Game 78 Preview: Hershey @ WBS Penguins

Friday, April 8, 2011
Only three games remaining in the regular season!

The Penguins and Bears begin the first of back-to-back meetings this weekend in games that don't mean anything in terms of playoff positioning for these two teams. The Pens are stamped as the #1 team and the Bears #2 in the East Divison. What these games could do, however, is allow for one club to make a statement heading into the postseason. These two teams could very well meet in the second round of the playoffs.

I will be at tonight's game and will have live updates on tonight's game on the blog's Twitter feed @H_P_Hockey.  The game thread will be up at 6:30 p.m. EST. Puck drops at 7.

The Basics
Hershey: 77 games played, 2nd East Division, 45-24-3-5, 98 points
WBS Penguins: 77 games played, 1st East Division, 56-20-0-1, 113 points

Season Series: Penguins lead 7-1
Previous 10 games - HER: 5-2-2-1  WBS: 8-2-0-0

Players to Watch:
Hershey: Andrew Gordon will be serving his one game suspension tonight, but the Bears still have the services of Keith Aucoin and two 30-goal scorers in Brian Willsie and Kyle Greentree. I'm not sure with these games meaning relatively little if the Bears will submit their best lineup against the Pens but rest assured, the Bears have plenty of talented forwards that can create offense.

WBS: Joe Vitale will be making his return to the lineup for the first time since March 16th in Manitoba. He's an energy guy that checks and plays well in his own zone. Hopefully he will help out in the faceoff department too as I haven't been impressed with the faceoffs lately. Other players returning to the lineup include Brett Sterling (out since 3/30) and Joey Mormina (out since 3/8).

Final Thoughts
The Penguins haven't lost to the Bears in an AHL arena this season, their lone loss coming at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. It's safe to say they have the Bears' number this year.  I would expect Brad Thiessen, who was robbed of the AHL MVP award today, to get the start in net tonight.  Here's the lines I saw in practice this week that we will probably see in tonight's game:

Brett Sterling-Ben Street-Nick Petersen
Keven Veilleux-Ryan Craig-Geoff Walker
Chris Collins-Joe Vitale-Bryan Lerg
Paul Thompson-Zach Sill-Jesse Boulerice

Robert Bortuzzo-Brian Strait
Corey Potter-Carl Sneep
Andrew Hutchinson-Joey Mormina

Brad Thiessen

Scratches: Ryan Schnell (healthy), David Marshall (healthy), Viktor Ekbom (healthy), Steve Wagner (upper body), Tim Wallace (lower body)


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