a southpaw) and the only right hander on the WBS blue line is Niclas Almari. So you are kind of really stuck with Abt right now on a defensive unit who hasn’t really lit the world on fire through four contests. Hang in there.

Jason, your crystal ball please: barring a trade, who comes back when/if Pittsburgh gets healthy?
– John M.

I think it’s simple. Of the injured guys you have Evgeni Malkin, their second best player; Alex Galchenyuk, a guy they acquired when they traded Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust who they wanted playing with a line with Malkin and Galchenyuk. Pittsburgh’s entire fourth line on Sunday against Winnipeg was Wilkes-Barre call-ups. That said, provided no one else gets hurt, you’re looking at Joseph Blandisi, Sam Lafferty and Adam Johnson all heading back at some point, unless there is a trade. You aren’t sitting any combination of Malkin, Galchenyuk or Rust for Lafferty, Johnson or Blandisi, you just aren’t. So they will all be back in due time.

What is going on with Dustin Tokarski?
– Barbara T.

Good question. Honestly, they are trying to swing a trade for one or two of their excess defensemen and probably Tristan Jarry. So essentially what they want to do is continue to have Emil Larmi develop as a backup, keep letting Casey DeSmith get starters reps and let Tokarski rest up for good what ever it has been which has been ailing him. He’s a pro who has won two Calder Cups. He doesn’t need the miles on him now if there’s a logjam organizationally. Eventually, something will happen where Jim Rutherford swings a trade that frees up movement where DeSmith is recalled again and order is restored with Tokarski and Larmi as your one-two in Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins least worry right now is in goal. You basically have a Calder Cup winning goaltender waiting on the shelf ready to play whenever the coach taps him on the shoulder. This is a good thing.

Good mailbag again. Solid questions. Thanks for participating. We will do it again the final week of October after five more games to see where we are at that point.

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