Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Wheeling

News, Notes, Returns 1/23

A couple things to touch on before a midweek road game in Hershey Wednesday.

Pittsburgh re-assigned Daniel Sprong back to Wilkes-Barre Monday. Sprong had been a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh in their last two games and only played into the second period in Anaheim last Wednesday. Instead of letting him waste away up top, he was returned to the AHL with likely homework to do from Mike Sullivan and his coaching staff. Bryan Rust is set to return from injury any day now.

Wilkes-Barre recalled Jeff Taylor and Freddie Tiffels from the Wheeling Nailers Monday. This move preceded the Sprong move. Wilkes-Barre went with seven defensemen and eleven forwards on Sunday in Hartford, so this was not a surprise.

Edit: Then Tuesday afternoon, Wilkes-Barre sent Taylor back to Wheeling. Thanks for the fish, Jeff.

Tuesday, the following news came out of practice at Coal Street.

Tom followed up…

Big news, for sure. Donatelli was not fully committed to the trio being 100% enough to where they will most definitely return, but regardless this is a positive sign and step in the right direction.

Finally, up top, Casey DeSmith will start his third straight NHL game, with Sullivan telling old pal Jonathan Bombulie that he is staying with the hot hand. Pittsburgh hosts Carolina tonight at 7.

Gameday setup for Hershey Wednesday will hit the blog at 3. Check back then.

That’s All-Star Casey DeSmith to You…

The American Hockey League announced on Thursday afternoon the playing rosters for the All-Star Classic which will be held in Utica, NY on January 28 and 29.

Staying with the four divisions that make up the “teams” that will compete in a round robin four on four and three on three tournament, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will have two nominees head to Central New York in a few weeks.

Forward Daniel Sprong and Goaltender Casey DeSmith were named today. First selections for both. Sprong is in his rookie year, DeSmith his sophomore season. Release from Coral Street here.

Sprong is currently with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s the Atlantic Division roster…

Penguins are among the Providence Bruins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms to have two players represent their teams out of the 12 players selected for the Atlantic Division team. Hershey, Springfield, Charlotte and Hartford are only sending one representative.

Full roster and league release here.


Sounds like Clark is speaking in past tense regarding Sprong. Your interpretation may vary.

The ECHL also named their All-Star squads. They are adopting the same format as the AHL this year. Their games are being held in Indianapolis this year and will be hosted by the Indy Fuel. Wheeling’s Cody Wydo, currently up with Wilkes-Barre, was the lone Nailer selected.

Notes from practice today…

Casey DeSmith was not at practice on Coal Street today. Donatelli told media that he’s essentially in purgatory and playing, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash at his apartment on repeat waiting on whether he is being recalled to Pittsburgh. Only part of that last sentence is true, I’ll let you decide which is correct. Of note, Tristan Jarry participated in practice with Pittsburgh earlier. The Pens host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight before traveling to Brooklyn to take on the Islanders Friday.

Zach Trotman and Adam Johnson were also at practice at Coal Street today. I’d suspect that if a recall was going to be made, it would have been done already.

Sebastian Caron was at practice again today. The plan is to go with DeSmith and Anthony Peters this weekend, but if that can’t happen because Pittsburgh does recall DeSmith, then the plan is to go with Peters the starter and Caron the backup. Personally I find this plan nonsensical but as I always say, I blog about the team, I don’t run it.

Gameday setup for Friday’s matchup vs. Springfield, provided they are able to get here safely with the winter weather, hits the blog Friday at 3.

Busy Tuesday 1/2

Hope you all had a great New Year, lots to get into, so gets get going.

Pittsburgh sent a trio of players down to Wilkes-Barre on Monday, Casey DeSmith, Andrey Pedan and Garrett Wilson were returned while Pittsburgh recalled Dominik Simon. Simon was a man against boys Saturday in Hershey when Pittsburgh swapped him for Daniel Sprong, who the Pens recalled earlier that day. Simon scored the overtime game winning goal against the Bears.

Pittsburgh continues to struggle offensively and while Sprong’s two-way game hasn’t rounded into complete form, everything I have read from the brass up top was that his scoring is a punch that the NHL team desperately need. My take is that with Simon wrecking shop against the Bears in Hershey, that the Pens find a way to get the duo into the lineup and start winning games. Pittsburgh visits Philadelphia tonight.

Wilkes-Barre recalled Cody Wydo and Reid Gardiner Tuesday morning, after their brief stint with the Nailers on Saturday.

In a separate transaction, with DeSmith back in town, the Pens released Adam Morrison from his PTO. Morrison returns to Wheeling.

Michael Leighton was not at practice Tuesday, according to Pens media, Casey DeSmith was in one net and Anthony Peters was in the other.

Tom dropped in with injury updates….

In a move that had no effect on the AHL Penguins, the Wheeling Nailers traded their fourth leading scorer, Hunter Fejes, to Orlando for Chris Francis and Michael Turner, who combined have a total of eight points between them. Fejes, the one constant for the Nailers this year amongst a turnstile of recalls to Wilkes-Barre, had 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points with the Nailers.

Seems strange to me, but then again, I don’t manage or coach these teams, I just blog about them.

Finally, Daniel Sprong was named AHL Rookie of the Month for December. Sprong had nine goals, three of them game winners and five assists good for 14 points in 12 games. Sprong joins John Curry and Jake Guentzel as former Penguins to be named rookie of the month. Amazingly, Guentzel and Curry were both rookies of the month of December as well. Must be something about that month.

Pens are back in action Wednesday at 7 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Gameday setup hits here Wednesday afternoon at 3.

The Walking Wounded

It’s times like these when I miss baseball.

Guy goes out of a game in the second inning, limping off and is replaced. Later, in the fifth inning, the play by play guys cut down to the sideline reporter who reports up that the player is out with a knee injury and than an MRI has been scheduled for tomorrow. Manager comes in to his press conference the next day and says that the player that left the game the day before had an MRI that showed a tear in the meniscus and that he’s being referred to the surgeon and will be out of action for at least eight weeks.

In hockey, they speak in secret alphabet. Day-to-day, week-to-week, longer term, et cetra. It is what makes it a niche sport in my opinion because a casual fan doesn’t have time to listen to the coach speak with the media after the game and say he doesn’t have an update on the player that took the slapshot off the leg in the first period. I mean, do you think we are stupid?

Anyway, I can go on and on regarding this pet peeve of mine. The purpose of this entry today is to inform you of the following injuries affecting the organization at present.

Last night in their shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost Bryan Rust and Chad Ruhwedel to injury. The update this afternoon from Head Coach Mike Sullivan was as follows:

Before we get to the fallout, here’s Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins Head Coach Clark Donatelli’s update from the M*A*S*H unit:

Let’s unpack the transactions known so far. First, Coal Street sent Cody Wydo back to Wheeling. Pittsburgh recalled defenseman Frank Corrado. I don’t think that Pittsburgh may pull a forward up if Wilkes-Barre let Wydo go, it really doesn’t make sense to me to release then recall Wydo over the course of 24 hours if Pittsburgh was going to take someone for Rust.

I’ll update the story in a later edit once confirmations come down as to who exactly has been recalled, but you can expect Casey DeSmith to go up to back up Tristan Jarry, since Matt Murray, who played the whole 65 minutes plus shootout last night against Columbus, is day-to-day. As far as where it leaves the AHL team, with Michael Leighton day-to-day after he backed up DeSmith Wednesday, Coal Street may need two goaltenders from somewhere, as they don’t have any other goalies on NHL or AHL contracts to call upon. In Wheeling, Colin Stevens is on IR and the Nailers have Adam Morrison and Will King on the roster. They could call upon Anthony Peters again from Cincinnati, or go a different direction. They may need only one, depending on how bad the Leighton injury is, but let’s just assume they need two.

EDIT: Pittsburgh made three recalls. Casey DeSmith, Andrey Pedan and Garrett Wilson get the call. Pens place Kris Letang, Chad Ruhwedel and Bryan Rust on injured reserve.

Hopefully DeSmith gets to start a game. For Pedan, the Penguins want to get a look at him since he was the return for Derrick Pouliot. Pedan is a bite your lip type of player from my perspective. Some nights, he’s a beast. Others, he’s a bonehead. For Garrett Wilson, he is not what the fans were expecting in Daniel Sprong, but I am guessing that they have learned their lesson in not rushing him as they had with names like Luca Caputi, Beau Bennett, Eric Tangradi and the aforementioned Pouliot. To bring him up to have him sit, play seven minutes a night or stick him on a fourth line doesn’t do anything for him.

Coal Street in one fell swoop re-signed G Anthony Peters from ECHL Cincinnati to another PTO and Adam Morrison from Wheeling. The Nailers in a separate transaction reactivated Colin Stevens and will roll with him and Will King in goal for this weekend against Fort Wayne on the road Friday, Toledo Saturday and Indy Sunday at home.

Anthony Peters stayed busy in between his stints with Wilkes-Barre. He was involved in a goalie fight against Indy.

Pitchers and catchers report February 12, by the way.

Hartford is coming in Friday, the Wolf Pack are 6-1-1-2 in their last ten games. They will be without the services of Peter Holland, who was supsended two games earlier this week. Holland had three assists in the Wolf Pack’s win over the Penguins on December 15, and Vinni Lettieri, who was recalled to the Rangers on Thursday. Lettieri has 12 goals and 9 assists in 31 games for Hartford this season.

Pens travel to Hershey Saturday, and the Bears got a boost in the form of Nathan Walker who was re-assigned Thursday. Hershey has been struggling as bad as the Penguins have as of late, mired in sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

One more thing out the door, I wanted to bring back the Tyrell Goulbourne goal that should not have counted yesterday. I ran a morning update to my postgame story from last night with video highlights that Coal Street put out. In case you didn’t see, I’m just cutting and pasting from the morning update to keep it fresh.

Video Highlights: 

Tyrell Goulbourne’s goal should not have counted. Also, there is no reason why there should not have been a review of the goal. First, here it is with the benefit of slow motion.

From the AHL Rulebook on video review… In part, Rule 79.3, subsection vii…

79.3 Situations Subject to Video Review – The following are the only situations subject to video review by the Referee:

(vii) To determine whether the puck entered the net from underneath the net frame.

I would be interested to know if Tom or Tyler asked Clark after the game what explanation he was given on that play.

There wasn’t a Thursday follow-up from Tom or Tyler that I saw out of the Thursday practice updates. I would assume that the team moved on and let the tape speak for itself.

I’ll work an edit in later once Pittsburgh makes the DeSmith recall official as well as any other bodies they make take in light of today’s news. Check back here Friday at 3 for the Gameday setup against the Wolf Pack.

Sorting Through the Paperwork*

Late Tuesday, there were other moves made effecting the roster here in Wilkes-Barre besides the blockbuster trade involving Michael Leighton covered here Tuesday afternoon.

Made official by Coal Street Wednesday morning, the Penguins recalled Freddie Tiffels and Cody Wydo from Wheeling.

Initially thinking that there was something up impacting Pittsburgh’s roster, it was revealed after practice on Coal Street the following.

Later, Christian Thomas was named to the Team Canada roster for the Spengler Cup. The tournament runs from December 26 through the 31st. You couple this with DiPauli being absent through Christmas and there is the need for the Wydo and Tiffels recalls this morning. Take Bengtsson’s injury and the status of Ethan Prow (no outlet I follow mentioned anything about him today and I didn’t ask) and there is the need for Jeff Taylor’s recall from Monday.

Wilkes-Barre would have two extras at forward and defense if you consider that Bengtsson, Prow, , Thomas, DiPauli, Tom Kostopoulos and Tom Sestito are all unavailable.

There is a possibility that one or two get bounced back to Wheeling for the Nailers games at home this weekend against the Brampton Beast.

I will leave you with Michael Leighton’s media availability after practice. Santa should send Tux a boom mike for Christmas. Sound up for this one if you can.

If nothing happens Thursday, and I don’t expect it to, check back Friday at 3 for the Gameday setup against Lehigh Valley Binghamton. (thanks Kram for the heads up)

* – it’s what I do everyday at my big boy job of pushing paper. Or painting houses.

Goats Love Coal — Pens Acquire Michael Leighton

There was a trade made Tuesday afternoon with major implications on the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired goaltender Michael Leighton from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Josh Archibald, Sean Maguire and 2019 draft pick.

Michael Leighton is one of the greatest AHL goaltenders to put on a pair of pads.

Here is his resume, from the League release on the trade….

Leighton, a five-time AHL All-Star, had been acquired by the Coyotes on Nov. 14 in a trade from Tampa Bay. In 14 AHL games between Syracuse and Chicago this season, Leighton has a record of 4-4-4 with a 3.16 goals-against average, an .869 save percentage and one shutout.

The AHL’s career leader in shutouts (50), Leighton has appeared in 479 career AHL games with a record of 236-176-48, ranking fifth all-time in victories and eighth among goaltenders in games played. He was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team in 2001-02 and won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender in 2007-08.

In postseason play, Leighton owns the AHL records for saves in a single game (98, in a five-overtime loss on Apr. 24, 2008) and for lowest GAA in a single playoff year (1.18, in 2008). He shows a 1.67 GAA, a .946 save percentage and five shutouts in 28 career Calder Cup Playoff contests (13-12).

He’s been around the AHL this season, initially starting with Syracuse, with a stop in AHL Chicago, he did not appear in a game with the Coyotes AHL affiliate, Tucson. He was loaned to Chicago from Arizona.

So the crease in Wilkes-Barre looks like Casey DeSmith and Michael Leighton. Unless there is another move coming down the pike which would see Tristan Jarry coming back down and Leighton going to to backup Matt Murray, which is entirely plausible.

Sean Maguire needed the change in scenery. He will a great asset for the Tucson Roadrunners. He was kind of lost in the shuffle here in Wilkes-Barre.

Josh Archibald wasn’t going to make it through waivers the thought process was by the brain trust up in Pittsburgh.

Jonathan had an interesting take…

I disagree with that thought process entirely. Casey DeSmith played his way up from ECHL obscurity a few seasons ago to an NHL contract this past summer. He is as about as solid a #1 AHL goaltender you can find, anywhere, just like Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray before him.

But like I tell people all the time, I don’t manage or coach the organization, I just blog about it.

Oh dear, as I was about to hit publish on this, a second trade was made with another implication affecting Wilkes-Barre.

Penguins acquire Jamie Oleksiak from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a 2019 conditional fourth round draft pick. As a part of the move, Kevin Czuczman was re-assigned to the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

The conditional end of it is explained here…

Out the door, Wilkes-Barre recalled Jarrett Burton and Jeff Taylor from Wheeling Monday. With Ethan Prow’s status up in the air and Wilkes-Barre playing with just one extra forward last weekend, the need for those recalls were justified. Elsewhere, ex-Penguin Stuart Percy signed an AHL deal with the Rochester Americans.

Is there a third move up the sleeve of Penguins GM Jim Rutherford? We have to wait and see.

Hope You Pescatarians Kept The Receipt

On Monday, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins released Colin Stevens from his professional tryout agreement. Sean Maguire was recalled from the Wheeling Nailers.

Monday night, in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, goaltender Matt Murray was injured on this play:

Murray left the game and didn’t return. Tristan Jarry picked up the win when some guy named Crosby tipped in the game winner in overtime.

Pittsburgh recalled Casey DeSmith from Wilkes-Barre Tuesday morning.

In the lateral move, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins re-signed Colin Stevens to another professional tryout agreement Tuesday. Your goaltending tandem heading into this weekend is Sean Maguire and Colin Stevens.

Bob McKenzie had this to say on the status of Murray as of Tuesday afternoon. Read both tweets.

Mike Sullivan offered a very detailed update regarding Murray’s status to the Pittsburgh media Tuesday afternoon:

Once you wash the sarcasm drippings off of your hands from my last paragraph and the tweet above, know that the Penguins placed Murray on injured reserve.

Other news surrounding the walking wounded in Wilkes-Barre from Tyler…

Other tidbits include the return of Garrett Wilson from his personal matters and Tom Sestito appears good to go, returning to practice this week as well.

More as it comes, hopefully it quiets down. Pittsburgh next plays Friday in a home and home with Buffalo, and Wilkes-Barre plays three in three beginning this Friday against Milwaukee, who haven’t been seen around these parts since they took home the Calder Cup in the Finals in 2004.