“Zuallererst, herzliche Willkommen bei unserer Eisbahn, Herr Plachta!”
(“First of all , warm welcome at our rink , Mr. Plachta !”)
The bad news for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins is that the club from northeastern Pennsylvania have managed exactly one win in regulation time in their last 19 AHL contests and, overall, have just five wins to show from their previous nineteen outings. The good news for the team all but assured of a Calder Cup playoff berth for a 15th consecutive season is that not only have skilled reinforcements arrived, but the Baby Pens’ next game is at the most accommodating PPL Center in downtown Allentown, a place where they have historically been dominant. Indeed, the Hamilton Street Heroes have secured exactly one victory in regulation time in ten all-time meetings with their intra-state rivals with the visiting Penguins having triumphed seven times.
To summarize exactly what the hell has been going on these past two months for once high-flying Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, it certainly must be noted that, since the first week of January, the Baby Pens have had no fewer than six different players recalled by the Pittsburgh Penguins who have all not returned. Scott Wilson, the 23-year-old winger from the University of Massachusetts – Lowell who was leading the entire AHL in goal-scoring (32 ga, 22 go) before being promoted on February 1st, and defenseman Derrick Pouliot (37 ga, 6 go, 23 pts, + 15 def), the talented sophomore pro who was the eighth overall player when chosen in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, have probably been the most crippling losses for WBS. However, one should not underestimate all the things that two-way German winger Tom Kuhnhackl (23 ga, 7 go, 15 pts, + 10 def), the fourth-year professional who got his first career NHL call-up on January 7th, brought to the table and, of course, the absence of Matt Murray (31 ga, 2.10 avg, .931 svpct), the influential sophomore pro who was honored as the AHL’s Best Goaltender last season, is a significant blow to the Baby Pens, as well.
On top of the recalls, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton have also been hit hard by the injury bug these last two months. The 202-pound Czech winger Dominik Uher (43 ga, 5 go, 13 pts, + 2 def) injured his shoulder during the Baby Pens’ last game at the PPL Center (Jan 29th) and is out for the season after undergoing surgery, while Sahir Gill, the undrafted winger out of Boston University who has been good (21 ga, 5 go, 14 pts, + 4 def) since being promoted from the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, suffered a lower body injury in the recent loss to the Hershey Bears on February 23rd, and will continue to be out of action. Almost the same can be said about Oskar Sundqvist (42 ga, 5 go, 22 pts, – 1 def), the 21-year-old Swedish rookie center who recently spent three weeks and skated in 10 NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, except for the fact that Sundqvist suffered his injury just this past Sunday.
Anton Zlobin (10 ga, 3 ga, 5 pts, – 1 def), the 23-year-old Russian winger who was the 6th round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Draft but has been slowed by injuries these last two seasons, has also been productive since being summoned from Wheeling on February 5th and will look to retain his place in the line-up. The Baby Pens got a big boost when Conor Sheary (30 ga, 7 go, 29 as, + 8), the undersized and undrafted winger from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst who has, including playoffs, averaged almost a point per game for WBS at the AHL level (113 ga, 104 pts) since turning professional in the spring of 2014, was sent down by Pittsburgh on February 29th. It must be said, however, that the health status of Sheary is in doubt.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s offensive will most definitely be receiving a lift by the addition of Dustin Jeffrey, the 28-year-old veteran center who was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins organization in a minor league trade with the Arizona Coyotes. The well traveled Jeffrey, who has appeared in 131 NHL games in his career (most of those with Pittsburgh), is currently in a three-way tie for ninth place on the AHL scoring chart as a result of his work for the Springfield Falcons (45 ga, 13 go, 46 pts) this season. It will be interesting to see the WBS coaching staff put Jeffrey on the same line with Domink Simon (50 ga, 15 go, 35 pts, + 5 def), the 21-year-old rookie from the Czech Republic who has seen his scoring production tail off drastically since New Year’s.
In return for Jeffrey, the Pittsburgh organization surrendered Matia Marcantuoni
Categories: Phantoms Hockey