Game 75 Preview: Charlotte @ WBS Penguins

Friday, April 1, 2011
With Forward Brandon DeFazio getting the call up from Wheeling, Brett Sterling may not be able to play tonight.
The big news leading up to tonight's game is the status of Penguins leading scorer Brett Sterling, who was boarded by Norfolk's Vladimir 2:22 into the third period of Wednesday night's game. Initially, the hit left Sterling on his stomach and motionless for 20-30 seconds. He went to the bench with the team's trainer and later skated to the dressing room on his own power and it seemed like he was leaving as a precaution.

I'll be in attendance at tonight's game and will update the blog's Twitter feed @H_P_Hockey throughout tonight's game with updates on Sterling and the game itself. Be sure to follow the blog on Twitter for up to the minute news and updates on the team.

Follow the action in tonight's game thread that will be up at 6:30 p.m. EST. Puck drops at 7. Follow the blog on FaceBook and follow my Twitter feed for Penguins updates.

Now, onto a preview of tonight's game.

The Basics
Charlotte: 75 games played - 3rd place East Division, 41-25-2-7, 91 points
WBS Penguins: 74 games played - 1st place East Division, 53-20-0-1, 107 points

Season Series:  WBS Penguins lead 6-1
Previous 10 games - CHA: 6-3-0-1  WBS: 7-2-0-1

Players to Watch
Charlotte:  Zac Dalpe (56 games played, 21G, 30A, 7 PPG) was recently named to the AHL's 2010-11 All-Rookie Team and is one of the many dangerous forwards the Penguins will need to keep an eye on tonight. The Checkers also have offensively skilled defensmen in their lineup, namely Bryan Rodney (9G, 35A).

WBS: Those tuning in for tonight's game should listen for one of the new additions to the roster to possibly make the lineup tonight and get some ice time. Either Brandon DeFazio (Clarkson University/Wheeling Nailers) or Paul Thompson (UNH) could be the 12th forward tonight and both are highly touted prospects. DeFazio scored nine points in his first 10 games as a pro in the ECHL. Paul Thompson was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker award, given annually to the best college hockey player.

Final Thoughts
 The WBS Penguins can all but clinch the AHL's best record and home ice advantage throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs with a win tonight. Needing only three points in their remaining six games, the sooner the Pens can wrap things up the sooner you might see some of the recently signed younger prospects get some game experience under their belt.

With Hershey and Norfolk squaring off at the Scope the next two nights, the Checkers can solidify their playoff position with a strong performance this weekend as well.

I can't believe the regular season will end next Sunday. Every game and every shift are starting to become more and more important. Hopefully the Pens can wrap up the AHL's best soon and look ahead to the Calder Cup Playoffs with a sense that they still have to prove themselves.


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