Somehow, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have had six days off and, when the puck drops Friday, December 16 home game for the Penguins, Wilkes-Barre will have only been featured for the fourth time in the month. And yet, the Penguins will be playing one of their biggest and closest rivals on back to back nights, both at home.
Hershey is in on back to back nights. Saturday is the Teddy Bear Toss. So it’s Bears, on Bears, on Bears.
Music to Set the Mood…
After some time off, it’ll be good to get back into it with a back to back against Hershey then a Christmas trip up to Canada next week to see the Marlies, Senators and Rocket.
Rivalry doesn’t help anybody.
– Peter Jackson
Mr. Jackson must not be a sports fan. Penguins / Bears. Phantoms / Bears. Comets / Crunch. Wolves / Admirals. The AHL is full of them.
Two with Hershey at home. Hershey is the best team in the League and the Penguins humbled the Bears at home in their last matchup 7-3 back on December 4. They have been close. A 4-3 Bears shootout win on November 29. A 4-0 Pens win on November 18. 4-3 Bears, 2-1 Bears, 2-1 Pens before that.
Two teams that know each other better than they know themselves. Great, great rivalry.
Bears are a league best 17-5-2-1 and sit at the top of the Atlantic with 37 points. The Penguins are in fourth in the Atlantic with 12-6-1-2 and 27 points. Wilkes-Barre has the fewest games played (21) in the division and the entire AHL joining other 21 game players Utica, Chicago and Coachella Valley.
Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?
Drew O’Connor and Mark Friedman went up to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Coal Street made their recalls Thursday, bringing up Jordan Frasca and Colin Swoyer.
Injury wise, a couple guys have been sick, but nothing else major. Jamie Devane is still out injured.
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
They have four games in hand against Hershey and can really put some damage on the Bears with two straight up wins at home against them. There is a gap between fourth, where the Penguins are and third, where Bridgeport (33 points) and Providence (35) sit ahead of the Penguins, behind the Bears. Are you happy with the performance so far? I am, but you want more. No better way to get more then beating your biggest rival at home in what’s probably the biggest games of the season thus far.
Also, my bad. I forgot to include this segment in the last two iterations of this exercise.
Who’s in Goal?
I think they go straight back to Filip Lindberg Friday and then give Dustin Tokarski Saturday’s game. Figure that they are going to need both in some form or fashion next week in the Canada trip.
Bears are in a bit of a goaltending bind. They lost Hunter Shepard to recall before these two teams last met and obliterated Zach Fucale who is still with the team. Clay Stevenson is the backup to Fucale. Hershey has a Sunday game against the Phantoms. Figure Fucale gets both games against the Pens and Stevenson goes Sunday against the Phantoms.
Who’s running the show?
Beau Halkidis and Riley Brace are the referees Friday with Jud Ritter and John Rey on the lines. Saturday sees Justin Kea and Liam Maaskant make sure things stay on the up and up with Patrick Dapuzzo and J.P. Waleski on the lines.
Wait. Riley Brace. That name sounds familiar…
Indeed. He’s another player turned ref. Played a bunch with the Wheeling Nailers, the Penguins ECHL affiliate and appeared in a few preseason games for the Penguins about seven years ago. Never played for Wilkes-Barre in a regular season game. Played a bunch for Worcester of the AHL days and Iowa.
Tuesday in Toronto, Wednesday in Belleville, Friday in Laval. Pens aren’t back home until Tuesday (Tuesday?) December 27 against Hershey (Hershey, again?!?)
Give us a bold prediction…
Pens handle business against Hershey and get 3 out of a possible 4 points.