Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Thursday Notes 3/30

Figured I would drop a quick blog post here in light of what’s gone on this week around Coal Street and the rest of the Atlantic Division. Here goes…

Last night the Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Springfield Thunderbirds 3-2. So that means that Wilkes-Barre cannot clinch a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs Friday. The magic number remains at five. Pens get this Springfield team Friday in Springfield while Bridgeport visits Allentown. As with last Sunday when these two teams met, provided the Penguins win against the Thunderbirds Friday, you just want whichever team to win in regulation.

Word out of Coal Street Wednesday afternoon was that Stuart Percy is done for the year after having surgery on his upper body injury and that Garrett Wilson is expected back this weekend. Both Seth and Tom reported it, here’s Tom’s tweet capsulizing both. Percy’s biggest MO from the start was that he could never stay healthy. Wilson getting back will be a huge help.

Troy Josephs missed practice Wednesday as he went back to school to finish up a few classes. My guess is that with Wilson back in the picture, Josephs projects as that 13th forward who could be scratched.

Daniel Sprong’s Charlottetown Islanders swept Drakkar Wednesday. They are onto the second round. First ever sweep for Charlottetown.

Pittsburgh signed D Jeff Taylor for next year. In the interim, he has signed his ATO and has already joined Wilkes-Barre for practice. He’s one of the top offensive defensemen in college hockey and put up 33 points in 38 games played this season. I also think he kind of looks like Major League Baseball player Ryan Braun too.

You are all caught up, I think. Gameday setup for Friday’s game at Springfield hist the blog Friday afternoon at 3.

Zach Aston-Reese Signs: Reactions

During all the snow Tuesday (I am still snowed in Wednesday as the office at my big boy job is closed) the Pittsburgh Penguins went out and signed Zach Aston-Reese to a two-year deal which kicks in next year. For the time being, he will report to Wilkes-Barre on an amateur tryout contract.

As of five minutes ago, you may not have known who Zach Aston-Reese was. I know that five minutes before I read about the news, I didn’t know who he was either.

But that’s what the power of the internet is for. Here are some reactions…

It’s a big deal when Jonathan calls the guy the top undrafted college free agent on the market…

Derrick Graffius pays a lot more attention to the college kids than I do…

I don’t suppose that you can use the kids name without also using, “big signing”

Reaction around the division?

Ok, ok, but what about a scouting report?

Words from Seth, a Q&A with Jonathan and a nice article on the Penguins site.

My reaction?

The signing certainly helps. Don’t look for him to jump right in and start playing all of a sudden. He will probably use this week to acclimate himself to Wilkes-Barre, have a couple of video sessions, practice this week and take in the two games this weekend with Lehigh Valley. Hobey Baker finalist and leader in whichever category you prefer, I don’t think they are going to trot the kid out there Saturday in Allentown, in the thick of a playoff race. If he gets in a game at all, it will most likely be next Tuesday at home against Hartford.

The one game to watch Wednesday night is Lehigh Valley hosting the North Division leader Syracuse Crunch. This is the game in hand that the Phantoms are burning against the Penguins and a Lehigh Valley win would put them two points behind Wilkes-Barre for tops in the Atlantic with a home and home series between the two sides starting Friday in Allentown. I’ll have a blurb on Twitter later Wednesday mentioning the final score.

Next blog recap should be the Gameday setup against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Friday at 3.

A Deeper Shade of Blue — NHL Trade Deadline Recap

The NHL trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. Eastern today and here is what shook out for the Pittsburgh Penguins and here is how it affects the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins…

button_16pit200   Pittsburgh / Wilkes-Barre   WBS

Jim Rutherford flipped Steve Oleksy and Eric Fehr for Frank Corrado from Toronto and acquired Mark Streit from Tampa Bay for a draft pick. Streit was briefly with Tampa Bay, having been acquired there from Philadelphia hours before.

In related moves, Pittsburgh recalled, reassigned then recalled Derrick Pouliot and assigned Corrado and Cameron Gaunce to Wilkes-Barre. They also papered Carter Rowney and Jake Guentzel making them eligible for the rest of the AHL season and playoffs, if applicable.

Wilkes-Barre defense is as follows…Cameron Gaunce, David Warsofsky, Frank Corrado, Brett Stern, Stuart Percy, Ethan Prow, Stuart Percy and Barry Goers. It was announced today after practice that Ethan Prow should be good to go this weekend from his injury and that Lukas Bengtsson is done for the year after still dealing with the symptoms of Lyme Disease.

Pittsburgh has a wealth of defensemen now. Ian Cole, Trevor Daley (hurt) Brian Dumoulin, Ron Hainsey, Kris Letang (hurt) Olli Maatta (hurt) Derrick Pouliot, Chad Ruhwedel (not waived yesterday, will not return to Wilkes-Barre) Justin Schultz and Mark Streit. You figure that as soon as Letang, who is the closest to returning as his status is simply day to day, gets healthy that Pouliot will be back in Wilkes-Barre lickety split.

This season, Wilkes-Barre’s strength has been through its blue line.

On Corrado, he’s been buried on the depth chart in Toronto. He is 1-11-12 with the Marlies. He’s recently started playing again with the Marlies and they are 13-1-1-0 since January 22. He’s played on the top pairing there and its no surprise that the Marlies are on the precipice of overtaking the Syracuse Crunch for tops in the North Division. Here’s more long form on Corrado if you’d like to read up on the Penguins latest asset and a Q&A.

In my opinion it’s a step up for the Pens. They lost Steve Oleksy who was a glue guy and a good quote to the papers and was 1-4-5 for Wilkes-Barre vs. a diamond in the rough player in Corrado.

Moving Eric Fehr means that we will have to wait a bit longer for Carter Rowney in Wilkes-Barre. Conor Sheary is days away, so you are looking at getting Bryan Rust back first before seeing Rowney back here.

Here’s what else happened in the AHL’s Atlantic Division…

button_16fla200   Florida / Springfield   button_16spr200

Dylan McIlrath to the Detroit Red Wings for Thomas Vanek.

Mike McKenna to Syracuse for Adam Wilcox.

Shane Harper to Albany for Reece Scarlett.

Here’s what I think: Springfield gets pillaged. They get nothing in return for the McIlrath trade since Vanek is an NHLer, lose a future Hall of Famer in Mike McKenna for Wilcox, whose numbers aren’t anything to write home about. (19-9-2, 2.87, .895 SV%) and get a slight upgrade in Scarlett over Harper. The Thunderbirds aren’t making playoffs and are just playing for pride at this point.

button_nyr200   NY Rangers / Hartford Wolf Pack   button_hfd200

Justin Fontaine for Taylor Beck. Beck was the Bakersfield Condors leading scorer with 50 points. It’s a bandaid on a bullet wound for a Hartford side who will probably finish last in the Atlantic Division.

button_wsh200   Washington / Hershey   HER

Washington sent Joe Cannata packing to the San Antonio Rampage in exchange for Cody Corbett. Cannata was the odd man out for the Bears crease after the reacquisition of Phoenix Copley on Monday night. Corbett is a depth defenseman.

As for the rest of the division, Lehigh Valley and Providence didn’t make any moves. Neither did Bridgeport, who still have G Jaroslav Halak. If you want a dark horse to make it out of the Atlantic, it’s Bridgeport. Personally, I’m not buying it. Wilkes-Barre is the best team in the division, Lehigh Valley, Providence and Bridgeport are on the same tier, Hershey is a step below then you have Springfield and Hartford. A lot can happen in this final quarter of the AHL season.

Pens are off Friday, so but for anything breaking between now and Saturday, look for the next blog update to come Saturday afternoon for the Gameday setup at Hershey.

Trade Deadline Eve – Moves So Far

We are just under 24 hours from the NHL Trade Deadline and there have been some moves made and some moves setting up future moves which I would like to discuss in some capacity.

Focusing only in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, here’s what happened so far…

button_16pit200   Pittsburgh / Wilkes-Barre   WBS

Eric Fehr is on waivers. $2,000,000 salary is all yours if you claim him by noon Wednesday. If not, Pittsburgh can assign him to Wilkes-Barre and save $950,000 in cap money and frees up a roster spot with Pittsburgh.

Here’s what I think: Fehr goes unclaimed and isn’t immediately assigned to Wilkes-Barre. Depending on what moves GM Jim Rutherford tries to swing in either trying to move Marc-Andre Fleury or trading for another defensemen, Fehr goes unclaimed, stays in Pittsburgh with the option of being moved to Wilkes-Barre if the need arises. Do I think we ever see Fehr in Wilkes-Barre? It’s a possibility. I hope so, the pun possibilities for this blog would increase exponentially.

You needed to be on waivers today in order to be assigned to the AHL Wednesday for the playoff run. The only every day name Wilkes-Barre fans are familiar with which was not waived was Chad Ruhwedel. Consider him up for good with Pittsburgh as the seventh defenseman.

Steve Oleksy and Cameron Gaunce are still technically waiver exempt. They should be papered down along with Carter Rowney, who should be assigned for real this week with the news that Conor Sheary participated in full at practice Tuesday as well as Jake Guentzel. Guentzel getting papered down is risk free, and keeps him developing playoff skills if Pittsburgh should get knocked out of the playoffs before Wilkes-Barre.

button_wsh200   Washington / Hershey   HER

Late Monday, Washington swung a trade with St. Louis for the services of unrestricted free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. There were picks involved which I didn’t pay attention to. The other bodies involved were Zach Sanford, who was 4-1-5 against Wilkes-Barre this season, Brad Malone, who was a veteran scratch from time to time for the Bears and goaltender Pheonix Copley.

If you remember Copley, that’s because he was with Washington / Hershey last year. I think they moved him in a trade for someone and got him back.

Here’s what I think: Copley will get the lion share of starts for the Bears for the stretch run as told by Bears Head Coach Troy Mann to Kyle Mace Tuesday. Copley is a giant step up over whatever the hell Hershey tried in goal this season with a combination of Vitek Vanecek, Joe Cannata and Parker Milner. Milner and Vanecek are better served as backups and Cannata, who won 20 games with Utica last year, just never got comfortable with Hershey this year. Consider it Copley’s crease now for the 11 time Champs. Hershey has a long way to go and a short time to get there if they want to make the playoffs and they are going all in with the hope that Copley will be the bus that gets them there.

button_nyr200   NY Rangers / Hartford Wolf Pack   button_hfd200

The Rangers made a trade with the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday that saw Wolf Pack captain Mat Bodie get traded for Daniel Catenacci. Catenacci is a center with 13 points in 50 games for a bad Rochester team. So it’s a lateral move for Catenacci from one bad team to another.

Here’s what I think: Hartford is in last place in the Atlantic and it looks like they will finish there.

Trade Deadline is at 3 Wilkes-Barre time tomorrow. Depending on moves made which are notable I’ll have another blog post here Wednesday night breaking it all down.

Danny Kristo Traded – First Chip to Fall?

If you are a defenseman on the Pittsburgh Penguins, you have to look behind you constantly to watch out for the injury bug. Seems like every serviceable defenseman on the Penguins is out with something…

– Kris Letang – day-to-day with an upper body injury.
– Justin Schultz – concussion. Practiced Thursday but is still not cleared.
– Trevor Daley – announced today that he is out six weeks after having his left knee operated on.
– Olli Maatta – hand surgery. Out six weeks.

Brian Dumoulin and Ian Cole are the only regulars, for now, that haven’t had a hit put out on them from the injury bug. Dumoulin had his jaw broken earlier in the year.

Cameron Gaunce, Steve Oleksy and Chad Ruhwedel are players up in Pittsburgh that have played in Wilkes-Barre for a time. Oleksy and Ruhwedel have been the interchangeable seventh defensemen that, had all of the above defemsemen been healthy, one of two would still be in Pittsburgh.

So the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the market for a defensemen and Thursday they got one in the form of Ron Hainsey in a trade that saw Danny Kristo get shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hainsey will report to the NHL and Kristo will likely report to the Hurricanes AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.

Danny Kristo came over in the trade which saw Reid McNeill get sent to the St. Louis Blues in a change of scenery for both players earlier this year. Kristo appeared in 32 games and had six goals and five assists. You could tell a few games into his tenure that the fit wasn’t there. Kristo was touted as a goal scorer, but only scored December 3 against St. John’s before going cold and not scoring again until January 7 against Binghamton. He had been a healthy scratch here and there and depending on the way you analyze things, was getting bumped in the lineup in favor of Patrick McGrath.

Kristo’s departure leaves the Penguins with 14 forwards, only 13 of those are available for the weekend as Thomas DiPauli was ruled out for this weekend.

Wilkes-Barre plays the Utica Comets Friday and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Saturday on the road this weekend.

Gameday for the matchup against the Utica Comets will hit the blog Friday at 3 p.m.

Depth Charges

With Pittsburgh losing two defensemen Thursday night’s thrilling overtime victory against Winnipeg, the Pittsburgh Penguins recalled Cameron Gaunce and Steve Oleksy from Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Friday morning.

It was announced that Olli Maatta is shelved for at least six weeks due to surgery on his left hand. I rag on the NHL and their archaic non-stance on actual injury updates, so much respect to Pittsburgh for actually disclosing what the injury was, what it took to fix it and a time table for recovery.

No such luck for Justin Schultz, who was hit along the boards by Dustin Byfuglien. Still don’t know if it’s upper or lower body or what the timetable is.

With Pittsburgh playing again tonight against Columbus, Sunday against Detroit, Tuesday against Carolina, Pittsburgh took two players from Wilkes-Barre.

Out of available players, Gaunce and Oleksy are probably the easiest for Pittsburgh to recall and Wilkes-Barre afford to lose. Derrick Pouliot, David Warsofsky, Tim Erixon and Stuart Percy remain in the AHL. Warsofsky is too valuable to recall, then possibly lose to waivers like he was last year. In the Gaunce / Oleksy recall, you are recalling one player to play with Chad Ruhwedel already in Pittsburgh and one player to sit. It’s probably Oleksy again.

If you haven’t realized yet, 50+ games into the season, Wilkes-Barre’s greatest strength is defense and goaltending. Pittsburgh can recall all the Jake Guentzel’s or Carter Rowney’s they want to, the defense is what gets the AHL Penguins to the best record in the AHL and a 10 point lead on the second place overall team in the league.

Penguins of all levels will be fine, provided no other injuries hit in the coming days. Wilkes-Barre should be seeing some combination of Josh Archibald or Carter Rowney back in town soon with Carl Hagelin and Conor Sheary making progress.

Wilkes-Barre recalled Christan Hilbrich from Wheeling before the defenseman recalls. They haven’t announced a move for another player from Wheeling in light of the recalls from Pittsburgh as of noon Friday.

In other news, the AHL Playoff Primer is out. Wilkes-Barre’s magic number is currently 37. A new twist this season is strength of schedule, listed in purple. The Penguins current strength of schedule is .576, third in the Atlantic Division. That number will change daily.

More later with the 3 p.m. Gameday setup against Albany and the post game recap later tonight.

Thursday Notes 1/26

Some roster moves made today.

Defenseman Steve Oleksy cleared waivers Thursday afternoon and his clearing paved the way to Carter Rowney’s recall from Wilkes-Barre to Pittsburgh. Rowney’s first NHL recall. To be determined is whether or not Rowney will actually dress when the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Boston Bruins tonight in Boston. Patric Hornqvist participated in the morning skate at TD Garden this morning and looked none the worse for wear. He’s listed as a game time decision.

If I were coaching the team instead of just blogging about it, I would let Hornqvist sit and dress Rowney. What is the point of holding Rowney out of Wednesday’s game against Syracuse, recalling him Thursday just to sit him and only send him back to Wilkes-Barre once the Penguins go on the all-star break? Let Hornqvist rest his leg and get closer to 100% and give Rowney a shot.

Jonathan had some interesting ideas based off of what can happen if Hornqvist can or can not go that you can read about here. He also had some quotes that Seth got from Tom Kostopoulos and Clark Donatelli on Rowney’s first call-up that are worth checking out as well.

Steve Oleksy is back in the AHL after spending the better part of the last two and a half months in the NHL. Oleksy’s last game with Wilkes-Barre was November 6 against the Providence Bruins.

In wake of the Oleksy reassignment, the Penguins, who now are overflowing with defensemen, sent Michael Webster back to Wheeling. Seth got confirmation from practice this morning that Tim Erixon will be available Friday against Utica and that Oskar Sundqvist should be back Saturday in Binghamton.

Brett Stern remains up with the Penguins for now. My guess here is that he will likely be sent down to Wheeling by the weekend. They are probably keeping him up to insure that Erixon is indeed totally fine to go Friday in Utica.

I think that about covers it. Any other roster moves made will be addressed in the postgame recap of the Penguins trip to Utica Friday night. Look for the Gameday setup Friday at 3.