Chirps from Center Ice

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

Weekend Preview – Chess or Checkers

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins look to open 2023 with some wins against the visiting Charlotte Checkers this week as well as the last place Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday.

Four out of the next six this month will be against the Checkers.

Music to set the mood…

Apropos. Fun fact: the Charlotte Checkers mascots name is Chubby. Chubby as in Checker. Chubby Checker. Genius, if you ask me.

A Quote…

I love food, and the food industry is huge, and I just love dealing in it.
– Chubby Checker

Staying with the theme, if you will.

The Setup

They played the Providence Bruins close and lost last Friday. They went to Lehigh Valley and obliterated a musha musha Phantoms team behind 29 saves with a goaltender making his AHL debut.

There’s a lot to like with the Penguins, but they aren’t an elite team by any stretch. I don’t think that the setup of the team was ever such that they would be classified as an elite team, but they are a solid team that plays elite teams like Hershey and Providence tight but can dominate average teams like the Phantoms, but then lay eggs against bad teams like Belleville.

Charlotte beat a Cleveland team 3-2 in back to back games. They also beat Providence twice back in North Carolina before Christmas.

So they, like the Penguins, are a maybe elite but not all the time team. So these next two games should prove as a good test for Wilkes-Barre.

Hartford started their week with a seven spot against a cold Bridgeport team then were swept in a home and home against the Springfield Thunderbirds. They will be in Utica on Friday.

Records

Charlotte leads the mediocres in the Atlantic Division with 35 points with a 16-11-2-1 record in third place behind heavies Hershey and Hartford. Penguins are in fifth behind the Islanders in fourth, with 14-9-2-3 and 33 points. Hartford brings up the rear in last place in the Atlantic with a 11-13-1-5 record and 28 points, but that record will be different on account of the Utica game on Friday.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Ty Smith, Mark Friedman and Drew O’Connor are in Pittsburgh. Dustin Tokarski joined them Tuesday. Filip Lindberg, Kyle Olson and Jamie Devane are hurt, but because the Pens didn’t recall Tommy Nappier from Wheeling Wednesday morning, makes me believe that Lindberg is OK to go again. Sean Josling, Josh Maniscalco, Chris Ortiz and of course Taylor Gauthier are up from Wheeling. No one is down in Wheeling.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

They have the least amount of games played (28) in the division. They, at some point, have to play these games to play catch up to Hershey (four more games played) Providence (three) and Charlotte (two) – head to heads mean a lot because they are “four point games” – so they should maximize the chances at every opportunity and win these games against Charlotte.

Editor note: Letting the reader in the room when the sausage is made…

Below, in italics, is what I had written on Sunday afternoon before the Monday Winter Classic where Tristan Jarry was injured. Yeah, I do write these in advance and schedule them with edits here and there.

I’d go right back to Taylor Gauthier if I am J.D. Forrest on Wednesday. You didn’t notice the mistakes that they made against Providence as much, perhaps that is a talent thing, but they played with swagger in front of Gauthier. I think it’s a different philosophy when Tokarski is back there because he is a veteran and can make the saves when he needs to. But, sometimes they let him down (like late Friday) and it costs them points.

A bold move would be Gauthier both games against Charlotte and then let Tokarski get a game Saturday against the Wolf Pack. But Tokarski will probably be named as an AHL All-Star this week, so it isn’t likely.

I don’t want to say after one game into the kids AHL tenure that they are magically a better team with a rookie in goal, but they did snap a five game losing streak on New Years Eve.

Tokarski hasn’t been named to All-Stars yet (no announcement yet) but it certainly looks like Taylor Gauthier is “the guy” at this point in the schedule.

Who’s in goal?

Likely they go Gauthier Wednesday, then Lindberg if healthy Friday, then the better of the two Saturday against Hartford.

Charlotte will probably split Alex Lyon and Mack Guzda. Hartford will probably see old friend Louis Domingue provided he isn’t out first Friday in Utica. If so, then likely Dylan Garand.

Who is running the show?

Mike Dietrich and Jason Williams will be here Wednesday with Tom DellaFranco and Tyler Loftus on the lines.

Friday sees Jordan Samuels-Thomas in with Mason Riley and Tommy George and Sean D’Loughy on the lines. On Saturday, Samuels-Thomas sticks around and is joined by fellow orange arm band wearer Patrick Hanrahan. They are joined by linesmen Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski.

Looking ahead…

Bunch of road games starting next Wednesday in Hershey then a trip to North Carolina Saturday and Sunday. Hey! Another Friday off!

Give us a bold prediction…

I’ll give you two. Lukas Svejkovsky gets his first pro goal and Taylor Gauthier gets his first pro shutout.

One response to “Weekend Preview – Chess or Checkers

  1. Jack OMara January 4, 2023 at 1:01 pm

    Providence is in 2nd place in our division not Hartford

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