So you will actually see two Weekend Previews this week as this piece will be dedicated to the Tuesday and Wednesday series in Toronto against the Marlies. I will have another Weekend Preview on Friday setting up the games in Belleville and Laval for Friday and Saturday.
So the Penguins I guess you can say passed last weekends test. They lost 1-0 in a tight battle with Syracuse at home on Friday and took down the Eastern Conference’s best team in the Utica Comets by beating them 3-2 on Saturday. Would I pick the Pens against the Comets in a playoff series? The answer now is 50/50, which yeah, is a good thing.
The Marlies split a pair of 4-2 decisions against the Chicago Wolves. This was after the Marlies shutout the Hershey Bears 3-0 on Thursday.
The Wolves are a machine out in the Central Division and will probably be the third team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot. The Pacific Divisions Stockton Heat were the first team in, the Ontario Reign are next and the Wolves are not close behind.
Penguins are 26-24-4-4 and looking to move up to fifth in the Atlantic Division. Toronto snapped their losing streak with the 3-0 win over Hershey Thursday and are 28-21-3-1 and in third in the North. They are .001 percentage points behind second place Laval.
Who is Up, Who is Down, Who is Up?
Pittsburgh sent Radim Zohorna back to Wilkes-Barre on Monday, getting him on the AHL roster in time for the NHL trade deadline, then recalled him Tuesday morning. Coal Street sent defensemen Chris Ortiz back to Wheeling and signed defenseman Clayton Phillips to an ATO.
Defensemen Taylor Fedun and Juuso Riikola are out with injuries. That Coal Street sent Ortiz down is likely promising for one of their returns, my guess is probably Riikola since the last update on Fedun was week to week.
Goaltender Flip Lindberg is done for the year. Please make note of this going forward because after today I am probably finished mentioning him in this space.
Who’s in Goal?
Louis Domingue until he self-destructs for the Penguins would be my guess. Let Tommy Nappier start one of the games this weekend.
Michael Hutchinson and/or Keith Petruzzelli for the Marlies on the back to back nights for the home team opponent in this series is a safe bet.
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
Gotta think that the Pens have to take 3 of 4 out of these next two, right? They are burning off one of the two games in hand on Hershey, so they must optimize points and win one, if not both, of these games.
The Marlies are pretty milquetoast in a division where you can be in third to start the week and out of a playoff spot altogether at the end. Second to sixth place in the North Division are only separated by .021 percentage points. It is a division that I would not want the Penguins to play in because that sixth place team is probably going to have a higher points percentage at the end of the season than the fifth and sixth place team in the Atlantic. The sixth place team in the North does not make playoffs.
You must maximize points here. The Penguins are a better team then they were the last time they faced and took down the Marlies in a back to back series at home in Wilkes-Barre back in January. They didn’t have Drew O’Connor and they didn’t have Louis Domingue.
Who is running the show?
It will be Dave Lewis and Morgan MacPhee in the armbands on Tuesday and Dan Kelly and Tommy Hughes on the lines. For Wednesday, Stephen Hiff and Graedy Hamilton get the referee duties and Dan Kelly sticks around one more night and is joined by Nick Arcan on the lines.
Won’t have far to look cause the Pens are staying in Canada and heading up to Belleville Friday and Laval on Saturday. The Saturday game against the Rocket starts at 3 p.m.
Give us a bold prediction…
Coal Street makes a trade to help bolster it’s roster before the AHL trade deadline next Monday.