Have you been distracted lately, by other sports? Well, now football is over, and baseball hasn’t started yet. It’s time to get back to hockey: Tonight, with the Charlotte Checkers returning, a little look behind the curtain for what goes into “Hockey Night in Allentown” before [almost] every home game.
Now We Here
In order to get ready for a home game, I always like to start off by looking at where the team is right now. What just happend? How are they playing? Where are they in the standings? Are they on a streak? Hot? Or, not? You’ll also see a quote or song lyrics at the top to try to set the mood or the theme for the post and the night’s game.
After taking a 4-1 beating up in Wilkes Barre on Wednesday, January 17, the Phantoms set out on a 5-game point streak which culminated last weekend with a 3-2 win over a difficult–but reeling–Charlotte team on Friday night. On Saturday, they went right back to Wilkes Barre, and although they played a strong game by all accounts, lost a 2-1 decision facing Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry at the top of his game. While the Hamilton Street Heroes out-shot the Penguins 35-21, they also lead in puck possession and zone time and other measurements of quality play. Both teams were 1/5 on the power play. It was just a hot goalie and that’s the way the puck bounces sometimes.
The win keeps Wilkes Barre ahead on point percentage.
Despite taking 3/4 points in their visit to Chocolate-town, Charlotte now drops behind Bridgeport as the latter didn’t play as much hockey. It’s the magic of point-percent and I think I’d rather just look at points accumulated and leave the percents and games-in-hand math to others. I read somewhere that Wilkes Barre was “pulling away.” Umm, yeah we have the same amount of points. Games in hand remain the same. OK here we are:
On both the baseball and hockey sides, we know how it works, down here in the minors. Players change. There can always be injuries, but there are also call-ups and promotions and all of that. I always like to take a minute and review the player movements so that you’ll have an idea which players should be playing in tonight’s game. I don’t always post lines because they change all the time anyway–unless it’s the start of the season or should I think there’s an important point to be made.
D Sam Morin remains injured. Some reports have his current injury as his fourth different ailment on the season. I’m not sure if any of them could be re-aggravations or not because they never really tell us. He was seen working out in Voorhees earlier in the week, which would suggest that he’s under the care of the Flyers’ doctors and won’t be activated again for Phantoms in the immediate future.
One of the players working out with Sam is G Anthony Stolarz, coming back from knee surgery. He’s not expected to play in games soon–or at all this season. However, I think it’s great that he’s not only at a point in his rehab where he’s out on the ice, but he’s got the pads on and is taking shots from big Sam. It has to be a good sign, I’d think.
F Corban Knight has been out since early January with a lower body injury. It has been reported that he’s available for tonight’s game.
G Alex Lyon has returned from the Flyers. His two appearances in the NHL weren’t world-beaters, but it was good experience for him and he knows what he’s got to do. Expect him to show better in his next opportunity, and I’m thinking that will happen sometime in the near future. John “Moose” “Muser” Muse returns to Reading, with is Phantoms Player of the Week award in tow.
F Danick Martel remains on the injured list with a broken face. Or, whatever. He took that hard hit but is quickly on the mend as he’s been skating a bit non-contact and has been in good spirits and exceeding recovery predictions according to those close to the situation.
F Tyrell Goulbourne returned from Philly in time for Friday’s game. He’s been playing with some nice lines, so the pressure will be on to get his name on the scoreboard one way or another now that he’s had some NHL time.
F Steven Swavely and F Alex Krushelnyski have returned to Reading of the Eastern League. Both played well for us when given the chance, and should help Reading immensely.
Remember that the Phantoms still have a “veteran problem” so expect to see a healthy vet scratched each game: Read, Connor, McDonald, O’Neill, Varone, Brennan–they’ve all had a turn. Corban Knight is the “tweener” so his injury–or scratch–cannot ameliorate the situation.
I’ll also supplement this section with current stats available from Phantoms Media Services. Read carefully, though, because I will supplement them with my own stats from time to time:
Forward Phil Varone enters the week leading all Phantoms and is second among all AHL skaters in scoring with 44 total points (11 goals, 33 assists). Tied for third among all AHLers with 33 assists, Varone has recorded 10 multi-point outings this season.
All-Star defenseman T.J. Brennan is currently tied for second among all Phantoms and is fourth among all AHL blueliners in scoring with 30 total points (10 goals, 20 assists). Coming off his fifth straight All-Star appearance, Brennan made history last Friday evening when he became the first blueliner in AHL history to post eight double-digit goal seasons.
- Forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nic Aube-Kubel are the only players to have appeared in each of Lehigh Valley’s 47 games to date. Lindblom is currently tied for second among all Phantoms in scoring with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) while Aube-Kubel is tied for fifth with 29 total points (13 goals, 16 assists).
- After a pair of goals last weekend, forward Chris Conner is now in sole possession of 13th place on the Phantoms’ franchise all-time scoring list with 140 total points (49 goals, 91 assists). He is just six points back of Danny Syvret and Craig Darby (T-12th).
- Goaltender Alex Lyon has won four straight games and five of his last eight appearances overall (5-2-1). The second-year netminder has posted an impressive 2.14 goals-against average during that stretch to go along with a sparkling 0.936 save percentage.
Lehigh Valley is 25-1-2-1 when scoring three or more goals this season and is 23-3-1-2 when allowing three goals against or fewer.
- The Phantoms are currently second in the AHL and lead the Eastern Conference with 14 one-goal wins this season. Lehigh Valley is an impressive 14-2-3-3 in games decided by just a single goal this year.
- The Phantoms are 14-5-3-1 at PPL Center this season and have outscored their opposition 83-70 in 23 prior games in downtown Allentown.
I usually don’t go too in-depth, but just a quick look at tonight’s opponent, where they are not only in the standings (above) but how they’ve been playing of late. I might give you a player or two to look out for. I also want to let you know about any special events or promotions at the game and how crowded it might be. I’ll let you know who the officials are, and get you a copy of the AHL Media Kit which includes all of the team and individual stats, and rosters for the two teams. You can print out and bring with you if you so desire.
Tonight, fresh off a double-dip in Hershey, the Charlotte Checkers–AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes–return to the scene of their 3-2 defeat by the Phantoms last home game, Friday night. Prior to the game, I told you to look out for All Star Forward #17 Warren Foegele–and sure enough he scored one of their goals on the evening. Their other goal was scored by another All Star, Forward #25 Valentin Zykov. Our old friend Zack Stortini is on the team–he didn’t play Friday but did suit up versus Hershey over the weekend–got in a fight, too, you’ll be surprised to hear. Despite their recent mediocre play–beating up on last-place Hershey doesn’t count–they’re a tough match-up for the Phantoms, who will have to play well to win tonight.
Puck will drop somewhere around 7:15PM for the 7:05PM event. Doors will open at 6:00PM. Good seats are still available. This game has no theme or promotion; tonight is about getting back to hockey!
But yeah, the weather’s a little frightful. No matter, they keep the lots and streets downtown pretty clear in my experience, so if you can get down there from wherever you are, you should be fine. This might be the night to choose a deck over a lot for parking, though, to remain under cover. Also, while the streets and lots are usually pretty good, the sidewalks aren’t, always. Choose your footwear wisely.
Referee Beaudry Halkidis (#32)
Referee Alex Normandin (#68)
Linesman Libor Suchanek (#60)
Linesman Ryan Knapp (#73)
5 Things To Watch
Hey, you can watch anything you like. However, I’ve usually got my eye on a couple things during the game that I want to learn more about. These are the things I’ll be looking for tonight:
- The Lyon returns to his den: Muse had a nice game against his former team last Friday, and Tokarski played admirably for the most part in Scranton, but this is Lyon’s team, it seems. Will he start? I would assume so. How will he look? Will fans roar on their own if the puck is still in play and the sound effects can’t legally do it? We did a good job with the moose chant–I think we can roar.
- Last Friday in this spot I said to watch young defenceman Mark Friedman. I didn’t think he’d been playing terribly well and wanted to watch more closely to try to figure out why. He didn’t play Friday, but did Saturday in Scranton. Those who had eyes on that game have since told me that he played really well that night. Keep an eye on him tonight.
- Two players who have recently returned from injury, F Misha Vorobyev and F Cole Bardreau, should be settling in. Watch their games tonight, and how each of them creates chances by doing things away from the puck to help the team. I like both of them a great deal and I think they are both continuing to improve their games despite being at different points of their respective careers.
- Watch Corban Knight. Assuming he makes it back to the lineup tonight, it should make every line better. They may limit his ice time a bit in his first game back.
- “Hot Taek” Time: If the Flyers want a young forward to try out right now, Nic Aube-Kubel is a better choice than Oskar Lindblom. Watch tonight and see if you agree.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Just a quick look ahead so that you know what’s coming up for both the players as well as the hockey at PPL Center:
- Right back here Friday for last-place Hershey on Faith Night. There will be a movie after the game, shown on the big screen and to be watched from the club seats.
- Then again on Saturday for Rochester as we finish 7 of 8 at home. I’ll have special guests at this game.
- Sunday is the Season Ticket Holder Carnival. You must be signed up for tickets for next season to get invited. Tickets should be in your email shortly.
See you at the arena,
Special thanks to Heather Barry and our friends at SonsofPenn.com for the use of their photos in tonight’s post. You can follow Heather on Twitter: @HeatherM_Barry and check out Sons of Penn for all your Flyers news and Flyers podcasts.
Also, special thanks to the readers. I put together these ‘Hockey Night’ posts for fun–there is no advertising income or paywalls. Without readers it wouldn’t be fun and I wouldn’t bother with it. Enjoy the game tonight, M.