Penguins Preview: “Wish I Could Be Like WB-S Cool Kids”

“Running out of [AHL games]

Getting close to [end of season]
In the midst of a no-win situation
Shoulder to shoulder, push and shove
I’m hanging up my hockey gloves
I’m ready for a long vacation”
… Journey
der Eishockeyzuschauer
“Well, you know that Ghost and Cousins and A-Mac are all with the Philadelphia Flyers now,” says the guy next to me at the PPL Center on Friday night right after the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins scored to leave the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in a 3-0 hole.”
Absolutely astonished, I politely replied, “Yes, but Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are without six players who have been recalled to the NHL (including Warsofsky, who was actually claimed on waivers by the New Jersey Devils) PLUS another four players who are injured.”
I could tell by the look in the gentleman’s eyes, though – this particular supporter has already been listening to our local Minister of Propaganda for far too long.
So, to review, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins blanked the Hamilton Street Heroes for the fourth time this season (and third time at the hospitable PPL Center in Allentown) last weekend despite missing no fewer than 10 skaters. Truth is, the Baby Pens have dressed no less than 33 different skaters against the Phantoms this season and, of course, any given team can only suit up eighteen skaters for any given American Hockey League game. Despite this, WBS have still been able to maintain a well balanced scoring attack in games against Lehigh Valley this term with a dozen different Penguins having netted at least one goal and a total of 23 different players having registered at least one point.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton seem to be energized by the arrival of Dustin Jeffrey, the 28-year-old center who is a veteran of 131 career NHL games -most of which are on behalf of the Pittsburgh Penguins – and was acquired in a minor league trade with the Arizona Coyotes last week.  Jeffrey, who had a pair of assists versus the Phantoms on his return to WBS this past Friday night, has vaulted into sixth place on the league scoring chart for this season with a combined 50 points (14 goals) in 48 AHL games for both the Springfield Falcons as well as the Baby Pens. Jeffrey also seems to have provided a spark to Dominik Simon, the 21-year-old rookie talent from the Czech Republic who had lost his goal-scoring form not so long after New Year’s Day but rediscovered it just in time to find the back of the Lehigh Valley net twice last weekend.
Simon (53 ga, 18 go, 38 pts, + 5 def) had managed just three goals in 18 AHL games prior to the addition of Jeffrey but now has three goals to show from his last three contests since getting a new center to skate with.
Matthias Plachta, (6’2″ 218 lbs) yet another player acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins organization in a separate transaction with the Arizona Coyotes last week, has also done well with the AHL farm club since being assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 24-year-old German winger produced a goal and two assists in three games skating on the second line for the Baby Pens this past weekend. This after the undrafted Plachta, who has scored three goals in a combined 13 games for Deutschland at the annual IIHF World Championships the past two seasons and is certainly one of the country’s more promising young players, could only manage seven points (two goals) in 46 AHL games for the Springfield Falcons before being traded away.
Plachta, who has appeared in a total of 38 games (eight goals) for the senior national team of Germany since graduating from the junior ranks, was an integral member of the Adler Mannheim squad which claimed the Deutsche Eishockey Liga title last season … an assistant coach for the Wilkes-Barre/Penguins this season just so happens to be Jay Leach, the former Providence College and NHL defenseman who was an assistant to head coach Geoff Ward on the Mannhiem’s title-winning team last term.

Since the clash with the Hamilton Street Heroes last weekend, the Baby Pens have had another two skaters recalled to the NHL by the Pittsburgh Penguins … the MIA list (with ‘since when’ date) is as follows :

1/7 … Tom Kuhnhackl
1/7 … Bryan Rust
1/18 … Derrick Pouliot
2/1 … Scott Wilson
2/28 … Matt Murray
2/28 … David Warsofsky
3/6 … Conor Sheary
3/6 … Tom Sestito
Add to that list another four more WBS players who are injured – Swedish rookie Oskar Sundqvist, Czech winger Domink Uher, productive ECHL recall Sahir Gill and Tyler Biggs – and one can easily see how the Baby Pens must continue to rely upon one of their more prominent assets, the foreign concept in some parts known as “organizational depth”.
Kram will certainly be hoping that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will once again turn to Brian Foster (6 ga, 3.15 avg, .870 svpct) on Wednesday night in northeastern Pennsylvania. The 29-year-old journeyman from the University of New Hampshire was relegated to tending the nets for Norwegian side IK Lillehammer last season and has been unreliable for the Baby Pens every time he has been summoned from the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League this term, the most recent being on February 27th. Kram knows that it was, of course, Foster who surrendered three goals on just 19 shots when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms whitewashed WBS 3-0 back on December 27th.
Kram also knows that Foster, who does have one NHL appearance for the Florida Panthers under his belt, was not so slick – four goals conceded on 22 shots faced – in his last start for WBS just this past Sunday even if the Baby Pens did beat the Hershey Bears 5-4 in regulation time.
Tristan Jarry (22 ga, 2.40 avg, .920 svpct) has been rather hot and cold for Wilkes-Barre/Scanton against the Hamilton Street Heroes, it has to be said. The 20-year-old rookie goaltender who was the 2nd round pick (# 44 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2013 NHL Draft, has shutout Lehigh Valley twice already this season including the 36-save effort to foil the Phantoms this past Friday. But Jarry also dropped back to back contests against head coach Scott Gordon’t club at the end of January.
Kram still wants Foster. I just want SOMEBODY on the Hamilton Street Heroes to do SOMETHING the next time Baby Pens pugilist Patrick McGrath, the 22-year-old ECHL recall whom Jay Rosehill nearly decapitated in a fight at the PPL Center in pre-season, thinks he wants to slowly skate along the entire Lehigh Valley Phantoms bench while running his mouth–like he did on separate occasions last Friday.

Categories: Phantoms Hockey

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