So the Penguins are going to cram three games in a four game span when they kick off North of the Border tonight in Toronto, Ontario then immediately again tomorrow in Belleville, Ontario. A day off to travel to Laval, Quebec for a game Friday then the Christmas holiday.
It’s a nice change of pace to; a) have a busy week and b) play a team other than the Hershey Bears.
More on them in a bit.
Music to set the mood…
I mean, you have to don’t you? Penguins only trip to Canada. I’ve been there. I traveled up when the Pens played two in Manitoba (back when the Moose logo was green and they called it the MTS Centre) then flew back (with the team at the time, they were on the same flight as I was) to Toronto to watch them play the Marlies. I actually have about $300 in Canadian money somewhere. Hope to go back, someday. Toronto was great.
Canada is not a country for the cold of heart or the cold of feet.
— Pierre Trudeau
Apropos that the first day of Winter is Wednesday. Days get longer from here…
Toronto Tuesday, Belleville Wednesday and Laval on Wednesday. This will be the first meeting of the season for the Pens against the Marlies and Senators, and final meeting of the season against the Rocket.
Toronto, who has played a very diverse schedule, are coming off of a Central Division road trip where they faced off against the Rockford IceHogs and the Milwaukee Admirals. Both regulation, one goal wins. Marlies lead the North Division by four points over the Rochester Americans.
Belleville and Laval are at the other end of the North Division spectrum, both trailing Toronto and the the other division heavies, but the margin isn’t as wide as it is in the other divisions.
Belleville got smoked in Manitoba Saturday and in the rematch Sunday lost in overtime.
The Rocket beat the Utica Comets in Utica last Wednesday, traveled to Cleveland Saturday and had seven goals hung on them and in the rematch Sunday beat the Monsters 4-1. They will be in Syracuse Wednesday before heading home to meet the Penguins.
The Penguins are fourth in the Atlantic and are making up ground with a lot of games in hand. They are 3-0-1 in their last three with Bridgeport in third who are 0-2-1 in their last three games, just three points ahead of Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins have four games in hand on the Islanders with a 13-6-2-2 record.
Toronto is in the drivers seat in the North with a 16-8-1-1 record and are on a 3-0-0-1 run.
Belleville is in sixth in the North with a 11-13-2-0 record and are winless in their last three games,
Laval is in last place in the North with a 10-14-3-1 and this record won’t be the same when they meet the Penguins because they play the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday.
Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?
No changes from the last time we did this. Jamie Devane is still hurt. Filip Hållander, Ty Smith and Lukas Svejkovsky were ill. Not COVID. Drew O’Connor and Mark Friedman are in Pittsburgh. Jordan Frasca and Colin Swoyer are up from Wheeling. Sean Josling was recalled from Wheeling on Monday, presumably because they will need a healthy body.
What can we learn about the Penguins this week?
They should (hypothetically) comfortably beat Belleville and Laval, Toronto should give them more of a fight. I don’t see any reason why they can’t sweep this trip. They are battle tested by carving out three of four points against the Hershey Bears this past weekend, have two really good goaltenders that can steal games and some stingy defenders, the question is who will score?
It may be a by committee thing. You hope Hållander is well enough to play this week. Get Drake Caggiula going. Valtteri Puustinen is best when he’s running downhill. Alex Nylander can score whenever he’s on the ice. That’s when this team is at their best.
Who’s in goal?
I’m glad I don’t have to make these decisions for real. But since I do for this space I think you go Dustin Tokarski Tuesday, Filip Lindberg Wednesday and then the better of the two Friday in Laval.
The Marlies went with Erik Källgren and Joseph Woll this past weekend. Källgren has more games under him but has a 3.37 GAA, Woll is undefeated at 4-0. I think Marlies head coach Greg Moore goes to Woll on Tuesday.
Antoine Bibeau and Mads Sogaard have been splitting the starts for Tory Mann’s Belleville Senators. Neither have anything over the top numbers wise. Sogaard started Sunday in Winnipeg against the Moose, so look for Bibeau to start against the Penguins on Wednesday.
Laval will be in Syracuse on Wednesday and played Sunday, so I have no idea who they will roll out this Friday. It’s a guess that Kevin Poulin goes for Jean-François Houle’s Laval Rocket on Friday.
Who’s running the show?
Cody Beach and Riley Brace get the assignment on Tuesday in Toronto with Justin Johnson and Shawn Oliver on the lines. On Wednesday, Beach follows the team to Belleville and meets up with Morgan MacPhee with Shawn Oliver and Dustin McCrank on the lines. Friday sees MacPhee again with Elizabeth Mantha in the other set of orange arm bands with Anthony Lapointe and Nicolas Boivin on the lines.
Wouldn’t you know it, more games with Hershey! A Tuesday home game (yay 🙄) against the Bears and then a Friday date with the Providence Bruins and then Wilkes-Barre closes out 2022 with a New Years Eve game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms down in Allentown.