Chirps from Center Ice

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

Weekend Preview – Square One?

Two weeks ago, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins put forth a 7 out of a possible 8 points effort. They solidified themselves as a solid sixth place team in the Atlantic Division standings. They go out last weekend and get swept clean by the Bridgeport Islanders and then grit out an overtime loser point this past Sunday in Providence.

Sooo, now what?

It is important to note that the Penguins were without the services of Alexander Nylander last week, out with a non-COVID illness. Nylander didn’t appear in a single game over the weekend for the Pens and probably wasn’t even on the trip, what with a long bus trip and stays in a hotel.

Nylander is kind of important to the Penguins, 16 points in 24 games since his trade from the Rockford IceHogs, where he had 12 points in 23 games. His 28 total points ties him for second on the team with P.O. Joseph, who is currently on NHL recall. They trail Valtteri Puustinen’s 34 points.

So, yeah, last week was a disappointment, but one of the straws that stir the drink was out of the lineup entirely because of an illness.

The Setup

Three home games starting Wednesday with Cleveland, Saturday with Laval and Sunday with Hartford.

This Cleveland team has not beaten the Penguins and probably hates to see Wilkes-Barre show up on the schedule. The Pens have their number.

The Monsters split a series at home with the Toronto Marlies last week, winning 4-2, losing 8-5. It’s kind of a bummer scoring 5 goals and coming out on a losing end if you ask me.

Laval split a pair at home against the Abbotsford Canucks, losing 4-2 and winning 3-0. This past Monday they hosted Springfield and lost 5-2. Before Saturday, they stop in at Rochester Wednesday then are in Allentown on Friday.

Hartford swept the weekend last, beating Hershey 3-1 and then Bridgeport 4-1. They will be in Allentown on Saturday before heading up to Wilkes-Barre Sunday.

The Records

Coming into Wednesday, the Pens are 23-23-3-4, a .500 team in sixth place in the Atlantic. Cleveland is last in the North in seventh place with a 19-22-6-4 record and a .471 points percentage. Laval is third in the North with a 25-19-3-0 record and a .564 percentage. Hartford is third in the Atlantic with a 27-16-5-2 record and a .610 percentage.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Goaltender Louis Domingue was reassigned Monday from Pittsburgh Kasper Bjorkqvist was reassigend on Wednesday. Defenseman Chris Ortiz was recalled from Wheeling on Friday because Taylor Fedun was banged up and didn’t play in the three games last weekend either. P.O. Joseph remains up in the NHL.

Chris Bigras, Jamie Devane and Filip Lindberg are all out still for Wilkes-Barre. Lindberg is done for the year.

Who’s in Goal?

Hafta think it’s Louie Domingue’s goal for Wednesday and Saturday and then Alex D’Orio Sunday. I think Coal Street will return Tommy Nappier back to Wheeling at some point during the course of the week.

Or, presumably the Pens let all three get a game and let Domingue ease into the #1 workhorse role they are going to need him play down the final stretch of the season.

Opposition wise, let’s go Jet Greaves, Kevin Poulin and Adam Huska in that order.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Forget about the consistent / inconsistent part. They lacked their captain and one of their best finishers last weekend and were rudderless. The identity of this team, as with any team, is that you need leaders and finishers if you want to have success. They ran into a desperate Bridgeport team and got smoked, in large part because they were outgunned. Puustinen saved their bacon with a goal with 3.3 seconds left in regulation Sunday in Providence that got them a single point. Getting Domingue should shore up the inconsistency that two young goalies in Tommy Nappier and Alex D’Orio bring. How much work Domingue gets this week and the health of Nylander and Fedun will spell whether you can expect the results of two weeks ago or a week ago.

It’s hot and cold. There’s no warm with this team.

Who is running the show?

Tatu Kunto makes his Wilkes-Barre debut in the arm bands and is joined by Mike Sullivan (the other Mike Sullivan) on Wednesday. Justin Johnson and John Rey have the lines.

Jim Curtain and Alex Ross have the referee duties on Saturday with J.P. Waleski and Jud Ritter on the lines.

Alex Ross sticks around and is joined by Mike Dietrich Sunday and Bill Lyons and Ryan Knapp have the lines.

Looking ahead…

What up, Central New York? The Pens play host to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday, March 18 and the Utica Comets on Saturday, March 19.

Give us a bold prediction…

We won’t be any closer to figuring out this team in mid-March than we were in mid-November.

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