“Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back.”
-John W. Cale
In their first two games back from the All Star break, the Phantoms split last weekend, defeating the second-place Sound Tigers 7-6 to take over their spot in the standings, then losing 1-2 to a red-hot Hershey club. The Saturday loss then knocked the Phantoms all the way to fourth place in the now very tight AHL Atlantic. While the Phantoms were off Wednesday night, some teams were able to gather standings points then, as well. Here’s how things stand headed into this weekend:
|2||Bridgeport Sound Tigers||49||26||17||4||2||58||0.592||22||150||153||2-0-0-0||4-6-0-0||707|
|4||Lehigh Valley Phantoms||47||25||17||3||2||55||0.585||22||158||147||0-1-0-0||5-3-2-0||585|
|8||Hartford Wolf Pack||48||19||23||3||3||44||0.458||18||140||168||0-6-1-1||2-6-1-1||613|
The Phantoms now look to “Get Back” into a more solid spot in the standings as they “Get Back” some injured players and add some loaners and spare parts from Philadelphia.
Last weekend was a bit of a mish-mash with the roster, as it was good to have TJ Brennan back from his illness and its sequelae, while Conner Bunnaman was out with an injury. That last fact coupled with the promotions of Vorobyev and Varone had the Hamilton Street Heroes scrambling for centermen. Captain Colin McDonald took on that responsibility and reportedly played fairly well. Here’s an update on the rest of the roster goings on as we prepare for a 3/3 weekend starting Friday in Utica:
Jori Lehterä was put on waivers on Wednesday, cleared on Thursday and was subsequently assigned to the Phantoms. It’s not known if he was on the Thursday bus to Utica, and I don’t see a uniform number yet. I’m expecting to see him on one of the lines this weekend.
Corban Knight Knighter is fully back from his broken clavicle suffered early in the season. He’ll likely need some “conditioning” time as well–but remember he’ll need to be on the Flyers’ active roster to do that. He’s been cleared for full contact, and I’m not sure what the Fly Guys have planned for him in the long-term future–in some ways I kinda feel like it might be better for them to activate him and put him on waivers right away, forcing other teams to make the rehab/conditioning projection. I’d assume he’d pass through and I’m of the mind that he’d be a key cog for the Phantoms down the stretch. Unfortunately, he misses the “tweener” cut-off for the veteran rule by one or two games, and thus goes in the “veteran” category.*
Connor Bunnaman Bunny surprisingly missed both games last weekend with an undisclosed injury. Sources suggest he could be available this weekend, but nothing is guaranteed. He’s been a fine piece at center, and continues to get better. We could certainly use him.
Dale Weise Weezy has been wearing #18 and according to him, having a lot of fun playing with a good group here in Allentown and logging many more minutes than he was with the Flyers, even when he was playing. Young players in Philly praised his veteran support off the ice; there should be no reason to think that won’t continue with the Phantoms. He did get on the board last weekend, but even if you don’t see gaudy stats, expect him to play an important role–much like Matt Read last season.
Justin Bailey Bails continues to impress–even for those of us who miss Taylor Leier. He’s a big guy who can skate and handle the puck. He’s got a good motor. I’ve enjoyed watching him so far, and he seems to be settling in nicely. Don’t be surprised if he finds his way to the NHL before all is said and done.
David Kaše remains out with an undisclosed injury. No hints about him making it back, which I take to men he won’t be, yet.
Cole Bardreau, Nic Aube-Kubel, and German Rubtsov are all out long-term.
And where they stop, nobody knows. As you’ve likely heard, playoff goalie extraordinaire Mike McKenna is with the Phantoms “conditioning” and wearing sweater #56. He got the win last Friday in Bridgeport, and we’re expecting him in net this weekend in Utica, and maybe for one of the home games. Alex Lyon has missed some time recently with what was said to be a groin injury. I have heard that he has a chance to play this weekend, but of course nothing is for certain, and there are moving pieces here on the Goalie Go Round. One of those pieces is Brian Elliott. He’s perhaps ready for a “conditioning” stint as well, according to writers from Philadelphia. That could mean that he’d get that extra roster spot freed up by the Lehterä waiver–instead of Knight–and maybe a game this weekend? Next weekend? Who knows? Brandon Komm is still around, and took the loss in Hershey on Saturday. He’s played well, though, and does give the team a chance. We’ll know stuff is happening when we see him reassigned to Reading. It certainly seems as though Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz should hold down the fort in Philadelphia for the remainder of the season barring [——-
redacted——–]. Could Elliott be traded? McKenna? There is need out there, so I’m not sure either makes it through waivers, although I’d love for Lyon to have a veteran co-goalie.
What To Watch
Headed into the weekend, keep your eye on the roster moves to/from Philadelphia, as well as from Allentown to Reading, in order to anticipate what might happen. When looking for the lines and scratches this weekend, please keep in mind that we’re in “veteran rule” territory once again. Lehtera, Weise, Brennan, Conner, McDonald, and Samuelssson all count*–and one will need to sit. It think if Corban is on “conditioning” that might exempt him? I’m not sure. Any other veterans who get waived and pass through from Philly could also be a problem here–I’m looking at you Andrew MacDonald. A lot will depend on what happens leading up to the trade deadline.
Watch for guys to step up and play a bigger role when the roster gets churned and the personnel changes. One guy who’s done that is Mike Vecchione, who hung up 4 points in last Friday’s win. Mark Friedman has started to play an even bigger role pushing the puck down the ice. This is key for a roster in flux trying to “get it back” to the playoff standard.
Watch for call-ups. I hate to speculate, but perhaps Myers and Bailey? If trades are made or injuries happen, it’ll likely be the younger guys who go up to the NHL so that the new regime can continue to evaluate them.
Watch for further injuries. Even those with access are forbidden to leak out what to expect in terms of lineups prior to games. Always pay attention to the lines, scratches, and warm-ups to get a feel for what’s happening prior to the games.
What To Look Forward To
It’s a rather bleak hockey month, this February in Allentown. Minimal home games and a slow month overall, are to blame, and don’t make it any easier to “get it back.” This weekend we start a 3/3 in Utica, as mentioned above. Saturday AND Sunday at the PPL Center have Hartford in town for a two-fer. The last-place Wolfpack will present a different kind of challenge, and I’m looking for 5/6 possible standings points this weekend. Or, at least 4. Three or less will be abject failure. We’ll have more in “Hockey Night” on Saturday.
Next weekend, we’ll start yet another 3/3 at home with yet another game against Bridgeport. Saturday will begin a home/home with Hershey, but this time the Saturday game is in chocolatetown an the Sunday game in the Queen City.
With games the next two Sundays, important to note start times, 3:05PM this Sunday vs. Hartford–5:05PM next Sunday vs Hershey.
Watch for “Hockey Night in Allentown” before every home game!
See you at the arena,