Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Not AHL

Defenseman In, Defenseman Out

Couple signings to note as we edge towards the first round of cuts in Pittsburgh and the start of training camp here in Wilkes-Barre…

–> Coal Street announced the signing of 6’3 defenseman Evan Wardley. Wardley, late of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, debuted as a professional this past Spring with the ECHL Wheeling Nailers. He has a boatload of penalty minutes, which means he plays a physical game that he can back up with his fists. Admittedly, I am now just making up words about the guy to fill a paragraph, but Wilkes-Barre must have seen enough of him and liked him so much that they offered him an AHL deal.

–> Nick D’Agostino found a home. Remember him? He was arguably, in my opinion, one of the best defensemen here in Wilkes-Barre during the slew of callups to Pittsburgh. His non-tender of a qualifying offer by Pittsburgh this past summer (he was a restricted free agent) came as a shock to me. He signed with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL today. If they name sounds familiar to you, they are the team that is the ECHL affiliate of none other than the Hershey Bears. Now D’Agostino signed an ECHL deal, meaning that he would need to sign an AHL deal with Hershey to play for them. Not saying that he would, but he could.

Goaltender Eric Hartzell remains the only member of last years team that remains unsigned.

That’s about it. Pittsburgh is in the midst of an eight game exhibition schedule. The hope here is not who wins or loses, it’s that no one gets hurt.

More later this week when the first round of cuts come down from Pittsburgh and when Wilkes-Barre announces a training camp roster.

A Rabbit and a Sestito Walk Into a Matrix…

The moment we have all been waiting for is nearly here. It was announced today that the 2015-16 AHL playing scheduled will be released Thursday at 1 p.m. I’ll have a full dissection of the schedule of opponents the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will face starting in October here on the blog Thursday afternoon. Same workup as prior years with a question and answer session. If I think of any new wrinkles between now and then I will work them in. Fun times ahead.

Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Tom Sestito to a professional tryout agreement. Sestito is a journeyman and part of a dying breed of one trick ponies who know nothing other than how to fight. You can take this news any which way you like. A protector for Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin / Phil Kessel, or Daniel Carcillo redux. As you recall, Pittsburgh signed Carcillo to a similar professional tryout agreement last year before releasing him. Carcillo later signed on with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that won the Stanley Cup last year. What I don’t see is Sestito a replacement for the currently unsigned Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond here in Wilkes-Barre. Sestito I don’t think is willing to settle for the AHL, as evidenced last season when his prior team, Vancouver, tried to send him to their AHL affiliate Utica. He refused and Vancouver sent him home. I think Sestito comes in with the intention of making the Pittsburgh roster and if not, he packs his bags and heads in another direction.

Pittsburgh also announced Tuesday the roster for the rookie tournament. Notable names like Derrick Pouliot, Bryan Rust, J-S Dea, Connor Sheary and Anton Zlobin are among the participants who will face off against the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Senators prospects in London, Ontario in September.

In other minor league hockey news, the Greenville Road Warriors are no more in the ECHL. Instead, they reincarnated as the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. No, I am not joking. Link to the official news from the ECHL here. Yes, the logo includes an angry rabbit holding a carrot that is also being used as a hockey stick. The Wheeling Nailers will face off against the Swamp Rabbits just once this upcoming season, February 26 in Wheeling.

Check back tomorrow for full dissection on the Penguins schedule Thursday afternoon. Hockey season will be here before you know it.

Make it the Monarchs

We have a second round opponent.

It’s the Manchester Monarchs, winners 5-3 in the deciding Game 5 against the Portland Pirates. I took the game in on AHL Live. Here’s the thumbnail summary….

Manchester scored twice in the first two minutes of the first and third period to ice the game away. They have scored first in the first two minutes at home in all three home games against the Pirates.

Portland had the better of the chances in the first period I thought, despite getting out shot 17-8 in the first period.

Portland had one shout on goal in the first half of the second period and Manchester went up 3-0, then the Monarchs imploded and the Pirates got three quickly, at the midway point in the second, with about five minutes left and with 0.5 seconds left in the second for a 3-3 score heading into the third.

Manchester scored twice in the opening 1:36 and Portland didn’t have another comeback in them.

Here is your schedule for the Eastern Conference Semifinals…

Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
1-Manchester Monarchs vs. 4-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 

Game 1 – Wed., May 6 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
Game 2 – Thu., May 7 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., May 9 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 4 – Mon., May 11 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Tue., May 12 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 15 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sat., May 16 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

You can check it out for yourself here. You can also see the Hershey and Hartford series as well and note that the Wolf Pack will play two games at the home of the Worcester Sharks because the circus is in town in Hartford.

Lots to break down here. Pens were 1-3 against the Monarchs this season. That one win was the Matt Murray shutout of the Monarchs en route to his shutout streak record. What I saw out of Manchester is that they play fast and loose game, really quick, which has been their modus operandi all season. Portland at times gave them difficulty in this particular game that I watched tonight and did run the Monarchs to the brink of elimination to the final period of the final game. What does it mean going forward? Stay tuned.

Pens practiced at Coal Street today since sweeping the Crunch. Bryan Rust and Nick Drazenovic both practiced in full and are possibilities for Round 2.

I updated the Postseason chart page to include the Monarchs production in their five game series win against the Portland Pirates. Check that out here. I am debating doing an overall chart, like you normally see, then a chart for the series itself. I’ll welcome any input thrown my way.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

Friday Night Roundup

With Wilkes-Barre off tonight, I watched a bunch of AHL acton tonight. I even had Wheeling on on a side screen. Anyway, here’s the important games that matter to the Penguins this weekend….

ALB    3
button_lv200    2

Albany scores three unanswered goals in the third period and stun the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-2 in Allentown. It was the Devils second straight win after trailing after two periods and just the Phantoms third regulation loss at home. The Phantoms burn one of their games in hand on the Penguins and Bears tonight. They now have three on Wilkes-Barre and one on Hershey.

Speaking of the Hershey Bears, they were off tonight and host the Devils tomorrow night. Lehigh Valley gets Binghamton tomorrow at home. The B-Sens throttled the Syracuse Crunch 5-0 at home tonight, buoyed by a first period blitzkrieg that saw the B-Sens score four goals.

button_14mch200    4
WOR    5

The Worcester Sharks have won five straight games after a 5-4 shootout win at home against the Manchester Monarchs. The Sharks have won two games against the Monarchs this week and host the Penguins tomorrow. The Sharks battled back from a 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against a Manchester team that has pretty much been the class of the Eastern Conference all season long.

BRI    2
PRO    3

The P-Bruins, the Penguins Sunday opponent, beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at home 3-2 in overtime. Providence snaps a five game losing streak. Providence travels to Manchester Saturday.

WHL    5
BRA    2

Eric Hartzell stops 32 of 34 and the Wheeling Nailers win their first ever game on Canadian soil with a 5-2 win over the Brampton Beast tonight. The teams rematch again tomorrow and Sunday in Ontario.

button_pit200     3
button_nyi200     6

You never see me mention Pittsburgh scores here, because there are literally a thousand Pittsbugh Penguins blogs out there, but since I had it on in the background of the computer tonight, it’s worth a mention that the Penguins lost to the Islanders 6-3. Kyle Okposo had four goals for the Islanders. Boxscore here. How nice it must be to have ice time stats and face off percentages. Maybe someday here in the AHL.

No change to the top of the East Division standings tonight. The Penguins lead with 44 points. Hershey has 43 and Lehigh Valley has 41.

Gameday for the Worcester setup hits the blog at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Preview of Coming Attractions…

So here is what I expect to happen this week…

I blog now about the lack of news on Coal Street (the end of June isn’t exactly the best time for blog clicks) and how there hasn’t been a single Penguin to bolt for overseas and a bunch of other AHL news and comings and goings.

Watch, this week, we will have our first defection. Or not, who knows.

Anyway, there isn’t much out there, but while you are here….

— Pittsburgh still doesn’t have a coach and it doesn’t look like John Hynes will get the job.

— Norfolk needs a new bench boss as Trent Yawney was promoted to Anaheim. This leaves Norfolk and Hershey both looking for head coaches for the Fall in the East Division as it stands now. Lehigh Valley is a lock to join the East come November, but nothing has been finalized on that front yet.

I advocated strongly for Hynes to get the Pittsburgh job, but now want him to stay.

— The following is week old news, but Pittsburgh does plan to qualify restricted Free Agents Bobby Farnham, Brandon Sutter, Jayson Megna, Philip Samuelsson and Simon Despres. Whether one or all re-sign with Pittsburgh remains to be seen.

— It cost the St. John’s IceCaps a ton to lose in five games to the Texas Stars in the Calder Cup Finals. No, literally.

— Developing Penguin Killer Dustin Gazley re-upped with Hershey.

— Wheeling and Pittsburgh already have their schedules for next year. On Wheeling, and the ECHL, they announced divisional realignment and a bunch of other things including hybrid icing Tuesday.

— NHL Draft is this weekend from Philadelphia and Free Agency starts July 1.

On the draft, I’ll have a recap of who Pittsburgh drafted probably this weekend. My “recap” is basically links to those who have heard of the players selected. On Free Agency, I haven’t decided what I am going to do for that, probably a live blog of sorts like I have in years past along with blog updates as long as long as the situation warrants.

See you tomorrow when the first Penguin bolts overseas to Yikhalvisk Nihmkahbortchalfski of the Borat League because I jinxed it.

Chart-Free Blog Post!

There’s been way too many charts on the blog these past couple of days, so I present a blog post with no charts and just some news…

— The Wheeling Nailers season came to and end last night with a 4-0 loss to the Greenville Road Warriors. Goaltender Jason Missiaen posted a 31 save shutout and the Warriors are onto the Conference Finals. Wait. Missiaen….shutout….hmmmmm….where have I seen this before? Oh right.

— In the AHL, the Norfolk Admirals are on the brink of elimination after losing to the St. John’s IceCaps 5-1 last night. St. John’s can close it out tonight at Scope.

— Derrick Pouliot’s Portland Winterhawks lost last night to Tristan Jarry’s Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 7 of the WHL Finals 4-2. Both Jarry and Pouliot are Penguins prospects. Pouliot is pegged to come to Wilkes-Barre at some point. Pouliot has some serious, serious pedigree and should be inserted into the lineup for the Penguins almost automatically. Pouliot appeared in the Game 5 loss to the Syracuse Crunch last season in the Eastern Conference Finals.

— Here’s Jonathan’s updates from practice Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s practice was optional, but heavily attended. Tuesday’s focused on special teams. Andrew Ebbett didn’t participate in either practice. Philip Samuelsson’s status is still iffy.

Bobby Robins was suspended three games today by the AHL for leaving the penalty box in the third period of Game 2. Jared Knight’s ten minute misconduct was upgraded to a game misconduct for leaving the bench to join an altercation. Knight should be available for Game 3.

Jonathan doesn’t write it, but he equvilates the loss of Robins to that of the loss of a Bobby Farnham. He’s not going to score many points, but he’ll hit everything that moves.

Finally, news out of Chocolatetown today finds that the Bears and Capitals have renewed their affiliation agreement for another year and Washington re-signed Garrett Mitchell for next year. The announcement that head coach Mike Haviland chose to take a head coaching job at Colorado College was made last week, for those who missed it.

The Gameday Setup for Game 3 vs. Providence will be here tomorrow at 3 p.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

NHL Trade Deadline and the AHL East Divison

With all the hype surrounding trade deadline day for the NHL, let’s cut to the chase and examine how it affects the AHL’s East Division.

Let’s get right to it…

button_pit200       /       WBS

Pittsburgh / Wilkes Barre

Marcel Goc from Florida and Lee Stempniak from Calgary for draft picks. So, the Wilkes-Barre roster and prospect pipeline stays intact. Chuck Kobasew, who cleared waivers yesterday, to Wilkes-Barre. Chris Conner can NOT be sent to Wilkes-Barre because he was not on waivers yesterday. So, ideally from a Wilkes-Barre perspective, it’s Conner for Kobasew. I’ll reserve judgement on whether this is good or bad after I see what Kobasew and do in the AHL.

Jonathan tweeted that Simon Despres and Brian Gibbons were on the Wilkes-Barre roster at 3 p.m. and thus eligible to return to the Penguins at some point.

button_wsh200      /      HER

Washington / Hershey

Bears end up netting Chris Brown from Phoenix / Portland in an NHL deal for Marty Erat and John Mitchell. Brown has put up solid numbers in Portland for the past two seasons. He’s 14-21-35 so far this year. Brown was also sent from Phoenix with Rostislav Klesla, but Klesla’s stay in Chocolatetown lasted less than 24 hours as he was sent to Buffalo with G Michal Neuvirth in the trade for G Jaroslav Halak.

Connor Carrick and Dmitry Orlov were eligible to be sent to Hershey, but were not and will remain with Washington for the duration.

button_ott200      /      BNG

Ottawa / Binghamton

Initial returns are that the winners of the NHL Trade deadline in the East Division are the Binghamton Senators, who get a depth defenseman in Patrick Mullen from the Utica Comets and Alex Grant (yes, THAT Alex Grant) from Norfolk / Anaheim for Andre Petersson. Grant makes a dangerous Binghamton power play even more dangerous. Ottawa also papered down Cody Ceci and Mike Hoffman, making that duo eligible for the AHL if the need arises.

In another minor move, Ottawa loaned Joe Corvo to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. But Corvo, a Chicago area native, is hurt and isn’t expected to play the rest of the season. He also is making $900K this season.

button_tb200      /      SYR

Tampa Bay / Syracuse

Dana Tyrell and Matt Taormina to Columbus for Jonathan Marchessault and Dalton Smith. Syracuse looks like the big winner in this trade. Marchessault was Springfield’s leading scorer (14-27-41) Richard Panik was recalled earlier today, meaning his AHL days are done at least for this year and Vlad Namestnikov was sent to Syracuse. If there is one downside, the moves today leave the Crunch a bit thin on the blue line.

button_ana200      /      NOR

Anaheim / Norfolk

Anaheim traded away G Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers and got RW Andre Petersson from Ottawa for D Alex Grant. Petersson’s 17-23-40 automatically makes him Norfolk’s leading scorer.

Jonathan’s take on today’s proceedings is here.

In my view, Wilkes-Barre has the most work to do in the divsion, with seemingly everyone else bolstering up their rosters. The Kobasew add is nice and should help, but you just never know with how a player who has spent most of his time in the NHL will take a demotion back to the AHL. You go from airplanes and caviar to bus rides and 3 a.m. McDonald’s stops.

Time, always tells.