Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Weekend Preview

Weekend Preview – Play Your Kids

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins secured the number four seed in the Atlantic Division Sunday evening when their first round opponent in the Calder Cup Playoff, the Hershey Bears, were defeated by the Syracuse Crunch.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a team which hovered at sixth place in the division for the majority of the season. The Penguins used home ice to their advantage and benefitted from other teams (Hartford for one, Hershey the other) stumbling to make their luck and finish fourth. With COVID related delays in mid-to-late December, the Penguins are one of a handful of teams finishing out the regular season this weekend.

Fourth place is a major accomplishment for a team bereft of a true finisher and a lineup which seemed to never set in night after night. Under the old format, the Penguins are still a playoff team, which you can feel good about.

The Setup

One in Syracuse and one in Lehigh Valley. Last week the Penguins went 1-2, but in that one game, a win in Providence, they methodically took down a Providence Bruins team 4-1 and with the win and help from out of town, secured a playoff spot. They lost in Springfield on Saturday and in Hartford on Sunday but again, with help from out of town, backed into the four seed and are locked in there.

So they are going to play out the string here and these next two games are in essence, meaningless from the standings perspective. Sure, you want to win them, but it’s vitally important to rest the key guys and make sure that no important player get hurt.

That’s why I think you see a lineup on both nights full of rookies and ATO guys.

Friday’s opponent Syracuse has locked up a playoff spot but are still jockeying with all the other teams not named Utica who have qualified for a playoff spot for positioning. They can finish either second or third.

Saturday’s opponent is Lehigh Valley, who will most likely finish last in the Atlantic and have nothing left to play for. Expect a lineup full of kids for the Phantoms as well.

Records

The Penguins are locked into the fourth seed in the Atlantic with a 35-31-4-4 record.

Syracuse is 40-25-7-2, and presently second in the North division.

Lehigh Valley is 28-32-10-5 and in last in the Atlantic Division.

Who is up, down, out?

Goaltender Louis Domingue is backing up Casey DeSmith in Pittsburgh. No one is up from Wheeling as the Nailers are in the Kelly Cup Playoffs other than goaltender Alex D’Orio. The injured players are D Taylor Fedun and G Filip Lindberg.

Who’s in Goal?

Tommy Nappier is your Game 1 starter against Hershey next weekend. You won’t see him this weekend. I would be shocked if he even travels with the team this week. Joel Blomqvist will get a game and Alex D’Orio will get the other. My guess is Blomqvist goes Friday and D’Orio goes Saturday.

For the opposition, it depends on what Syracuse is up to seeding wise and if they get locked in by Friday or not. If not, Max Lagace, who owns the Pens this year, will likely get the nod. For Lehigh Valley, you will probably see an ATO guy.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Not much. There isn’t much to play for outside of whomever that gets the opportunity to play makes a positive first impression if it is his first professional game this weekend. A preview of 2022-23 coming attractions maybe? That’s all. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt. They want to be competitive.

Hey, whatever happened to the AHL Power Rankings?

I put too much time and effort into them and too few people cared to read them. I could put 45 minutes into the entire project of listing each team from 1-31, writing a blurb about each club, editing and formatting to only have 30 or fewer people check out the work. It’s been that way for a while, back when I used to list who each team played and who they play the following week with records. Way too much time put into something that people read less and less. It’s not worth it. Maybe I bring them back next year with a top ten, and if they are receptive enough start expanding them. After I stopped writing about them, no one asked, so I take that as no one noticed and no one cared.

Who is running the show?

Carter Sandlak and Mike Sullivan have the assignment on Friday in Syracuse with Tory Carissimo and Peter Feola on the lines then on Saturday Katie Guay, who you may remember refereed the first game of the season against these same Phantoms back in October, has the duties with Beau Halkidis joined by Jud Ritter and Bill Lyons on the lines.

Looking Ahead…

Blog wise, I will probably do a playoff preview of the league’s action followed by a breakdown of Pens / Bears the following day with a prediction although that may change. I may just put together an entire preview with a Calder Cup prediction.

Give us a bold prediction…

Whoever I pick to win the Calder Cup probably won’t win it.

Weekend Preview – Three Away

So the magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three. The Penguins also have three away games this weekend. The Penguins can actually clinch a playoff spot on Friday this way. Here’s how:

Did you get all that? Because I sure didn’t. Win, and have Lehigh Valley, Hartford and/or Bridgeport lose in regulation or get a point and have Hartford lose in regulation and Lehigh Valley lose in regulation.

I think. I have read it five times and think I get it.

Anyway, the fact remains that in order to clinch Friday, or at any point this weekend, the Penguins face off against two already qualified playoff teams as well as a team fighting for its playoff life. It’s not going to be easy nor should it be.

The Setups

So the idea is that the Penguins and Hershey Bears are on a collision course for a playoff date in the first round. Barring an epic collapse from both teams, it’s going to be Pens / Bears Round 1 in a best of three series to see who plays one of the two top teams in the Atlantic (who get a Round 1 bye) in the next round. So with all that said, let’s only focus on the Pens and Bears this weekend.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Record: 34-29-4-4, .535 percentage points, five games left. 4th place Atlantic Division

Wilkes-Barre closed out its home record this season with a 16-3-2-1 record in their last 22 games. A remarkable feat and the single thing that has the Penguins on the brink of a playoff spot and possibly home ice in the first round. They shutout Hershey on Tuesday, beat Bridgeport last Saturday in a thriller and beat Hershey in overtime last Friday, all at home. They turned around the two game losing streak and have won the last three. They have two games in hand on the Bears they will burn off next week.

They have Providence this Friday, Springfield Saturday then Hartford on Sunday.

The Bruins: Are still up and down. They looked invincible last week, beating Lehigh Valley and shutting out Hershey, then narrowly squeaked past the Phantoms this past Tuesday in overtime. They play the Penguins tough and it’s a tough matchup. If there is one team I don’t want to play in the playoffs, especially in a best of five, it’s Providence or Charlotte. The Bruins are mercurial, sure, but they always find the right combination against the Penguins.

The Thunderbirds: Springfield has looked strong all season, but the Penguins make the Thunderbirds look down right pedestrian. What I said about the matchup with Providence above, applies in reverse to Springfield. I’d welcome a playoff matchup against Springfield in any format. The Penguins can beat this team.

The Wolf Pack: Are a mess. 1-8-1-0 in their last ten. They led the division a few weeks back and are now on the brink of missing playoffs. Hopefully the Pens wrap up a playoff berth and can rest some regulars and play some ATO guys Sunday when these two teams meet.

Hershey Bears

Record: 33-30-6-4, .521 percentage points, three games left, 5th place Atlantic Division.

Hershey hasn’t scored in the past two games. You know, when I watched them Tuesday it was painfully evident that they are a lot like the Penguins in that, despite them being the Bears, they lack a finisher. I don’t like their chances against the Penguins in the first round playoff series (if it comes to that) they have three games left, all this weekend, and here they are.

Home and home against the Phantoms: Lehigh Valley isn’t dead yet. They need a miracle and will get juiced up for the final two games against Hershey.

Syracuse: Haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet. Probably won’t this weekend. The top three in the North get first round byes. Syracuse wants to protect their third place or improve their positioning coming into the weekend so don’t expect the Crunch to be pushovers here, but expect Hershey to empty the tank at home in their final game of the regular season on Sunday.

Records

Because I didn’t mention it above for the three opponents the Pens play this weekend, here they are.

  • Providence: 36-20-4-6, .621 percentage points, 1st place Atlantic Division
  • Springfield: 39-23-6-3, .613 percentage points, 3rd place Atlantic Division
  • Hartford: 30-31-6-2, .493 percentage points, 7th place Atlantic Division

Who’s Up, Down, Out?

Louis Domingue is up for the injured Tristan Jarry. Alex D’Orio is up from Wheeling backing up Tommy Nappier. Drew O’Connor has an “ailment” which shouldn’t be long term and Mitch Reinke is non-COVID sick. Taylor Fedun is out long term with a lower body injury and Filip Lindberg is done for the year.

Who’s in Goal?

My supposition is that Tommy Nappier gets the playoff teams in Providence and Springfield and either Alex D’Orio or Joel Blomqvist, who backed up Nappier on Tuesday goes Sunday in Hartford. For the opposition, reigning AHL Player of the Week Brandon Bussi may likely go for Providence on Friday, then Joel Hofer for Springfield on Saturday and either Keith Kinkaid or Adam Huska, depending on how things shake out for the Wolf Pack this weekend.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

How quickly they wrap up the playoff berth and what they do after. Do they push to protect the four seed (they can’t go higher, the teams ahead of them minimum points percentage if they all lost out is still higher than the Pens max) or do they dress the kids and let the chips fall where they may.

Two schools of thought here. They are good at home, nearly unbeatable. They would have home ice as the four seed in the first round best of three. Wrap up playoff berth with a win Friday and help out of town and protect the four seed at all costs. The second thought is if they know they can beat Hershey, why kill yourself after you wrap up a berth? Rest the guys that have to get you through the next two months in what’s going to be a brutal postseason.

Interesting times, for sure.

Who is running the show?

Jim Curtain and Mike Sullivan have the officiating duties on Friday with Dan Kelly and Stephen Drain on the lines.

On Saturday, it’s Michael Zyla and Beau Halkidis with Kevin Briganti and Brent Colby on the lines.

Sunday sees Kevin drive down to Hartford to meet who I think is his brother Nick Briganti on the lines with Jim Curtain and Jeremy Tufts handling officiating duties.

Looking Ahead…

The Penguins close out the regular season with a date in Syracuse on Friday and a trip down to Allentown on Saturday.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins wrap up a playoff spot…this Saturday.

Weekend Preview – The Gauntlet

So the Penguins are probably a playoff team, barring a collapse. That collapse could come this week as there are some really dangerous teams in this week as the home schedule wraps up with three this week and a Tuesday game next. Let’s dive right in.

First up are the Charlotte Checkers who are on a proverbial tear of late. 8-1-1 in their last ten and the first team in the division to wrap up a playoff spot. The Checkers are gunning for the divisional title so signs of letting off and playing the schedule out to gear up for a playoff push are off the table.

Then Hershey comes in. The Bears have been mercurial. They swept the Springfield Thunderbirds at home this past weekend and coming into this week, are five points clear of the Penguins for the four seed.

Finally Bridgeport will be in on Saturday, still smarting from that 9-2 beat down the Penguins laid on them two weeks ago. Don’t think the Islanders will be cooked up for revenge? Think again.

The Setups

Assuming that third place Providence does not fall into the clutches of four on back, let’s just focus on the Bears, Penguins, Wolf Pack and Islanders. I’ll give you the record and games remaining with each capsule. The Bears are fourth in the division, Penguins are fifth, so on and so forth…

Hershey Bears

Record: 33-27-5-4, .543 points percentage, 7 games left.

Bears swept the Thunderbirds at home Saturday and Sunday after dropping a decision in Allentown to last place Lehigh Valley last Friday. Go figure. Have Hershey righted all their wrongs? I don’t think so. It may have been more of a style thing with Springfield really. Last Saturday was a blowout for the Bears and Sunday was much more tighter. The Thunderbirds came from down 2-0 to start the third to force overtime.

Hershey has Lehigh Valley Wednesday, the Pens Friday then Providence on Easter Sunday.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Record: 31-28-4-4, .522 points percentage, 9 games left.

Boy, they better hope they don’t run into Syracuse in the playoffs because I don’t like their chances. Max Lagace with a 48 save shutout for the Crunch, his second shutout of his former team, and the Pens lose 1-0 in their only game of the weekend last this past Saturday.

Pens have Charlotte Wednesday, Hershey Friday and Bridgeport Saturday.

Hartford Wolf Pack

Record: 30-28-6-2, .515 points percentage, 6 games left. One of the teams only playing 72 games in the division.

Hartford was obliterated in two games in Charlotte then finally beat the Checkers in overtime to stop the skid on Sunday, winning in overtime. If there is a team that I would put money on to miss the playoffs, it’s Hartford. They are 2-7-1 in their last ten and free falling. They have Toronto and Rochester on the road this Friday and Saturday.

Bridgeport Islanders

Record: 29-28-7-4, .507 points percentage, 4 games left.

The Islanders have the fewest games left of all the teams in the division and have to make every game count, sitting outside of a playoff berth. They have this weekend (away at Lehigh Valley Friday, away at Wilkes-Barre Saturday) then next weekend home against Springfield Friday and Hartford Saturday.

That final game against the Wolf Pack may be the biggest game in the AHL this season for both teams.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Radim Zohorna and Anthony Angello are back from Pittsburgh, so currently there is no one on NHL recall. My guess is defenseman Taylor Fedun is done for the regular season. No one is up from Wheeling and the Pens didn’t make anymore ATO additions.

Who’s in Goal?

You kind of have to go Louis Domingue for all three, right? Or at least Domingue for the first two then reassess everything and see where things are Saturday standings wise? I don’t see a start for Tommy Nappier anywhere with how tight things are getting. If the Pens want to be a playoff team their playoffs start now. You ride your number one till the wheels fall off.

You are likely getting the oppositions number ones also, so Joey Daccord, Pheonix Copley and Jakub Skarek in that order.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Fourth place fell into their lap Friday when they were off and the Bears lost to the Phantoms. Could they get the four seed? Yes, absolutely. Should they stop there and gun for higher? Yes, conceivably. But the four seed, with it being within reach, should absolutely be the goal here. Why? Four plays five in the first round, which is best of three. Three plays six also. The top two teams get byes. Get the four, possibly the three, and have home ice and the luxury of last change in a razor thin best of three series.

Play Charlotte like you did Syracuse, which is not an inch of space for their big guns to run wild, and do the same with a rival in Hershey, then finally put to bed Bridgeport’s playoff hopes with another big win in front of the biggest crowd of the weekend. It’s absolutely conceivable here and should be the number one goal. You want to be the hot team coming into a playoff series, win your best of three in a sweep then catch the higher seed napping in Game 1, steal home ice in that series (which is best of five) and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s how I have it mapped out. But that’s me, from my seats in Section 104, without skates under my feet and without a stick in my hands and pads on my shoulders. These guys have shown flashes of brilliance, so it’s time to put the plan into action.

All six points is a must this week if you want the above to become reality. I think they are OK with 4 out of 6, anything less and it gets crazy tight with the possibility of falling out altogether, depending on the out of town scoreboard.

Who is running the show?

Michael Zyla and Mike Dietrich are here with Tom DellaFranco and Michael Magee on the lines on Wednesday. Justin Kea sets up shop on Friday and Saturday joined by Marc-Olivier Phaneuf with Tyler Loftus and J.P. Waleski on the lines Friday and then on Saturday Peter Schlittenhardt drops by with Kea again and Waleski sticks around too and makes room for Richard Jondo.

Looking ahead…

Pens close out their home schedule with a makeup date next Tuesday against Hershey then head to Providence Friday, Springfield Saturday and Hartford Sunday.

Give us a bold prediction…

In his finest performance of the season, Louis Domingue finally gets his first shutout of the season in one of these games this week.

Weekend Preview – Devil in the Details

Hold on…

…sorry about that. I was checking to see if the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins were finished scoring goals on the Bridgeport Islanders.

After a nine goal explosion on the Islanders and other out of town implosions on the scoreboard, the Penguins find themselves in a tight race for what could be at best a four seed and at worse a ticket to an early summer.

Here’s a look at the standings as we enter Wednesday.

4 – Hershey Bears: 10 games remaining, 31-26-5-4, .538 points percentage
5 – Hartford Wolf Pack: 9 games remaining, 29-26-6-2, .524 points percentage
6 – WBS Penguins: 11 games remaining, 30-27-4-4, .523 points percentage

7 – Bridgeport Islanders: 7 games remaining, 27-27-7-4, .500 points percentage

Bridgeport and Hartford are playing 72 games, The Penguins and Bears are playing 76.

So, as fortunes would have it, the Penguins go from, “shaky ground” from last weeks preview to the possibility of a four seed, if they continue to pile up wins and the out of town scores break their way.

The Setups

I think that with less than a month to play in the regular season and the Penguins in a playoff battle that I look at the weekend for not only the Penguins but the three other teams that the Penguins are battling. Just brief words. Here we go.

Hershey Bears

Were swept in Charlotte and played Bridgeport in a kids day game Tuesday. They won that game against the Islanders 4-3 in overtime, their 3000th win in franchise history. Despite this, the Bears are in free fall mode. They are 3-5-1-1 in their last ten. Their schedule doesn’t relent, they host the Atlantic Division leading Springfield Thunderbirds this weekend for a pair after a stop in Allenton on Friday.

Hartford Wolf Pack

No one has been worse than Hartford. 2-7-1 in their last ten. Eked out an OT loser point Monday in Providence. Now head to Charlotte for three this weekend.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Played a close one in Allentown against a too little, too late Phantoms team and lost. Flipped that into an obliteration of the Bridgeport Islanders where they scored nine unanswered goals, including five in the second period. There’s a lot to like about the Penguins right now. Goaltender Louis Domingue is keeping them in games and they are finally getting offense. They still lack a finisher and are prone to clunkers as you saw in Allentown on Friday. Calder Cup favorite? Hardly. Playoff team? Maybe.

Pens host Lehigh Valley Wednesday then take a Saturday trip to Syracuse.

Bridgeport Islanders

Got smoked Saturday in Wilkes-Barre as the more rested team. Played Tuesday morning against the Bears and as you saw above lost 4-3 in overtime. Bridgeport has cooled off considerably over these last two games played vs. how they came into last weekend. Still, a very dangerous team and one you have to keep an eye on.

Islanders host Providence for a home and home this Friday / Saturday, then Lehigh Valley stops in Sunday.

The Records

Are above. I may scrap this going forward this season.

Syracuse plays Toronto Wednesday and Springfield on Friday before hosting the Pens Saturday. They are third in the North, 32-24-6-2 with a .563 points percentage in an ultra competitive North Division where you literally can go from a top seed to an out of playoff seed in one game. There is no margin for error in that division.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Radim Zohorna and Anthony Angello are still up. There is no one up from Wheeling because it its ATO season. Pens didn’t make any additions in that department. Taylor Fedun is still out, my guess is the rest of the regular season.

Who is in Goal?

I would like the record to indicate I was 6/6 in my predictions last week. That said, I’ll probably go 0/4 this week. Got to think Domingue gets both games, Felix Sandstrom for the Phantoms and probably ex-Penguin Max Lagace Saturday in Syracuse.

Fun fact…this is the first trip to Syracuse for the Penguins this season.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

They need to beat teams that they should beat (the Phantoms) and beat teams that are slightly better than them (Syracuse) if they want to make us fans believe that they are serious contenders for 1) a playoff spot and 2) a serious push in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

I will believe it when I see it. The Pens will be playing the caliber of what is an essentially a playoff mode / intense Syracuse Crunch team Saturday. You can expect a playoff like intense game, kind of what you experienced Saturday. If the Penguins don’t stand and deliver in Syracuse, the Crunch will flatten them and the Pens will be back at square one again.

Aren’t you overlooking Lehigh Valley?

I am, slightly. Look, this team is done and this talk about their mythological playoff push is nonsense. They exist to play spoiler, nothing more, in a faint-but-not-impossible push to the six seed in the Atlantic.

The Penguins though, can’t mess around with a team like this, especially at home. Get to them early so you don’t have to worry about them late.

Who is running the show?

Jim Curtain and Mason Riley get the assignment Wednesday with Jud Ritter and CJ Murray on the lines Wednesday. Saturday sees Jordan Deckard and Marc-Oliver Phaneuf with Brian Wasilewski and Tory Carissimo on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Four game homestand to close out the regular season for the Pens; Charlotte in a makeup game next Wednesday, Hershey Friday and Bridgeport on Saturday. So three crucial games that the Penguins have to prepare for, but in order to do that they must first address the current week ahead.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins will not finish sixth in the Atlantic Division.

Weekend Preview – Shaky Ground?

Let’s take a look at a snapshot of the AHL standings in the Atlantic Division real quick coming into this weekends action. Remember that the top six qualify.

4 – Hartford Wolf Pack: 13 games remaining, 29-23-5-2, .551 points percentage.
5 – Hershey Bears: 13 games remaining, 30-24-5-4, .548 points percentage.
6 – Bridgeport Islanders: 10 games remaining, 27-25-6-4, .516 points percentage.

7 – WBS Penguins: 14 games remaining, 28-26-4-4, .516 points percentage.

It is important to note that the Bridgeport Islanders are playing 72 games while the Penguins, Bears and Wolf Pack are playing 76. With the teams being ranked on points percentage, wins matter.

As it stands today, the Penguins are out of a playoff spot on tiebreaker. Now, let’s take a look at the strength of schedules for these teams:

Hartford: .563
Hershey: .536
Bridgeport: .533
PENGUINS: .538

Wilkes-Barre has the second highest strength of schedule of these four teams highlighted. Bridgeport has the lowest, or conceivably easiest, schedule the rest of the way.

The Islanders are on a 6-0-1 streak and 7-2-1-0 in their last ten games. They came back and won in Rochester on Sunday in impressive fashion, emptying the tank after a hellish week of travel that had them across the border in Toronto the night before. Down two goals, they tie it with seconds left to force overtime and win there.

It’s impressive, because here is who they have taken points from in this streak:

7-4 and 3-0 wins back to back over Providence.
3-2 overtime loss to division leader Springfield.
7-4 win over Syracuse.
4-1 win over conference leading Utica.
5-1 win over Toronto.
6-5 come from behind OT win over Rochester.

These aren’t cupcake teams. These are division heavyweights in Springfield and Providence and tough North Division teams. For some teams, their playoffs start when the season winds down and they start making a push to get into playoffs. You can say with full confidence that the Bridgeport Islanders are in full on playoff mode.

The Setup

Seemingly at the opposite end of the spectrum are the free falling Hartford Wolf Pack, who are nosediving and 3-7 in their last ten games. They are the Penguins opponent Wednesday. They were pummeled in Utica Monday and lost 7-3. They beat Hershey in a shootout Saturday and lost a pair of close ones to Springfield last Wednesday and Friday.

Lehigh Valley hosts the Penguins on Friday. The Phantoms are all but eliminated, nine points off the Pens and Islanders. They will be looking to spoil the Penguins push on Friday.

Bridgeport is the main event. The Penguins have two more matchups with the Islanders, Saturday being one of them. Is it must win territory? It might be, depending on how the week shakes out for all the teams I just mentioned.

The Records

Covered above. Pay attention!

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Chris Bigras was given away for future considerations to the Chicago Wolves at the AHL trade deadline Monday. This was covered in depth on my blog post about it Monday. Radim Zohorna is still up with Pittsburgh. Anthony Angello, for some odd reason, joined him on Tuesday. The Pens signed Colin Swoyer Monday. He and Clayton Phillips, another guy that the Pens signed last week, are defensemen so look for one of them to get into a game soon. Pittsburgh also signed Ty Glover Tuesday, after they announced the Angello recall.

Who’s in Goal?

I’d go Louis Domingue against the playoff teams and Tommy Nappier in Allentown.

Keith Kinkaid, Felix Sandstrom and Jakub Skarek would be my guesses in who the Penguins will be shooting at this week.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

The Pens are getting a desperate, free falling Hartford team, a Lehigh Valley club looking to play spoiler and a rested Bridgeport team who will be waiting for the Penguins to return from their trip down the PA Turnpike this week.

Pens pumped then got pumped in back to back games in Toronto midweek last, beat a decent Belleville team Friday then lost on a late goal Saturday afternoon in Laval after battling back to tie. There is there, there with the Penguins, but they lack what they have lacked all season which is a pure finisher. They don’t have one. They need to rely on defense and goaltending and basically outgrit their opponents. Sometimes it works, like what you saw last Tuesday in Toronto and sometimes it works but they don’t, you know, score any goals, like what you saw March 18 at home against Syracuse, a game they lost 1-0.

5 of 6 points is necessary. The four seed is still within reach. You can get there with wins over all three teams. Anything less, such as 4 points or fewer, depending on how the game Saturday with Bridgeport breaks, and you may be packing for an early summer.

Who is running the show?

Michael Zyla and Carter Sandlak get the assignment Wednesday with Patrick Dapuzzo and Colin Gates on the lines. Friday in Allentown sees Sandlak again with Jake Kamrass and Tom George and Ryan Knapp on the lines. Saturday sees Kamrass again with Peter Schlittenhardt and J.P. Waleski and Patrick Dapuzzo on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Home game next Wednesday against Lehigh Valley and a Saturday trip to Syracuse.

Give us a bold prediction…

Pens will make it look easy this week, winning all three games, then will regress next week and lose both.

Weekend Preview – More, Canada!

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins took a split in Toronto earlier in the week and now look to wrap up the Canadian trip with wins in Belleville Friday and Laval on Saturday afternoon.

What did the Penguins do on Tuesday that they didn’t do on Wednesday? Wednesday was a lot of standing around and getting made a fool by Josh Ho-Sang and Nick Robertson. Tuesday was generating traffic in front of Michael Hutchinson’s goal and getting deflections for goals.

The Penguins didn’t make any lineup changes Wednesday. Toronto made a bunch. Tuesday’s Penguins never adjusted to Wednesday’s Marlies.

The Setup

A Friday game in Belleville then a Saturday afternoon game in Laval. The players are looking forward to the game against the Rocket because a lot of friends and family are going to be in attendance for the game. Well, they better show up.

The Senators beat the Rocket 2-1 on Wednesday in a shootout. Cayden Primeau stopped 40 shots.

Laval hosts Lehigh Valley on Friday.

The Records

Pens are sixth in the Atlantic, 27-25-4-4 good for a .517 points percentage.

The Belleville Senators are 29-23-3-0 and have a .555 points percentage. They are in sixth in the North Division. The Laval Rocket are second in the North with a 28-21-3-1 and a .566 points percentage.

Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Out?

Radim Zohorna is up, Juuso Riikola returned Tuesday. Taylor Fedun is not on the trip. Filip Hallander is day to day. No one is up from Wheeling. Filip Lindberg is done for the year.

Who’s in Goal?

I’d go Tommy Nappier Friday and Louis Domingue Saturday. Domingue got shelled Wednesday and was out there on his own. At some point, Domingue is going to need a break. Use it against the team lower in the standings, no matter how tight those standings are.

I don’t see any reason why Mads Sogaard doesn’t get the nod for Troy Mann on Friday and Kevin Poulin for Jean-François Houle on Saturday.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

It is getting tight. There is not a lot of margin for error. Hershey nullified the game in hand victory the Pens achieved on Tuesday with winning Wednesday. It’s a six point deficit to Hershey at fifth, and just a two point lead over Bridgeport for a playoff spot.

Have to beat Belleville. Have to beat Laval. There is no, “well maybe” here or out of town scoreboard watching and hoping.

How? Move your feet. Something they didn’t do much of Wednesday. Go back and watch those goals the Marlies scored. The Marlies were the bus pulling up to the station and the Penguins were the passengers. You can’t do that. Louis Domingue has you primed to move up in the standings and you leave him on an island to get shelled all night and provide him no offensive support.

Who is running the show?

Kyle Lekun and Graedy Hamilton, who the Penguins saw Wednesday, have the referee duties on Friday with Kevin Hastings and Tommy Hughes on the lines. On Saturday afternoon (the game begins at 3) Mike Campbell and Mackenzie Nichol get the assignment and Vincent Bigras and Maxime Bédard work the lines.

Looking ahead…

Pens return home for a Wednesday game against the Hartford Wolf Pack then travel to Allentown for a Friday game against the Phantoms then host Bridgeport on Saturday.

Give us a bold prediction…

Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride to the finish.

Weekend Preview – Toronto Chop

So you will actually see two Weekend Previews this week as this piece will be dedicated to the Tuesday and Wednesday series in Toronto against the Marlies. I will have another Weekend Preview on Friday setting up the games in Belleville and Laval for Friday and Saturday.

So the Penguins I guess you can say passed last weekends test. They lost 1-0 in a tight battle with Syracuse at home on Friday and took down the Eastern Conference’s best team in the Utica Comets by beating them 3-2 on Saturday. Would I pick the Pens against the Comets in a playoff series? The answer now is 50/50, which yeah, is a good thing.

The Setup

The Marlies split a pair of 4-2 decisions against the Chicago Wolves. This was after the Marlies shutout the Hershey Bears 3-0 on Thursday.

The Wolves are a machine out in the Central Division and will probably be the third team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot. The Pacific Divisions Stockton Heat were the first team in, the Ontario Reign are next and the Wolves are not close behind.

The Records

Penguins are 26-24-4-4 and looking to move up to fifth in the Atlantic Division. Toronto snapped their losing streak with the 3-0 win over Hershey Thursday and are 28-21-3-1 and in third in the North. They are .001 percentage points behind second place Laval.

Who is Up, Who is Down, Who is Up?

Pittsburgh sent Radim Zohorna back to Wilkes-Barre on Monday, getting him on the AHL roster in time for the NHL trade deadline, then recalled him Tuesday morning. Coal Street sent defensemen Chris Ortiz back to Wheeling and signed defenseman Clayton Phillips to an ATO.

Defensemen Taylor Fedun and Juuso Riikola are out with injuries. That Coal Street sent Ortiz down is likely promising for one of their returns, my guess is probably Riikola since the last update on Fedun was week to week.

Goaltender Flip Lindberg is done for the year. Please make note of this going forward because after today I am probably finished mentioning him in this space.

Who’s in Goal?

Louis Domingue until he self-destructs for the Penguins would be my guess. Let Tommy Nappier start one of the games this weekend.

Michael Hutchinson and/or Keith Petruzzelli for the Marlies on the back to back nights for the home team opponent in this series is a safe bet.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Gotta think that the Pens have to take 3 of 4 out of these next two, right? They are burning off one of the two games in hand on Hershey, so they must optimize points and win one, if not both, of these games.

The Marlies are pretty milquetoast in a division where you can be in third to start the week and out of a playoff spot altogether at the end. Second to sixth place in the North Division are only separated by .021 percentage points. It is a division that I would not want the Penguins to play in because that sixth place team is probably going to have a higher points percentage at the end of the season than the fifth and sixth place team in the Atlantic. The sixth place team in the North does not make playoffs.

You must maximize points here. The Penguins are a better team then they were the last time they faced and took down the Marlies in a back to back series at home in Wilkes-Barre back in January. They didn’t have Drew O’Connor and they didn’t have Louis Domingue.

Who is running the show?

It will be Dave Lewis and Morgan MacPhee in the armbands on Tuesday and Dan Kelly and Tommy Hughes on the lines. For Wednesday, Stephen Hiff and Graedy Hamilton get the referee duties and Dan Kelly sticks around one more night and is joined by Nick Arcan on the lines.

Looking ahead…

Won’t have far to look cause the Pens are staying in Canada and heading up to Belleville Friday and Laval on Saturday. The Saturday game against the Rocket starts at 3 p.m.

Give us a bold prediction…

Coal Street makes a trade to help bolster it’s roster before the AHL trade deadline next Monday.