Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Weekend Preview

Weekend Preview: Stuffed Checkers

After mining three out of a possible four points in Springfield and Providence last weekend, its a quick turnaround and a visit to North Carolina for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins who face off against the Charlotte Checkers in midweek action before heading home for Thanksgiving and rematching with the Providence Bruins at home Saturday night.

The Setup

The power play drought ended on the first one awarded last weekend which snapped an 0/36 skid that the Penguins were on. Drew O’Connor, fresh down form Pittsburgh made an immediate impact across both contests that the Penguins played in, scoring three goals. A 5-4 shootout loss in Springfield was followed up by a pretty good 3-1 win in Providence.

The Pens travel down to North Carolina for a Tuesday / Wednesday night set against the Checkers. The Penguins are 1-2 against the Checkers so far this season and 1-1 against Saturday’s opponent, the Providence Bruins.

The Checkers were in Hershey Sunday after becoming just another notch on the Utica Comets belt Friday. The Comets dismantled the Checkers 4-1. On Sunday in Hershey, the Checkers were beaten by the Bears 4-2.

Providence was last in action last Saturday against the Penguins but will have played in Hershey on Wednesday and in Bridgeport on Friday.

The Records

The Penguins are 7-6-0-2, good for .533 percentage points and 5th in the Atlantic Division. The Checkers are 7-7-1-0, in sixth and .500 and the Bruins, at the time this hits the blog Tuesday, are 6-5-2-1 and good for .536 percentage points, but this will change by the time the Bruins hit the ice in Wilkes-Barre Saturday having played in two more games.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Anthony Angello continues to flip flop from day to day, week to week, to day to day with his lower body injury. Who the hell knows.

Filip Lindberg is week to week with a lower body injury. The Penguins have made no transactions so far this week, giving the wire a break.

What can we learn from the Penguins this week?

If Drew O’Connor plays in all three games, how much does he factor in to the result? Do the Pens pull out a win with him going scoreless and with three shots or does the offense run through him? That isn’t going to be good once he’s inevitably recalled leaving the Penguins back at square one again.

There has been some continuity with the defense corps, which is good. Regardless of what happens up front, it should be interesting to see how the defense tries to contain the Checkers offense and how much of that plays into the ultimate outcome of the games this week. I’d like to see a shutout thrown in here somewhere.

Who’s in Goal?

I don’t want to think that the Penguins drive Louis Domingue until the wheels fall off but they made a liar out of me last weekend when I said that with him seeing 39 shots in Springfield there was little chance he started the next night in Providence. Not only did he do that, he went out and won too.

Do I think Domingue gets both games in Charlotte? Maybe. Is it a foregone conclusion that Tommy Nappier is just there for show? Maybe, too. He has to get his reps in but if you want to ride the hot hand and keep Domingue’s workload to a minimum Tuesday, why not go directly back to him Wednesday? It’s possible that head coach J.D. Forrest does just that.

For the Checkers you will see Joey Daccord and Christopher Gibson in some form or fashion on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Providence has a brutal at Hershey Wednesday, at Bridgeport Friday then at Wilkes-Barre Saturday at 6:05 on their schedule this week. It’s a hellish week of work, so who knows this far out who they go with Saturday. It’s either Troy Grosenick, working his way back from injury or Kyle Keyser, who the Pens saw on Saturday.

Who is running the show?

Referees Brett Roeland and Cody Beach get the two day assignment from the AHL as do linesmen Brian Pincus and Scott Senger. You aren’t having refs shuffle in and out there on back to back games. They send who they need to and then its onto the next city.

For Saturday in Wilkes-Barre, Mason Riley and Jim Curtin get the assignment and Tom George and Tom DellaFranco will handle the lines.

Looking ahead...

I don’t want to. The next time the Penguins hit the ice after this week it will be December already and time for snow. Speaking of snow and cold, the Penguins will travel to the coldest spot in the Eastern Conference next Friday when they face off against the Syracuse Crunch, then it’s back home again next Saturday night against the Charlotte Checkers and then get ready, the Hershey Bears make their debut on the schedule for the Penguins and in a big way. Four out of the next five are against the Bears, who the Penguins will see six times total in the month of December.

Give us a bold prediction…

You won’t shovel any snow until January. Happy Thanksgiving.

Weekend Preview: Northeast Extension

Seeking their first power play goal since the Carter Administration, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins embark on a four game road trip. This weekend sees the Penguins in Springfield, Massachusetts for a date with the Thunderbirds Friday, then off to Providence, Rhode Island for a Saturday night date with the Bruins.

The Setup

The Pens played in three games last week and won just one of them. They got smoked by Rochester Wednesday at home 5-1, beat the Charlotte Checkers at home 2-1 Friday on a late goal by defenseman Chris Bigras then were shut out the next night against the same Checkers side 4-0. Cole Schwindt bagged a natural hat trick and goaltender Chris Gibson, of his sub .900 save percentage and plus 4 goals against coming into that game, shut them out.

Springfield comes off a 2-1 overtime win last Saturday and a 6-4 setback against Hartford the night prior. They also lost their leading scorer, defenseman Scott Perunovich, to recall by the St. Louis Blues this week.

Providence, on the other hand, suffered the same fate as the Penguins in that they only won one game last weekend too with a 6-3 pasting of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last Friday at home then a loss in overtime to the Hartford Wolf Pack last Saturday at home.

The Records

On account of a loss by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Sunday, the Penguins moved up to sixth in the Atlantic on percentage points. The Penguins are a .500 club with a 6-6-0-1 record….Providence is a few percentage points better in fifth place at .542 percentage points with a 5-4-2-1 record and Springfield still sits atop the Atlantic with a 9-2-2 record and a .769 points percentage.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Wilkes-Barre got help in the form of defenseman P-O Joseph and Juuso Riikola, goaltender Louis Domingue and forward Drew O’Connor all being sent down on Sunday when Pittsburgh returned back from its Canada trip, seemingly at full strength health wise and COVID free.

In related transactions, the Penguins sent forward Sam Houde, defensemen Chris Ortiz and Dylan MacPherson back to Wheeling. MacPherson was released from his PTO.

Injury wise, forward Anthony Angello still has yet to appear in a game from his lower body injury. His status was finally switched from the laughable day to day variety to a more manageable week to week. Goaltender Filip Lindberg left after the second period on Friday and has a lower body injury. He was sent for an MRI this week. His status is unknown, but figure with a diagnostic such as an MRI, he’s week to week. The Penguins had to recall Alex D’Orio from Wheeling for Saturday but sent him back Sunday with the return to Domingue from Pittsburgh.

What can we learn from the Penguins this week?

The special teams are an unmitigated disaster, top to bottom. They haven’t scored a power play goal in their last 36 tries and have given up a league high four short handed goals in the process. While not all directly responsible for the losses of late, bagging a power play goal or maybe not allowing an opponent to score short handed may tip the scales in their favor.

Do I think that P-O Joseph is the straw that stirs the drink? No. I don’t. This club has so many gaping holes offensively and defensively that one player isn’t the entire team.

However, this influx of top end talent should help.

Otherwise, you have to build the roadmap of a game by not allowing the opponent to score first and keep it close like they did Friday against Charlotte. If not, things can and will go off the rails quickly, as it did Wednesday against Rochester and Saturday again against the Checkers.

It kind of has to be a back to basics type of thing with this club, which is a silly thing to say given the fact you are dealing with professional athletes playing the game at the second highest level in the world.

Who’s in Goal?

Louis Domingue Friday in Springfield and, depending on the work rate he faces then, right back to him Saturday in Providence. You will pretty much know or have a feel for it after the first or second period. If the Pens are in a close one, and limiting the Thunderbirds in shots and chances against, Domingue should have enough in the tank to go right back in net again Saturday in Providence. Tommy Nappier is capable, but if you are looking to essentially rebuild and hit restart on the young season, you want your de facto number one goalie to carry you through the short two game road set this weekend.

Expect Joel Hofer Friday to oppose Domingue Friday in Springfield and likely Kyle Keyser Saturday in Providence.

Who is running the show?

Rob Hennessey and Carter Sandlak have the assignment Friday with Ryan Jackson and Nick Briganti on the lines. For Saturday, Carter Sandlak and Ryan Jackson again (I wonder if they carpool?) with Referee Jason Williams and linesman Kenneth Gates.

Looking ahead…

Quick turnaround for the Pens as they will bus back Saturday after the game in Providence, a likely day off Sunday and then a travel day Monday for a flight down to Charlotte for a pair of games there Tuesday and Wednesday.

Give us a bold prediction…

One of the players sent down by Pittsburgh has an immediate impact in both games and the Penguins win them both.

Weekend Preview: American Checkers

Clear of the Lehigh Valley’s and Hartford’s of the Atlantic Division scheduling, it’s time to set up for new foes for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

The Setup

Last week wasn’t a very good week for the Penguins who gave the aforementioned Phantoms their first win of the season last Wednesday and then followed that showing up with another dud at home against the Providence Bruins. 4-0 and then 6-2 were the scores respectively there. Then, Saturday in Hartford the Penguins had a third period comeback fall short and lost 4-3.

This week it’s the Rochester Americans and then a pair with the Charlotte Checkers, all at home, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. All 7:05 starts but for that Saturday game which, like all of them will this season, start at 6:05.

Rochester split a pair of home games last week, beating Belleville 4-3 last Wednesday and then losing 4-1 to the Marlies on Friday. Amerks sit second in the North Division with a .625 win percentage.

Chalotte hosted Lehigh Valley for a pair down in North Carolina this past weekend and also split with the Phantoms, winning big Saturday and then losing the Sunday matinee rematch.

The Records

Pens are 5-4-0-1, good for 11 points and fifth in the Atlantic…Rochester is 5-3, good for ten points and second in the North…. Charlotte is 4-4-1 with nine points good for sixth in the Atlantic.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out

Matt Alfaro was here for a game then sent back to Wheeling. Taylor Fedun went up to Pittsburgh joining P.O. Joseph, Wilkes-Barre recalled Chris Ortiz. Jamie Devane is out longer term, Anthony Angello may come back from his “day to day” status and finally appear in a game this week.

Penguins signed Dylan MacPherson to a PTO up from Wheeling on Tuesday morning. They got out ahead of the later announcement that Cam Lee was suspended for two games as a result of the hit on Patrick Khodorenko Saturday in Hartford.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

When the offense isn’t there, like it wasn’t in Allentown Wednesday, you are going to lose big. When the defense and special teams isn’t there like it was Friday against Providence and then in some forms like Saturday in Hartford, you are going to lose big.

Goaltending is there. But in order to get an engine to hum, it’s more about gears and sprockets and spark plugs. The whole unit has to time and fire at the same time if you want it to do anything. The Penguins have seemed out of sync recently and you can blame it on the roster being in flux with call ups both ways to Pittsburgh and from Wheeling. But eventually, you need to score a goal (which they didn’t do in Allentown last Wednesday) and you need to kill a penalty (Providence struck three times on the power play Friday) and you need to score a power play goal, which they didn’t do in seven tries in Hartford and haven’t done in their last 20 tries.

They need to pick it up, because Rochester is a very deep and talented team and the same can be said about Charlotte. Expectations this week should be 3 or more points across the three games. Anything less and you are piling on and getting deeper and deeper in the Atlantic Division with a tougher way back up. And Hershey hasn’t even been seen yet on the schedule.

Who’s in Goal?

Lindberg – Domingue – Lindberg is the way I would play it this week, in that order if I am J.D. Forrest.

Rochester is likely rolling with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen if Aaron Dell isn’t back from Buffalo on Wednesday. Both goalies have +3 GAA and a SV% right around the .900 level, so get to them early and often when you can.

Charlotte will roll with Antoine Bibeau and Joey Accord in some combination Friday and Saturday.

Who’s Running the Show?

Mike Dietrich and Peter Schlittenhardt have the Wednesday assignment with Tyler Loftus and Patrick Dapuzzo manning the lines. Then on Friday, Mitch Dunning and Laura White will be in the orange armbands. It will be the second time that a female official runs a Penguins game, Katie Guay had the opening night assignment against the Phantoms about a month ago. Joining White and Dunning is Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski. Mason Riley and Mike Sullivan are here Saturday with Colin Gates and Richard Jondo working the lines.

Looking ahead…

Friday / Saturday road trip up to Springfield and Providence. Schedule doesn’t get any easier, nor should it.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins score a power play goal in each game this week.

Weekend Preview: Ghost Bear Wolf

What is this, last week? Phantoms and Wolf Pack again? Again? It’s the third week in a row we’ve played these clowns!

Oh, hey, Providence. They are new.

Anyway, let’s get into this weeks preview.

The Setup

Last week the Pens hosted the Phantoms for a midweek game then took off to Hartford and Springfield for a weekend road trip. They got points out of all of the contests. They have points in five straight actually. Last week it was a 4-2 win at home against Lehigh Valley Wednesday, a 3-2 shootout loss in Hartford Friday and a 4-3 overtime win in Springfield on Saturday.

This week it’s a Wednesday jaunt down the PA Turnpike to Allentown followed by a Friday home game against Providence then a Saturday trip back up to Hartford.

The Phantoms played up in Utica last Friday then hosted Syracuse Saturday. They are still winless. They had leads they couldn’t hold onto in Utica and again at home against Syracuse. As mentioned in my AHL Power Rankings from just yesterday, this team stinks.

The Bruins hosted the Checkers Friday then traveled to Bridgeport Saturday. They beat the Checkers and lost to the Islanders. The Bruins are struggling too, but not on the level of the Phantoms.

Hartford hosted Charlotte Saturday then went trick or treating Sunday in Bridgeport. They lost to Charlotte but pasted Bridgeport Sunday.

I’m sick of Lehigh Valley and Hartford!

Just wait, after this week, you’ll be sick of Charlotte who the Penguins see four times in November. There are two more meetings with Providence in there too.

And we haven’t even gotten to Hershey yet, who isn’t even on the schedule until December.

The Records

Pens are 5-1-0-1, good for second in the Atlantic. Phantoms are 0-5-2-0, good for last. Wolf Pack are fourth (5-2-1-0) and Providence is seventh (2-3-1-1)

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Anthony Angello is still, “day to day” with a lower body injury. I don’t know how you can say that with a straight face when, seven games into a season and already through a month, Angello has yet to appear in a contest. Joining him from Saturday were Michael Chaput and Jamie Devane, with day to day lower body injuries. Whether either are available this week is anyone’s guess. Kasper Bjorkqvist was returned from Pittsburgh on Saturday. Radim Zohorna was injured Saturday in Springfield. P.O. Joseph went up Sunday because two defensemen went in the COVID protocol. On Tuesday morning, Coal Street recalled Justin Almeida and signed Matt Alfaro to a PTO from the Wheeling Nailers.

Zohorna was injured on this hit that Tanner Kaspick laid on him and Kaspick was suspended for one game on Wednesday by the AHL.

Who’s in Goal?

It’s probably the same as it was last week, Filip Lindberg Wednesday, Louis Domingue Friday and then Lindberg again Saturday. For the opposition expect Felix Sandstrom Wednesday, Kyle Keyser for Providence on Friday and then likely Adam Huska for the Wolf Pack since Hartford will likely roll out Keith Kinkaid when they host Bridgeport the night prior on Friday.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Are they lucky or good or a little of both? Forget about Lehigh Valley for a second. They make everyone look good. The Penguins were outplayed in Hartford last Friday and lucky to earn a point. The Penguins were outclassed in the third period up in Springfield and lucky enough to not blow the lead entirely and good enough to win in overtime. So maybe it’s a little of both, and that can be a good thing.

I still don’t think we get an answer because Providence hasn’t been playing the best of late either and the Penguins always manage to eke out a point against Hartford. There’s always next week.

Who’s running the show?

Scheduled refereess for this week is Reid Anderson and Mason Riley with Josh Cleary and Tom DellaFranco on the lines on Wednesday. On Friday in Wilkes-Barre, it’s Patrick Hanrahan (again, third time so far) and Stephen Hiff handing penalties with Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski on the lines. Then Saturday in Hartford, Rob Hennessy and Michael Zyla get the officiating assignment with Kenneth Gates and Brent Colby on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Three straight home games. Rochester makes their only trip of the season on Wednesday, then Charlotte sets up shop for a Friday / Saturday series. I’d rather it flipped, having Charlotte here Wednesday and Friday, that way you get Rochester, a team that comes in every now and then, in front of more folks on a Saturday instead of about 2,000 on a goofy midweek Wednesday. But I don’t make the schedule.

Remember that those Saturday home games in Wilkes-Barre start at 6:05.

Give us a bold prediction…

Valtteri Puustinen breaks out in a major way this week and transfers that strong showing into AHL Player of the Week honors next week.

Weekend Preview: Phantom Thunder Packs

I totally don’t know what a, “Phantom Thunder Pack” is, but with Halloween this coming Sunday, it had to be a scary theme so with three games this week with Lehigh Valley (Wednesday) Hartford (Friday) and Springfield (Saturday) it kind of fits with the idea I kind of am painting myself into a corner with.

The Setup

Last weekend the Penguins hosted the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday and then had their first road game of the season Sunday in Allentown. They won both games in overtime. Kasper Bjorkqvist played the hero Friday against Hartford, Valtteri Puustinen played the hero on Sunday against Lehigh Valley. 

The home and home with Lehigh Valley gets paid off with Wednesday’s week night home game (yay!) and then the Penguins take a road trip to Hartford Friday then Springfield Saturday.

Wolf Pack were in action last Saturday when they visited the Phantoms and won in regulation 3-1. Pack are off to a surprising 3-1-1 start. 

Springfield stayed rather busy last weekend with a good old three in three, taking five of six points in a home and home against Bridgeport and a Sunday game against Providence. Springfield has Wednesday and Friday off. Hartford has off Wednesday too. Lucky dogs.

These Guys, Again?

Yeah, such is life in the American Hockey League. This is the third meeting with the Phantoms so far, one more again November 3rd, then that’s all for them until January. Those other PA rivals in Hershey the Pens don’t see till December. Gotta get these games out of the way with the teams only playing 72 games (Hartford)

The Records

Pens are 3-1, good for third in the division behind Springfield and Hershey; the Phantoms are in dead last in the division with an 0-3-1 record. Springfield leads the division with a 4-0-1 start and Hartford is 3-1-1, right behind the Penguins in fourth.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Through October 27, Justin Almeida and Tommy Nappier were assigned to Wheeling on Tuesday. Kasper Bjorkqvist was recalled to Pittsburgh Monday and Juuso Riikola was recalled sometime last Saturday. Anthony Angello remains day to day with a lower body injury, but should be back sooner than later.

Who’s in Goal

I’d go right back to Domingue Wednesday if I am J.D. Forrest. Styles make fights and Domingue had a hell of a showing for him Sunday in Allentown. But it’s probably Filip Lindberg in the cage Wednesday, then probably again Friday in Hartford then Domingue Saturday in Springfield. 

Opposition wise, expect the starters for every opponent since they all play the Penguins first this week. So that’s Felix Sandstrom this Wednesday at home against the Phantoms, Keith Kinkaid Friday in Hartford and then Joel Hofer Saturday in Springfield.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Winning is fun, isn’t it? The Penguins are off to a decent start. They have a rough rack of opponents to navigate through this week with another shot at Lehigh Valley Wednesday, then up to Hartford who played them tight last Friday in Wilkes-Barre then to Springfield who very may well be the best team in the AHL right now, rested and ready for anything the Penguins throw at them Saturday night. 

You aren’t winning the division in the first month of the season, but I am going to be really interested in seeing how they come out Saturday against a rested, ready and really good Springfield side. Sweep the week or get 5 of 6 points, then maybe the Penguins could possibly be better than that six seed we predicted they finish in. For now, as again you aren’t winning a division at the beginning of the season with all the ups and downs that come with it.

Who is running the show?

Mike Dietrich and Patrick Hanrahan, who had Sunday’s assignment in Lehigh Valley, work Wednesday’s game with linesmen Ryan Knapp and Michael Magee. For Friday in Hartford, Mathieu Menniti is joined by new referee Dominic Cadieux with Glen Cooke and Kevin Briganti working the lines. On Saturday in Springfield, two brand new referees in Sam Bernier and Jack Young get the assignment with Caleb Apperson and Nick Briganti (Kevin’s brother, I think) working the lines.

Looking ahead…

Lehigh Valley next Wednesday, but at their place, followed by a home game Friday against Providence then back on the road up to Hartford. Equally, I think we have seen too much of the Wolf Pack also, as this will be the third meeting of the season between these two clubs, which is wild when you consider there 29 other teams in the league you can play (I know, I know…) but Wilkes-Barre won’t see the Wolf Pack again till March 13.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins will shutout one of their opponents this week.

Weekend Preview: Phantom Wolves

I don’t know about you, but I think “Phantom Wolf” would make for a hell of a team name. Maybe there is a high school somewhere in Nebraska who are known as the Phantom Wolves. All black jerseys, big, howling wolf that just intimidates opponents.

The Setup

Penguins coming off opening night weekend with a Jekyll and Hyde performance against Lehigh Valley (a win) and Charlotte (a loss) where they looked like two different teams. A gritty 2-1 win against the Phantoms followed up by a dud the next night with a 4-1 loss to the Checkers. 

Hartford comes in Friday, having their 2021-22 campaign begin with a good ol’ three in three. They beat Bridgeport last Friday 2-1 in their home opener, then lost 2-1 the next night in Springfield and then finished off the three in three weekend with a gritty 4-3 shootout win against the Providence Bruins. 

Then Penguins get Saturday night off, then square off against Lehigh Valley in what will end up being a home and home, Sunday in Allentown and next Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre. Lehigh was in Hershey last Sunday and lost 2-1. By the time the Pens face them Sunday, they will have played the Wolf Pack this Saturday night.

The Records

Coming into this weekend’s action, the Pens are 1-1, .500 and 6th in the Atlantic Division. The Wolf Pack are 2-1, .667 and 4th in the Atlantic and Lehigh Valley is in last place, 0-2 with a .000 percentage point.

Who’s in Goal

I got this completely wrong last week. I expect that to continue heading into week two, but here goes. Filip Lindberg will get one of the games, my guess Friday, and since Alex D’Orio was reassigned to Wheeling on Monday of this past week, either Tommy Nappier or maybe Louis Domingue coming off injury gets the road start Sunday in Allentown. But Domingue or Lindberg may be headed up, as it was revealed Thursday that Tristan Jarry was placed in COVID protocol. So, one of either Domingue / Lindberg are likely going up. With three goalies here, you don’t need to recall D’Orio. For the opposition, my guess is Keith Kinkaid for the Wolf Pack Friday and, with Lehigh playing the night before, backup Samuel Ersson for the Phantoms Sunday afternoon.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Oh boy, where to start. They looked like two completely different teams in each game. You want more of what you saw Saturday, obviously, than you did Sunday. But, it is a young team that will probably be chomping at the bit after a week of hard practice to get out there again for another home game Friday and then for a road trip to Allentown Sunday. Hartford can run and gun it looks like, so the Pens will need to keep that in check. Normally you know where you stand in the first ten minutes of a hockey game after a bad performance like the one you saw Sunday. Then, with Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms are getting these same Wolf Pack on Saturday, having off Friday. No one can discount the firepower that the Phantoms possess. Gotta keep that in check in a hostile environment Sunday. 

Who is running the show?

Scheduled referees as assigned by the American Hockey League are Rob Hennessey and Beau Halkidis Friday night in Wilkes-Barre and Dan Kelly, who you may remember as a referee last year and Tyler Loftus on the lines. Kelly switched to linesman late last season. For Sunday, it’s Halkidis again joined by Patruck Hanrahan calling penalties with John Rey and J.P. Waleski handling the lines.

Looking ahead…

Lehigh Valley is in next Wednesday to pay off the home and home, then the Pens take to the road with a game in Hartford next Friday and then a Saturday game in Springfield to close out the month of October.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins score five goals this weekend and win both games. 

Weekend Preview: Checkers with Ghosts

I am replacing the old “Gameday” setups for something new, a Weekend Setup which for me is going to be easier to write and put together. Most of what was contained in the Gameday setups will carryover in these, but instead of writing 76 of them, which is a bear when you really don’t want to sometimes, I am only going to run these once or so a week previewing the weekend set of games ahead. Every game that the Penguins play this season will get a mention, so I am not going to miss any game, don’t worry. Your input is vital to these, so let me know what you think.

Also, NEW CATEGORY ALERT – say hello to “Weekend Preview”

Anyway, here we go…

The Setup

The Penguins are off on opening night in the AHL, with 12 teams playing Friday night and just two (Bridgeport visits Hartford) Atlantic Division teams getting started tonight. It’s a rare, but usual Friday at the start of the season, night off for Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.

Wilkes-Barre hosts Lehigh Valley Saturday night at 6:05 and Charlotte Sunday afternoon at 3:05. Charlotte will be in Hershey Saturday before trekking up to visit the Penguins for a Sunday matinee.

It important to note that for Saturday night home games in Wilkes-Barre this season, every game will start at 6:05. Jeff Barrett explained why:

“We made a conscious effort to move our Saturday home games to an hour earlier in order to accommodate our many families who come to the games with young children,” said Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett. “Down the line, we hope to have the opportunity to host some post-game events for these nights, too. Fans should stay tuned on that front.”

Who’s in Goal

It’s probably going to be the Alex D’Orio show Saturday then Louis Domingue Sunday against Charlotte. I’d guess that Felix Sandstrom goes for Lehigh Valley Saturday and Christopher Gibson goes Sunday for the Checkers.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

It’s really going to be interesting, because you have one subset of fans that thinks they can be a playoff team and another cadre of fans that don’t have them winning more than 30 games. It’s a young, hungry side playing against a team that is better than them and more established on paper in Lehigh Valley (also a blood rival they will see 11 more times this weekend) and a Charlotte team that didn’t play last year because of COVID and splitting an affiliation with Seattle that looks good, at least on paper. Do you take a 1-1 start right now? Do you feel good starting 0-2? It’s a lot to build off of. It’s going to be a competitive division and every percentage point is going to count. Get off on the right foot and catch some teams sleeping now while you have the home ice advantage.

Who is running the show?

History is going to be made Saturday night because for the first time ever in the AHL, you will have a woman calling penalties. Katie Guay makes her AHL officiating debut donning the orange armbands, joined by Brandon Schrader. Guay is part of nine other female officials hired by the League this year. Joined on the lines with Guay and Schrader, J.P. Waleski and Patrick Dapuzzo will call offsides, break up scrums, handle most of the faceoffs and rule on icing calls. On Sunday, Michael Zyla, another new referee this year is joined by Brandon Schrader, who will stick around after Saturday’s assignment. On the lines Sunday afternoon are Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski.

Looking ahead…

Pens have a home game next Friday, October 22 against the Hartford Wolf Pack, then a rare Saturday night off, then make their first road trip of the season down the PA Turnpike to Allentown to play the Phantoms next Sunday afternoon. Lehigh Valley returns the favor and visit the Penguins for a Wednesday night game in Wilkes-Barre on October 27. The season series against the Phantoms will be 25% over before November 1!

Give us a Bold Prediction

I still won’t like Sunday afternoon games.