Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Weekend Preview

Weekend Preview: Hall of Famers

After an odd scheduling and the Thanksgiving holiday and even more odd scheduling, the Weekend Preview is back and marginally better than ever with a look at the weekends games for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins against the Bridgeport Islanders and the Hershey Bears.

After a hellish schedule bit, 7 games in 12 days (including a trip to Charlotte, NC), the Penguins get a bit of a break from the schedule makers with just 5 games in the next 15 days with four of them at home and just one on the road (a 90 minute trip to Hershey, this Sunday)

So you take it. Rest, recover, work on things. I know I am going to enjoy this Friday off and next Saturday. That is for sure.

Music to set the mood…

This weekend, the Penguins will honor Tom Grace, Tom Kostopoulos and Steve Barrouk with enshrinement in the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins Hall of Fame.

Grace was a guy you either loved or hated. I don’t think there was any in between. Grace did a lot in getting the Penguins out there to the masses. Who remembers the radio shows on Thursday’s at the Grotto? Grace’s enshrinement is overdue in my opinion. He should have been in sooner.

You don’t need me to introduce Tom Kostopoulos. If there’s a Mt. Rushmore of players he and Dennis Bonvie are on it.

Steve Barrouk was one of the pillars of the community who without, Penguins hockey in the Wyoming Valley isn’t a guaranteed reality.

A Quote…

I’m not a suit and tie kind of guy. I wear a suit once a year, for the Hall of Fame, or if I have to go to a funeral or something. It’s just not me.

If you can guess who said it (no cheating) leave me the answer in the comments. Provided I remember if no one guesses right, I’ll reveal the answer next week.

The Setup

Fairly straightforward with a game against the Bridgeport Islanders on Saturday and a road trip down to Hershey.

Bridgeport is one of two teams, Providence being the other, who have just three regulation losses so far this season. In the entire AHL. If the Atlantic Division didn’t have so many heavyweight teams (Hershey and the Bruins being the others) they would easy lead the division. Bridgeport’s 28 points is 5 better than first place in the North’s Toronto Marlies.

Hell, the Penguins, in fifth coming into Friday, have 23 points. You are going to have to be really good to contend in this division this year, it seems.

Hershey needs no introduction.

The Islanders have points in six straight, and beat the Providence Bruins 4-3 on Wednesday.

Hershey, after beating the Pens in comeback fashion via shootout Tuesday, beat Lehigh Valley in Allentown 4-2. With the win they became the top team in the AHL. It appears the Big Bear Machine is warming up.

Neither team will be in action until they play the Pens, so that means Hershey is off Friday and Saturday, Bridgeport is off Friday.

Records

Coming into Friday, Hershey is tops in the division with a 14-4-2-0 record with 30 points. Bridgeport is 12-3-4-0 good for 28 points and third in the division. The Pens are 10-5-1-2 and have 23 points in fifth in the Atlantic Division.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

No one from Wheeling. No one in Pittsburgh. Kris Letang had another stroke, so it’ll give a cap strapped Penguins team the availability to put Letang on long term IR and make moves if they have to.

Jordan Frasca and Jamie Devane remain out. Taylor Fedun is partially banged up, in and out of the lineup and Mark Friedman was out sick Tuesday against the Bears.

Who’s in Goal? 

I’d go Dustin Tokarski in both games, he’s been that good, but what do you do with Filip Lindberg? So expect Lindberg to get a game, probably Sunday in Hershey.

For the opposition expect Corey Schneider for the Islanders and Hunter Shepard for the Bears.

Who’s running the show?

Stephen Hiff and Mike Dietrich will run things Saturday and Jud Ritter and Kirsten Welsh will rule on icings and offsides.

On Sunday Hiff will follow the Penguins to Hershey and meet up with Carter Sandlak, Kirsten Welsh will as well to meet up with her counterpart on the lines, Joseph Mahon.

Looking ahead…

A lonely Friday home game against the Cleveland Monsters. In retrospect, I should have lumped the Monsters in with this Preview, but I can use the traffic next week. I hear the blog is big in Avon Lake.

Give us a bold prediction…

After three straight overtime games for the Penguins, every game this weekend will be decided in regulation.

Weekend Preview – November Has Come

Wait a minute, aren’t we already in November?

Yes, just go with it.

November has come and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have yet to win a hockey game or collect a singular point in the 11th month on the Julian calendar.

Music to Set the Mood…

I enjoy the Gorillaz. Demon Days was a banger album. Plastic Beach was too.

November has come and the Penguins don’t have a win yet. Hopefully, by the time we do this again they will. This is the last Weekend Preview for the month with Thanksgiving in a week and holiday travel and the like, so consider this a mega chungus version of the Preview.

A Quote…

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
– Thomas Edison

I like this one and think it applies partially. Think of all the one goal losses of recent for the Penguins.

Nov. 5 vs. Hershey – fell in a 2-0 hole, scored a power play goal late, ran out of time and lost 2-1.
Nov. 6 at Hershey – fell in a 4-0 hole, scored three straight in the third period, ran out of time and lost 4-3.
Nov. 11 vs. Hartford – carried 1-1 game into the third, played careless. Lost 3-1, Wolf Pack had an empty netter.
Nov. 12 vs. Springfield – fell in 2-0 hole, tied it on a 4:00 power play – another turnover sees ex-player score game winning goal. Lost 3-2.

The Penguins have not scored first since October 21 at home against Laval. They haven’t had a lead since beating Hershey in overtime 2-1 on October 29 (their last win)

Am I suggesting they are giving up as the quote above states? No. But seeing the other team score first, getting behind the eight ball with silly careless plays with the puck and it’s easy for a game to get away from you at this level.

The Setup

Well, there are a lot of them. I am giving you the next seven games. So pay attention!

This Friday and Saturday against Hershey at home and Bridgeport on the road. Then a Monday / Wednesday trip to Charlotte next week. Thanksgiving Thursday. A Black Friday home game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms then a Saturday trip to Springfield and then a rare Tuesday visit to Hershey.

Whew that was a lot. Let’s break the opponents down.

Hershey: Ahead of the Penguins on points, beat the Bridgeport Islanders in two overtime games last weekend and then hosted the Laval Rocket and won there too. Hershey sweeps the weekend. After playing the Penguins, will play Hartford four times with a pre-Thanksgiving game against Springfield sandwiched in between before seeing the Penguins again on November 29.

Bridgeport: Played the Bears close in Hershey last weekend but lost two overtime games. Will see Charlotte on Friday before hosting the Penguins this Saturday.

Charlotte: Floundering a bit. November hasn’t been good to them either but they are winning games. Won their first road game of the season last Saturday in Hartford in a shootout. Dug themselves out of a hole with Providence Sunday but still lost (sound familiar?) In Hartford this past Wednesday, history repeated itself and they beat the Wolf Pack again in a shootout. Will be in Bridgeport Friday and Springfield Saturday before returning home for a pair against the Pens the first part of next week.

Lehigh Valley: Have won three straight coming into this week, but the real test comes this weekend when they play a pair in Providence. I think the Phantoms are mercurial, but they did beat Springfield and Laval in one goal contests last weekend. After the doubleheader in Providence next Friday and Saturday, will visit Springfield on Sunday the 20th before having the rest of the week off before the Black Friday trip up the Turnpike to play the Penguins.

Springfield: Pens most recent opponent, will be the Penguins last opponent in the five game home stand which kicked off this past Wednesday with a school day game against the Syracuse Crunch. Thunderbirds were up 4-1 in the third and saw Syracuse tie it and then go on to win it in a shootout. Will see Charlotte and Lehigh Valley this Saturday and Sunday, Hershey on Thanksgiving Eve then will close out their home stand against the Pens on Saturday, November 26.

Hershey again on November 29.

Records

Coming into Friday only.

Penguins: 6-4-1-0; 13 points – 6th in the Atlantic.
Hershey: 8-2-2-0; 18 points – 2nd in the Atlantic.
Bridgeport: 7-2-3-0; 17 points – 3rd in the Atlantic.
Charlotte: 7-4-1-1; 16 points – 4th in the Atlantic.
Lehigh Valley: 5-5-1-0; 11 points – 8th in the Atlantic.
Springfield: 6-5-0-3; 15 points – 5th in the Atlantic.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

You are probably going to see a few transactions the remainder of the month but I’ll keep you posted on any of that in my Lineup Changes on each post game report. Those aren’t going anywhere.

Mark Friedman was sent back to Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. Jon Lizotte joins Jamie Devane and Jordan Frasca on the injured list. Mitch Reinke came off of that last week.

Filip Hallander was sent back Tuesday. Sam Poulin was sent down last weekend but didn’t play due to weather related travel issues. Poulin practiced with the team Tuesday on Coal Street.

Sean Josling was returned to Wheeling on Thursday morning.

So, yeah, barring anything unforeseen the team is at 100% capacity. No one is on recall to Pittsburgh.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week the remainder of the month?

I think the questions you have to ask yourself when a team is on a losing streak are as follows. I will answer as it applies to the Penguins.

Are these problems correctable? (yes)
Is it a personnel problem? (I don’t think so)
Is it a coaching problem? (No)

If the reverse is true to any of the questions above, we have a problem. I don’t think it is though. They are working through things. Teams have film on them now also, remember.

If you asked me to put a finger on it, it’s defensive idiocy with the puck and a lack of any kind of scoring from any line anywhere. Sometimes, if you are without one and have a lot of the other, you get the good to overshadow the bad and are able to work your way through it. The Penguins aren’t getting any scoring and their defense is suspect at this point. That’s why they are losing these close contests. Once you get one going, the other follows.

You’d rather these issues now in November then in March or April.

Who’s in goal?

I’m not going to predict this. Filip Lindberg and Dustin Tokarski will get their fair share of work against a bevy of equally talented goaltenders in the Atlantic Division.

Who’s running the show?

Friday sees Michael Zyla and Mathieu Menniti wreaking havoc on evildoers and Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski on the lines.

Saturday sees Mason Riley and Jordan Deckard ensuring everything stays on the up and up with Bill Lyons and Trevor Disbennett on the lines.

Sean Fernandez and Jake Kamrass work Monday in Charlotte with Ryan Jackson and Brandon Grillo on the lines.

AHL hasn’t posted assignments past this coming Tuesday but it’s a safe enough bet that Fernandez / Kamrass will be the referees for Wednesday’s game with the Checkers and different linesmen.

Looking ahead…

Yikes, by the time we meet again for the Weekend Preview it will be December. A Saturday, December 3 home game against Bridgeport and then a Sunday trip to Hershey on December 4. If the Penguins don’t figure out their problems, the hits will keep coming in December and beyond.

Give us a bold prediction…

We will probably eat too much turkey on Thanksgiving and watch too much football. The American kind, not the World Cup, but I’ll probably watch the World Cup.

Weekend Preview: Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

Wait a minute, you lose two games after that hot start in October and it’s all despair here at the blog?

Not exactly, but the way that they lost, almost won but still lost last week in two games after looking invincible in October was a shock. Plus this fanbase is a fickle bunch, so I like to play to those strengths.

The headline also lets me run straight into this…

Music to set the mood…

You are always going to get me to find a classic banger like this.

OK. So maayyybe I am being a bit overdramatic by asking the question. But a close game Saturday, ineffectiveness on the power play, your captain losing a man in front leading to a goal rolling into a 4-0 hole after the second period Sunday only to storm back to 4-3 and drop two straight against Hershey is a bit disheartening because it’s the Bears.

Things to work on for sure that you hope they worked on this week at practice.

A Quote…

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
– Frederick Douglass

Remember how last week I said that we wouldn’t really be able to learn anymore about the Penguins unless or until they started hitting adversity? Well, I think we will learn a lot about the team this weekend. Read on.

The Setup…

Pair of home games Friday and Saturday against Hartford and Springfield, respectively. Hartford gave up five goals against Springfield last Friday and five more against Bridgeport last Saturday. The Wolf Pack hosted Springfield on this past Wednesday and held the Thunderbirds to just a goal and beat them 2-1 in a shootout.

After beating Hartford last Friday, Springfield hosted Providence last Saturday and lost 3-2. I gave you their most recent result in the paragraph above. They will be in Allentown Friday before heading up Saturday against the Pens.

Records

Wilkes-Barre is 6-2-1-0 good for 13 points and 3rd in the division. Springfield coming into Friday is 5-4-0-2 good for 6th with 12 points and Hartford is 7th with a 3-4-1-1 record and 8 points.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Note: This space may need to be updated depending on who, if anyone Pittsburgh recalls on the defensive end. They lost P-O Joseph and Jan Rutta Wednesday in Washington. If it isn’t I will drop a blurb under the Lineup discussion in the postgamer later against Hartford.

Edit: As soon as this post went up at 11 a.m., Pittsburgh announced they have recalled D Mark Friedman and sent back F Sam Poulin.

Drew O’Connor is back down, replacing him up to Pittsburgh was Filip Hallander. Sam Poulin remains up. Mitch Reinke and Jordan Frasca have company amongst the infirmed with Jamie Devane being re-added to the injury list, getting hurt on his first shift on Saturday against Hershey. As a result, Sean Josling was recalled from the Nailers Friday morning.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

How do they bounce back and look more prepared against two tough opponents again this week. Hartford should be (at least hypothetically) be the easier of the two opponents but again, I did project the Wolf Pack as an early Calder Cup favorite back a month ago when I did my season predictions.

You wish you could bottle up the third period in Hershey performance when they nearly erased a four goal deficit against Hershey and replicate it. I think you will see a more prepared team on both nights against the Wolf Pack and Thunderbirds.

Do I expect two more losses? No. The team is too talented and too well coached to lay two duds like they did against the Bears. Now, if the personnel is careless and sleepwalk through shifts, it is entirely plausible. But I don’t see that happening.

The adversity is here, as mentioned above, in micro form. Button up the issues which caused you to lose (very minor in my opinion) and reap the rewards of the time you put in righting those wrongs.

Who’s in goal? 

No reason to change course here. Dustin Tokarski will get a game (probably Saturday) and Filip Lindberg will get a game (probably Friday) – expect Louis Domingue for Hartford Friday and Joel Hofer for the Thunderbirds.

Who’s running the show?

Morgan MacPhee and Marc-Olivier Phaneuf have the Friday assignment with Trevor Disbennett and Patrick Dapuzzo on the lines. Saturday sees the same referee crew with John Rey and Spencer Knox coming in to work the lines.

Remarkable. 81 referees under contract to the American Hockey League this season and we see the same pairing on back to back nights. Real original.

Looking ahead…

May have to double this one up. Friday game against Hershey, Saturday trip to Bridgeport which should be a nice measuring stick game against a good Islanders team and then a Monday / Wednesday pair in Charlotte before Thanksgiving.

Give us a bold prediction…

Back on track with a pair of wins this week. Pens work overtime in one of them but come away with all four points.

Weekend Preview: Bear Hunt

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins enter November as the last unbeaten team in regulation in the American Hockey League and the #1 team in all of the 32 team AHL. The grind continues now as the month flips to November with more work to do, starting off with a home and home against the rival Hershey Bears.

Music to set the mood…

I have no idea what they are teaching kids these days and have openly said on a number of occasions that I would make for a terrible parent. I found the video relevant, however. I’d rather cats, instead.

A Quote…

For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally everyday that you train and every night that you dream.
– Bilal Zahoor

A lot, and I mean a lot of the success of the team starts with the work that J.D. Forrest and his staff have done in preparing the team week in and week out thus far. Trusting and executing the process. All that.

And the Award Goes To…

Dustin Tokarski was named AHL Goaltender of the Month for October on Tuesday. Any concerns (I had them) that Tokarski doesn’t have “it” anymore have been quelled by this award. 4-0-1 record, 1.38 GAA and a .949 SV% is pretty, pretty good for veteran player like Tokarski. There are a lot of good goalies in this league. The Goaltender of the Month Award is always one I hold in higher regard because there are so few goalie jobs available across the higher levels of professional hockey.

Mail Time!

I asked you to send me questions and some of you did. Let’s dig in…

Tony asks: What does the souvenir cup look like this year?
Answer: Good Question. The next time $7.50 burns a hole in my pocket and I want to spend it on a soda at the game, I will let you know.

Dean asks: Do you think such a great start and not so good for Pittsburgh will they start taking from Wilkes barre and go down hill
Answer: Currently? No. They don’t have cap space to just randomly pull guys up from the AHL. You saw that a few games back when Pittsburgh skated a forward short. They sent back Drake Caggiula and recalled Drew O’Connor on Monday. It’s cycling guys who have had good AHL weeks and rewarding them with an NHL call up, but when healthy, they have to send O’Connor and Sam Poulin back because they have no money to keep them around.

Patrick asks: Give me your October MVP.
Answer: Without the obvious choice of the aforementioned Tokarski, pick one of Ty Smith or Jonathan Gruden. Smith is a wiz with the puck, can quarterback the power play with ease and Gruden is the straw that stirs the drink and solidifies an already talented, young, hungry team with his return from injury.

Jean asks: Name another team other than the Penguins in the division we should worry about.
Answer: I think Bridgeport is the early leader in the clubhouse with their 6-1-1 record. Off to a good start, beating good teams (Charlotte, Providence, Springfield, Laval to name some) The Pens drop by November 19.

The Setup…

A home and home with the Hershey Bears Saturday in Wilkes-Barre and Sunday in Hershey. This is the second and third straight games against the Bears and already 25% of the games scheduled against the Chocolate and White.

Hershey thumped a lifeless Lehigh Valley team Sunday at home 4-1 and lost to the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday 4-2 and sandwiched in between was a 2-1 OT loss to the Penguins.

Could Hershey just be, average? Ask me in a month. They have Bridgeport twice, next week, Laval and then the Penguins on November 18. I’m not buying an average Bears squad just yet. I think the Pens are in another stratosphere and there will be a regression to the mean at some point.

Records

Pens are a league best 6-0-1, good for 13 points; Bears are 3-2-2 good for 8 points.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Sam Poulin and Drew O’Connor are on recall, Mitch Reinke has a lower body injury and could be back. Jordan Frasca has a lower body injury. Jamie Devane returned from injury last weekend. No one is up from Wheeling.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Can they get four points off the Bears this week? Can they stay undefeated? Can Tokarski stay hot? Will the power play improve?

They remain unfazed. They continue to ground teams to dust. They grind offenses. A switch of the calendar isn’t what is going to bring this team down is it?

I don’t think we will ‘learn’ anymore from this team until it starts hitting adversity. Losses, injuries, more call ups, what have you.

Who’s in goal?

Tokarski and Filip Lindberg in some form or fashion. I don’t think they let one of them go back to back. Same story applies for Zach Fucale and Hunter Shepard for the Bears.

Who’s running the show?

Jack Young and Patrick Hanrahan have the Saturday assignment. Kinda disappointed with this as we have seen these guys this year already. John Rey and Jud Ritter work the lines. On Sunday in Hershey, Young again and Peter Schlittenhardt are the referees with Michael Magee and Tyler Loftus on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Two home games Friday and Saturday against Hartford and Springfield respectively.

Give us a bold prediction…

Pens get a shutout this weekend. Filip Lindberg gets it.

Weekend Preview: Spooky SZN

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are coming off a weekend three in three sweep of the Laval Rocket, Hartford Wolf Pack and Providence Bruins. They have points in all of their games played thus far and now close out October with another set of tough opponents.

Music to Set the Mood….

It’s Halloween weekend, and the Phantoms are on the schedule. Come on, I had to.

A Quote…

Winning does not always mean being first, winning means you are doing better than you have done before.
– Bonnie Blair

So let’s see how long this little nice win streak to start the season takes us and for how long. Continue to improve in all facets. Keep going, don’t stop.

The Setup

Wednesday home game against Cleveland, Friday trip to Lehigh Valley and a Saturday trip to Hershey.

I think we have a good team here. Dustin Tokarski is the number one goalie. The defense is keeping other teams offenses in check and they are listening to the coaching staff and winning hockey games.

They won a pair of 2-1 games against Laval and Providence and coughed up a 3-0 lead in Hartford before winning in a shootout Saturday. There was a lot of good then there was bad and even if it was bad, there was enough credit on the good to where the bad didn’t stink through.

Cleveland’s penalty kill stinks, at the bottom of the 32 team AHL but the power play is near the top. Go figure. They lost in Utica last Friday, beat the Phantoms in overtime Saturday and lost a close one Sunday in Allentown. All one goal games, like the Pens, but they don’t have the luck right now. The Pens do.

Lehigh Valley played Cleveland last weekend, so let’s skip to Hershey.

Bears blow a lead in Charlotte Friday and lose 5-4. They lose in the rematch Saturday in overtime.

I expect better from Hershey and I am sure those in Chocolatetown do as well.

Bears will be in Hartford Wednesday, will have Friday off. Lehigh doesn’t play Wednesday.

Records

Pens are 3-0-1-0 good for 7 points; Hershey is 2-1-1-0 good for 5 and Lehigh Valley is also 2-1-1-0 and has 5 points.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Drake Caggiula and Sam Poulin were recalled before Sunday’s game in Providence. Mitch Reinke left the Hartford game with a lower body injury. Jamie Devane remains day to day and I think Jordan Frasca is still week to week. No one was sent down or recalled from Wheeling. Sean Josling signed a contract Wednesday and was assigned to Wheeling.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

How long and how far this momentum lasts and where it takes them. They seem unbeatable in stretches (when Tokarski is in net) and unfazed by things (coughing up a 3-0 lead in Hartford, winning in a shootout) Lehigh Valley back at their place for the first time this season will be a big test as will the first meeting with the Hershey Bears on Saturday.

Three more wins this week? We may have something good. But you still have to navigate the doldrums of November, December and January and all the injuries and recalls which will inevitably occur.

Getting Jonathan Gruden back Friday and having him available for all three games and no, “night off because you are working off an injury” was sneaky big, too.

Who’s in Goal? 

I don’t think they go back to back with goalies so I think it’s Lindberg’s start Wednesday, Tokarski on the road in Allentown and then Lindberg again in Hershey. Flip it if Lindberg is out first Wednesday.

Cleveland will probably go Jet Greaves Wednesday. Lehigh Valley will likely go back to Troy Grosenick and toss a coin for Zach Fucale or Hunter Shepard for the Bears.

Who is running the show?

Casey Terreri and Michael Zyla have the Wednesday assignment with J.P. Waleski and Tyler Loftus on the lines. Jake Kamrass and Patrick Hanrahan work the Friday game with Bill Lyons and Jud Ritter. On Saturday it’s Kamrass again with Mason Riley. Tommy George and Colin Gates will handle the lines.

Looking ahead…

The calendar flips to November and it’s a Saturday / Sunday home and home with the Hershey Bears. So that’s three in a row against the Chocolate and White. Important stretch of games here for the Penguins in the bigger scope of things.

Give us a bold prediction…

I’m not going to be passing out any Hershey’s candies to someone else’s kids on Halloween.

Weekend Preview: Pair of Threes

One of the two three in three weekends will be played by the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this weekend when they host the Laval Rocket on Friday then hit the road to face the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday and the Providence Bruins on Sunday afternoon.

Music to Set the Mood…

The 80’s were something else, man.

A Quote

If you run from a wolf, you may run into a bear.
– Lithuanian proverb

I like this one. I’ve got Hartford and Hershey pegged as the class of the Atlantic Division field early. If one doesn’t lead the other one will. Plus, it ties in nicely to the weekend of play with the Wolf Pack and Bruins.

The Setup

Laval, Hartford and Providence, all within the span of about 48 hours. A good test to see what kind of team we have under us.

About that… we really don’t know what kind of team we have under us just yet. They lost in overtime with 1.4 seconds left Saturday to Lehigh Valley and a power outage in Utica on Monday cut short what was at the time a 2-1 Comets lead. That game was suspended and will be completed January 24. So the Pens are technically still 0-0-1-0.

Laval hosted Springfield Wednesday and shut them out 2-0. Cayden Primeau had 34 saves. Last weekend the Rocket played the Belleville Senators in a home and home and lost in OT last Friday and straight up on Saturday.

Hartford was in Charlotte last weekend and were swept. They lost Friday in overtime 4-3 and Saturday straight up 3-1. The Checkers cumulatively went 3/10 on the power play in both games.

Providence looks really good, dropping Bridgeport 3-1 Friday and beating Springfield 4-3 Sunday. Keith Kinkaid stopped 42 shots Friday and Fabian Lysell had three assists Sunday. Bruins went 2/4 on the power play but Springfield also struck twice on the power play in six tries.

So we may not know what kind of team we have under us until next week.

Records

The Pens enter the weekend 0-0-1-0 … Laval has a 1-1-1-0 record … Hartford is 0-1-1-0 and Providence shows 2-0-0-0. Early days.

Man, am I glad percentage points are gone for good.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Sam Houde took a skate to the face Saturday and missed Monday’s game in Utica….Chris Ortiz was sent to Wheeling Monday….Jonathan Gruden is day to day….Jordan Frasca is week to week….Jamie Devane has a middle body injury (that’s new) and they still need to evaluate. Coal Street sent goalie Taylor Gauthier down to Wheeling on Wednesday. No one is presently on recall to Pittsburgh.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Three more tough opponents. I wanted to look at the production from the top six but when I did it was good, accounting for more than 80% of the offense. I wouldn’t expect any major shake ups to the top six. I would, however, shake up the defense. Laval isn’t going to be a pushover. Hartford had a bad weekend in Charlotte on the road but have their home opener and have a lot of great expectations this season. Providence looks elite, but it’s only two games.

Are we grinding for goals as we were last Saturday against the Phantoms or chasing the game with questionable defense from veteran leaders as we saw in parts in Utica?

The more I think of it, the more of a story the absence of Jonathan Gruden will be to this team. Penalty killer. Bottom six forward. Drink stirrer. Felix Robert ain’t walking through that door till Syracuse comes to town.

Who is in goal?

They gave Dustin Tokarski the start Saturday which was a shock to me. I think they go back to Filip Lindberg again Friday, Tokarski Saturday against his old team in Hartford and Lindberg Sunday in Providence. Flip it if Tokarski comes out first Friday. I don’t think anyone plays back to back.

The aforementioned Cayden Primeau gave up six against Troy Mann’s Belleville Senators on Friday. Kevin Poulin fared no better Saturday against the Senators. I think it’s Primeau’s start, especially coming off of the shutout Wednesday against the Thunderbirds, but there’s the whole travel and crossing the border you have to deal with so it may actually be Poulin’s start. I’m glad I don’t wager on these!

Louis Domingue will likely face off against his old team Saturday for the Wolf Pack’s home opener. Toss a coin for Kyle Keyser or Keith Kinkaid for the Bruins Sunday, who will also be playing their third game in as many nights, but all at home.

Who is running the show?

Conor O’Donnell and Amanda Tassoni have the assignment on Friday with Josh Cleary and Bill Lyons on the lines. Saturday up in Hartford, it’s Dre Barone and Mike Dietrich doling out penalties and Trevor Disbennett and Nick Briganti on the lines. Sunday in Providence, Dietrich again with Rob Hennessey and Dan Kelly and Stephen Drain on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Cleveland drops in for an ever popular weekday home game, Wednesday when they take on the Penguins at 7:05. Then the Pens stay in state with a Friday trip to Allentown to take on the Phantoms and then Hershey to visit the Bears Saturday.

Give us a bold prediction…

I’ll slowly warm up to work night home games.

Weekend Preview: Welcome to the Black Parade

Back and marginally better than last year, the Weekend Preview returns, setting up the week or so of play for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, who kickoff the regular season a day later than the official start, Friday or today, on Saturday night against in state rival Lehigh Valley and then wrap up opening weekend with a rare Monday game up in Utica, the Pens only visit up to the Comets this season.

I’m going to try to spice these up with a YouTube video of some relevance to the weekends proceedings and a quote to tie it all in before diving right in to the where’s, why’s and what’s of the weekend slate of games.

Easy enough start. Parade of a slimmed down 72 game schedule starts out of the gate with a 6:05 Saturday home game against Lehigh Valley.

A Quote

Old Men and Comets have been reverenced for the same reason:
their long beards. and presences to foretell events.
– Jonathan Swift

Utica did pretty well last year. I know in my AHL Preview I gave you yesterday that I really wanted to see how the Penguins stacked up against the Hartford Wolf Pack on October 22 because I loved all of the signings made by the Wolf Pack, but if the Penguins roll out of the gate hot with a 2-0 start against a Utica team they did pretty well against last year, they can really pick up momentum as they have traditionally done in seasons past.

One weekend does not a season make, but you have waited (conceivably) all summer for this, you want it to go well.

The Setup

Lehigh Valley and Utica home and away respectively. How do the Penguins fare against a Phantoms team which stunk last year and brought back the coach that oversaw the flaming wreckage? As I said yesterday, I think Wilkes-Barre improved and got worse at the same time. I like the Jon Lizotte signing a lot. I like bringing back Alex Nylander. Xavier Ouellet provides solid defensive depth. Goaltender Dustin Tokarski has a lot of miles on him but Tommy Nappier is more than capable and a logjam in goal with Filip Lindberg back and healthy will make for great competition. I don’t like losing Jordy Bellerive to rival Lehigh Valley and Hershey is primed and ready to cause chaos. Remaining essentially the same, but different, may not be the best concoction for the Pens. But time will tell.

Utica did well for itself last year under the new New Jersey Devils regime, running away with the North Division but stumbled in the Semifinals, getting bounced in five games against Rochester. They are primed and ready for another run and should not be taken as a pushover.

In my (whatever it’s worth) preview I gave you yesterday, I have the Comets finishing third behind Laval and Syracuse.

Who’s in Goal?

I think you have to start with your horse, so for the Pens that is going to be Filip Lindberg on Saturday and possibly Monday, if not then likely the backup which should be Dustin Tokarski up in Utica. Tommy Nappier was sent to Wheeling Thursday evening, so that eases some of the bottleneck for the Pens in goal.

For Lehigh Valley Troy Grosenick will likely be out first for the Phantoms. For Utica, they are in Hershey Saturday night and I think that’s Akira Schmid’s start meaning that Nico Daws gets the start Monday. You can flip that and have Daws go Saturday and Schmid for the Comets home opener, but that’s overthinking another teams lineup.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Enjoy it. Full strength. Everyone who should be in Pittsburgh is in Pittsburgh. Everyone who should be here is here. Wheeling gets going next week.

It won’t last long, as history has shown.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Do they have a finisher? What’s the power play / penalty kill look like? How physical will they look?

I think that’s a general question which can be applied to the other 31 teams in the AHL. Will it be a grind for the Pens, as it was in parts during last year or will it come easy and for how long does it last before the inevitable callups and injuries occur?

If you forced me to answer, it’s going to be a little of both. Pittsburgh is one of the oldest teams in the NHL, so they aren’t getting any younger. There are going to be injuries, which will prompt call ups. The Pens are bare prospect wise, so where will they go if the leading scorer goes up? Who steps up and how?

Pens play two games this weekend. I think a fair assessment can be made with the following guide:

0-2: Work needs to be done.
1-1: Can live with it.
2-0: Keep going, don’t stop.

I’m discounting loser points. *shrug*

Who is running the show?

Weekend assignments usually come out around Wednesday. The AHL usually doesn’t play on Monday’s but in this case the Pens do. This is a long explanation that I don’t have the Monday crew. Mystery refs!

Jack Young and Casey Terreri are your first pair of refs to yell at Saturday with Patrick Dapuzzo and J.P. Waleski on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Let’s get one of the only two three-in-three’s out of the way as soon as possible. Pens host Laval next Friday, October 21st, then travel to Hartford on the 22nd and then Providence for a Sunday matinee on the 23rd.

Give us a bold prediction…

Three power play goals will be scored this weekend, Penguins win both games.