“Broad Street Bullies, and all of a sudden he’s turning Pope on us.”
-Jeremy Roenick, on Bobby Clarke suggesting players use their sticks too much
Tonight the Lehigh Valley Phantoms once again welcome the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the PPL Center. It’s the third round of the 2017-18 season series for the eastern Pennsylvania clubs. The flightless birds took the first round at Casey Plaza, while the Phantoms took the second at Pawlowski Place. Tonight’s competition is set for a 7:05 puck drop with doors opening at 6:00 PM. Or, 6:05, as all openings will now be one hour prior to the start of the event unless otherwise noted. Tickets are tight for this one, which will probably go ‘SRO’ and may completely sell out. Make sure you have your tickets procured before you head downtown and pay for parking.
The Phantoms begin their November campaign following a 10-game October schedule which resulted in an early-season 7-2-0-1 record–that following a home loss to Hartford to close out the month. At 15 points, the Hamilton Street Heroes are tops in the entire AHL. However, since some teams don’t play as many games, we go by win percent which still has the Phantoms near the top of the division.
The Penguins affiliate beat both Bridgeport and Hershey last weekend to close out a 6-2 October. In the coal region, the drama has been in the net–but not over their own doing. The backup netminder in Pittsburgh was put on waivers and claimed, leading their big club to call up Casey DeSmith, who had been really good including notching a shutout of our Phantoms. Just this week, the larger Penguins decided they’d like to try Tristan Jarry and returned DeSmith to northeastern Pennsylvania. DeSmith is expected to start in net tonight at the PPL Center. It remains to be seen if the time he spent battling construction on I-80 will have a deleterious effect. Meahwhile, Jarry started in Calgary last night at the Pens lost in overtime; he got the third star of the game for his 32-save performance. in other Pens news, they are getting healthy as D Jeff Taylor and F Colin Smith returned to full practice this week. No word on their availability versus the Phantoms tonight.
What To Watch Tonight
In the Queen City tonight all eyes will be on the defense as injuries have impacted the Flyers, and the Flyers have in turn impacted the Phantoms. Sam Morin was going to be called up early in the week but arrived in Philadelphia with an injury worse than advertised. He was never officially added to the Flyers, who then called up Mark Alt for Monday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center. With a healthy NoiseNation representation in the house, Mark Alt equipped himself quite well, even if the overall team performance was at times lackluster in the loss to the Coyotes. In advance of the Flyers mid-week road trip, Will O’Neill was called up to lend blue line support, and was pressed into duty last night in St Louis due to another Flyers defenceman injury–this time to Radko Gudas. The Flyers should be back in town today, and word has it Shayne Gostisbehere could be ready to come back for the weekend. We’ll await further support, but otherwise we ride with these six blue-liners tonight:
37 Mark Friedman
5 Philippe Myers
20 Max Lamarche
44 Reece Willcox
43 TJ Brennan
40 James de Haas
That list is significant for the return of TJ Brennan, perhaps a week early from his injury suffered at the hands of the Penguins last time they were here. No doubt he’s motivated to get back out there and steal some more points from the black and yellow. James de Haas joins us from Reading, where he had been on an AHL contract signed with the Phantoms this past summer. He was originally a draft pick of Detroit, but went to college for the full term instead. This is his first pro season, and I’ve heard only good things about him from our friends in Reading. Here’s more of me wringing my hands about the defense, from earlier this week.
But alas, they have to play the games. Ivan Provorov put on a defensive clinic in St Louis last night to help the Flyers to a 2-0 win in a difficult environment. He got help from his goalie Neuvirth. I heard good reports on the play of Will O’Neill and Mark Alt, and Travis Sanheim got good marks for his performance as well.
Can the Phantoms’ patchwork defense perform similarly against the hated Penguins? That’s the number one thing to watch tonight. It’s 3-in-3 for the Phantoms this weekend with the team off to Binghamton for tomorrow’s game before returning for a rare late-afternoon affair with the Marlies on Sunday. I’m expecting Lyon in net tonight for the Hamilton Street Heroes.
Tonight is “coat drive” night at the arena. Consider bringing a new or used coat to the game for the WFMZ Coat Drive which will benefit the Salvation Army Foster and Children’s Services. Also, stop by section 107 to purchase a pink, autographed mystery puck for a chance to win an even bigger autographed prize. It’s the American Cancer Society’s “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign, this year headed up by Reece Willcox. Sunday is “Pink in the Rink” with a pink flashlight giveaway. No word on pink jerseys or pink ice. In other downtown events tonight, there will be live music at the Dime following the game, as per usual.
Game Notes, Rosters, Media Kit
Referee Tim Mayer (#19)
Referee Michael Mullen (#7)
Linesman Bob Goodman (#90)
Linesman Jud Ritter (#34)
See you at the arena,