Featured Stories

Unsigned Draft Picks Ekbom, Bathgate Released

Monday, May 30, 2011
Bathgate was the Penguins 5th round pick in 2009.
I figured the decision would come out soon on the un-signed draft picks, as the Penguins have until Wednesday (June 1st) to either sign them or release them into this year's draft pool. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that the Penguins have indeed decided not to sign prospects Andy Bathgate (pictured above) and Swedish defensman Viktor Ekbom.

But what about goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy, also an un-signed draft pick in the Penguins organization?

The Highland Park Hockey Blog 2.0

Friday, May 27, 2011

I've been working on a new design for this blog to make it a little more interesting for readers.  I'll still be making some minor changes in preparation for next season, but this is what the new blog will look like. I would like to use this post to open up the floor for feedback on the design and also any questions you might have relative to Penguins hockey.

After the jump, a look at 5 things you (the reader) can do to fully optimize and enjoy your reading of the Highland Park Hockey Blog: Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins organization with a focus on the AHL's Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins - future stars of the NHL.

I've also decided to run a little contest for those who have a Twitter account. Details inside!

2010-11 Season Review: David Marshall

Thursday, May 26, 2011
Player: David Marshall
Role: 4th line grinder
Contract Status: UFA on July 1st

Notables: 26 years old, 5-11, 185 lbs, Right handed shot

Total Season Stats (RCH, WOR & WBS): 43 games played, 5G, 4A, -3, 27 PIM
WBS Season Stats: 22 games played, 2G, 3A, -1, 6 PIM
Playoff Stats: 11 games played, 0G, 0A, -3, 8 PIM

I debated on whether or not to write up a review on David Marshall's season since he came on board later in the year, but with a long off-season here it goes. Be sure to rate Marshall's performance this season and comment below.

2010-11 Season Review: Bryan Lerg

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Bryan Lerg scored some big goals for the Pens this season.
Player: Bryan Lerg
Role: Two-way forward
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) on July 1st

Notables: 25 years old, 5-10, 175 lbs, Left handed shot

Season Stats: 65 games played 15G, 17A, +16, 21 PIM
Playoff Stats: 9 games played, 1G, 2A, -1, 4 PIM

Bryan Lerg began the season on a professional tryout, but after 14 games he was signed to an regular AHL contract. He was most likely brought into the Penguins organization because of a connection to coach John Hynes, who was Lerg's head coach when he played on the U.S. National Team from 2002 to 2004.

2010-11 Season Review: Nick Johnson

Monday, May 23, 2011
Player: Nick Johnson
Role: Offensive-minded forward
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) on July 1st

Notables: 25 years old, 6-2, 196 lbs, Right handed shot

AHL Stats: 48 games played, 20G, 19A, +12, 49 PIM
NHL Stats: 4 games played, 1G, 2A, +1, 5 PIM

To say that Nick Johnson was missed in Wilkes-Barre down the stretch and in the playoffs is an understatement. The play-making forward was called up in early February and never returned, because of a concussion he suffered in his 4th NHL game of the 2010-11 campaign in a fight against Colorado Avalanche's Ryan Wilson on February 16th. Johnson's stint in the NHL was short lived but he made the most of it while he played. He registered a point in 3 of the 4 games.

2010-11 Season Review: Dustin Jeffrey

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Player: Dustin Jeffrey
Role: Play-making, penalty-killing, two way forward
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent on July 1st

Notables: 23 years old, 6-2, 191 lbs, Left handed shot

AHL stats: 40 games played, 17G, 28A, +13, 8 PIM
NHL stats: 25 games played, 7G, 5A, +5, 4 PIM

Dustin Jeffrey was a busy man this season before a knee injury ended his year in late March. He started the season in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and it was quickly evident he was a man playing among boys. He was recalled to Pittsburgh numerous times and was back and forth between both leagues for most of the first half of the season. When the injuries got bad with the NHL club and Jeffrey was given his first real look at the end of January, he stayed put and wasn't seen in the AHL the rest of the year.

2010-11 Season Review: Andrew Hutchinson

Friday, May 20, 2011
Did Hutchinson ever fully recover from that knee injury on Dec. 1st?
Player: Andrew Hutchinson
Role: Offensive Defenseman, Power play specialist
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st

Notables: 31 years old, 6-2, 193 lbs, Right handed shot

Season stats: 54 games played - 7G, 29A, Even, 29 PIM
Playoff stats: 12 games played - 0G, 5A, Even, 0 PIM

There's no doubting Andrew Hutchinson's offensive ability. After opening the season with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and registering a goal and an assist on opening night, Hutchinson was recalled to Pittsburgh where he would play in five games and register one assist and a -3 rating. He returned to the AHL and got right back to where he left off, recording two more multi-point games to finish October with six points (2G-4A) in three games. The offensively minded defenseman remained a regular on the scoresheet in November with a goal and six assists in 13 games but in the first game of December tragedy struck.

2010-11 Season Review: John Curry

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Will John Curry return to the WBS Penguins next season?
Player: John Curry
Role: Backup Goaltender
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st

Notables: 27 years old, 5-11, 185 lbs, Glove hand: Left

Season stats: 41 games played: 23-13 record, 2.44 GAA, .905 SV%
Playoff stats: Did not play

John Curry probably doesn't get much, if any credit for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins success this season. Curry and his counterpart, Brad Thiessen, alternated starts during the beginning of the season and the two combined for a perfect 8-0 start through October. That started to change in November however, when Curry lost his first two starts of the month and finished an average 3-2. Thiessen seemed to have the edge, going 6-2 in the same month.

As the season wore on, it became more evident who the starter was and who became the backup goalie. Not to take anything away from the season Curry had, but Thiessen was simply having a season for the ages. Despite all of that, Curry picked up his 100th win in a Penguins uniform this season in dramatic fashion when Bryan Lerg scored in overtime to beat the Hershey Bears at Giant Center to clinch the East Division title.

What most people don't realize however, is that Curry improved upon last season in almost every statistical category. He tied his wins total from a year ago in less appearances. His goals against average lower, and his save percentage higher. He even notched one more shutout (2) than he had in his prior season.  Still, the road ahead for the Penguins netminder is very unclear. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent when the calendar hits July and with the way Thiessen has played, Curry might have played out his last days with the Penguins.

If the organization does offer him a contract between now and July 1st, he can certainly accept and come back, but he will most likely be the #4 goalie in the organization. At 27 years old, Curry is certainly entering the prime years of his hockey career and might opt to sign with a team he feels gives him a better chance to make the jump to the NHL. Either way, Curry has certainly had a fine career with the WBS Penguins and I wish him the best of luck next season, no matter where he ends up.

2010-11 Season Review: Ryan Craig

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Ryan Craig was one of the better team captains the Pens have had in recent years.
Player: Ryan Craig
Role: Two-way forward, AHL veteran
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st

Notables: 29 years old, 6-1, 215 lbs, Left handed shot

Season stats: 71 games played - 19G, 29A, +6, 84 PIM
Playoff stats: 12 games played - 3G, 4A, +7, 12 PIM

Team captain Ryan Craig was a true leader for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins this season. He was 2nd on the team in scoring during both the regular season and playoffs. His +7 in the playoffs was the best on the team.

He played six games for Pittsburgh in February when the injuries hit the organization hard up front. Craig went scoreless in those games but other than the -3 in the Islanders/Penguins fight night, he was an even +/- in the other five games.

Craig would be a good depth signing for the organization and a good leader to have in the AHL locker room with the rookies and prospects in the minors.  He was a 20G/20A guy the past two seasons and there's no reason to believe he can't continue at about that pace.  He is a solid two-way forward who can play on the power play and penalty kill. Craig also isn't afraid to drop the gloves to stick up for his teammates or to give his team a wake up call.

How do you rate his performance this season? Comment below and rate his season success on a 1-10 scale with one being the least impressive and 10 being the most impressive.

Tuesday's Lunch Links

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
A picture of Zach Sill dropping the gloves in a preseason game this past year.
The big news yesterday was the signing of forward Zach Sill to a two year, two-way contract for a $525,000 annual cap hit at the NHL level. That story is here if you don't feel like scrolling down the page. That was the first move the Penguins organization has made so far early in the off season. There are likely more free agent re-signings to come soon and they will be up on the blog as soon as the news breaks.

I wrote a pretty in-depth article explaining all of the organizations options for retaining the in-house free agents over at PensBurgh today. I would take a look at that story.

Other than that, I have started the player profile's of the WBS Penguins players with a review of the progress they made this season. So far I have posted season reviews of:
Be sure to comment on how you thought they performed this season and rate their performance on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the least impressive and 10 being the absolute most impressive. The next two players on that will be on the blog soon are team captain Ryan Craig and backup goaltender John Curry, two popular players in the Wilkes-Barre Penguins locker room last season. Look for those reviews later this week.

Penguins Sign Forward Zach Sill to Two Year Deal

Monday, May 16, 2011
Great to have Zach Sill back for 2011-12.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that the team has signed Zach Sill to a two-year deal. The hardworking and hard hitting center was set to become a free agent this July. A great start for the WBS Penguins in building another great team for next season. 

Sill really improved this past season, playing in all 80 regular season games for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and tripling his offensive production from 11 points (5G, 6A) in 2009-10 to 30 points (11G, 19A) in 2010-11. Not only was he more effective offensively, he also improved his play in the defensive zone. Sill was a regular on the PK unit and was one of the better WBS Penguins in the faceoff circle.

I was pretty sure that Sill would be back and am glad he was re-signed. He's probably not ready for NHL action next year but with another good season in the AHL, he could make the jump in 2012-13.

2010-11 Season Review: Chris Collins

Sunday, May 15, 2011
Player: Chris Collins
Role: Two-way forward
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st

Notables: 26 years old, 5-8, 186 lbs, Left handed shot

Season stats: 77 games played - 13G, 21A, +17, 47 PIM
Playoff stats: 12 games played - 3G, 2A, +2, 12 PIM

Chris Collins was a warrior for Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins this season, playing in all but three games. Collins was one of the toughest guys on the team and played much bigger than his 5-8 frame would suggest. It seemed like he was always the target after whistles and was picked on a lot because of his size by opposing teams. At one point in the season, Collins was playing with gashes under each eye that looked like the "eye-black" that NFL football players wear under their eyes to help reflect light so they can see.

As for his season, Chris Collins was bounced around on the wing anywhere from the 2-4 lines. He was a solid two way player and his +17 was tied for the most among forwards on the team. He was more of a scorer the last two seasons for the Augsburger Panthers of the DEL in Germany but has formed into a more versatile player this season for the Penguins. He played on the checking line in the playoffs with Zach Sill and Tim Wallace and was often up against the top offensive units from both the Admirals and Checkers.  Collins is set to become a free agent this summer and I think the team would like to have him back. I don't see Collins being offered an NHL contract next season, so if he stays in North America to play hockey I don't see why he would want to leave this organization.

Should he be brought back? Rate his performance this season on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being a terrible year and 10 being an amazing year. I'm going to go ahead and give him a 7. What do you think?

2010-11 Season Review: Jesse Boulerice

Friday, May 13, 2011
Player: Jesse Boulerice
Role: 4th line forward, enforcer
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st

Notables: 32 years old, 6-2, 212 lbs, right handed shot

Season Stats: 67 games played - 4G, 7A, -13, 147 PIM
Playoff Stats: 7 games played - 0G, 0A, -1, 11 PIM

Jesse Boulerice matched his goal total from last season (4) with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins after just 25 games and was a -1, but finished the last 42 games with just four assists and a -12 rating. While offensive production was never a strong part of Boulerice's game, his +/- was the worst on the team and at times he got caught and was forced to take penalties.  That was more noticeable in the playoffs and possibly part of the reason why he sat out the last five games as a healthy scratch in favor of David Marshall.

At 32 years old, he certainly isn't getting any younger and his speed, skating ability, etc are on the decline. The Penguins need a guy like Boulerice on the roster to protect the prospects but maybe they should look for younger options like a Ryan Schnell type player (also a free agent in July).

2010-11 Season Review: Robert Bortuzzo

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Player: Robert Bortuzzo
Role: Defensive defenseman
Contract Status: Signed through 2011-12

Notables: 22 years old, 6-4, 211 lbs, Right handed shot

Season Stats: 79 games played – 4G, 22A, +28, 111 PIM
Playoff Stats: 12 games played - 0G, 1A, +1, 6 PIM

In just his 2nd year of pro hockey, Robert Bortuzzo is already making a name for himself at the AHL level. He was on the WBS Penguins top defensive pairing with Brian Strait and was responsible for being the shut down defender in this year’s playoffs. He doubled his offensive production from last year (2G, 10A) while also improving in his own zone. Bortuzzo also represented the WBS Penguins at the AHL All Star Game this year and posted two goals in that game.

Bortuzzo is more of a stay at home defenseman and comparable to the NHL Penguins Brooks Orpik. Bortuzzo is physical in his own zone and is great at blocking shots with his big 6-4 frame. He’s sometimes prone to being over aggressive and taking a silly penalty here and there but was one of the team’s best defensemen this season. He will be entering the third and final year of his entry-level contract with the Penguins and while all 7 defensemen in Pittsburgh will be returning, Bortuzzo will look to impress the folks in Pittsburgh with the hopes that he will be the first one called up in the event of an injury/suspension to one of the NHL blue liners.

Take the time to comment on his season and assign him a rating on his performance this season on a scale of 1-10 with one being terrible and really bad season and a 10 being an impeccable season.

A Look at Who's Back Next Season, Etc.

Monday, May 9, 2011
Here's a brief look at what the team looks like for next season. I have listed all of the returning players as well as the free agents to be if not re-signed by July 1st. It's a very complicated process and I'm no expert but here's what I know to the best of my knowledge.

There are two types of free agents: Restricted and Unrestricted free agents (RFA & UFA).

Teams need to submit what are called qualifying offers to RFA's by July 1st to avoid losing them to UFA, where any team is free to sign them. Submitting a qualifying offer isn't a guarantee an RFA will be back; he still needs to sign the contract (I believe the qualifying offer is a small raise from the previous year's salary). The RFA can try to hold out if he thinks a better offer will come from a different NHL team. The team that he currently is a part of has the chance to match any offer any other NHL team makes on that RFA. I know very confusing stuff. Basically, the team's have a lot more pull on an RFA in their organization.

UFA is a little more straight forward. Teams have until July 1st to re-negotiate a new contract with their UFA. He can either accept the contract he is offered or decline and wait to see offers from other teams after July 1st. So basically a UFA has a decision to make. If the team he was on wants him back they'll try to offer him a new contract. If he wants to stay he'll try to negotiate with the team before July 1st. He can still sign with the same team after July 1st, but he could also be gobbled up by a different team if the contract offer seems appealing to the player.

Hope I didn't confuse you by now. Just a little bit of the basics I tried to lay out for those who might not know anything about how hockey free agency works. Feel free to comment or email me with links to references/rules etc. that would help clear this up even better.

After the jump, a look at who is already signed through next season and who is not.

The WBS Penguins Season Comes to Abrupt End

Saturday, May 7, 2011
This picture pretty much sums up the final game of the 2010-11 season.
The theme of the playoffs this season has definitely been that no lead is safe. The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and their fans learned this the hard way tonight. After two 2nd period goals from Ryan Craig and Corey Potter and an early 3rd period shorthanded goal from Joe Vitale, a 3-0 lead in Game 6 seemed just that, safe.

A Chris Terry snipe made it 3-1 with 12:36 to go. After the Pens missed out on a power play chance, Brett Sutter made it a one goal game with 9:20 left. Just 30 seconds later and on the very next shift, Chris Terry got his 2nd of the night and tied the game at 3.  Zac Dalpe, who I thought was rather quiet this series, completed the Checkers comeback and stunned the Mohegan Sun Arena crowd with 3:18 remaining. Four unanswered third period goals in a span of nine minutes and 18 seconds brought to an end the 2010-2011 Penguins season. A tough way to end the season, but what's done is done and all that can be done is to begin to get ready and look forward to 2011-2012.

A tough time for Penguins nation no doubt, but I won't be joining the pity party. Tomorrow morning I fly out to Orlando, Florida for a week away after finishing school at Penn State University. I won't be posting much for the week but here's what I plan on doing:
A brief look at who will be back and who is set to become free agents, and I will start with a player-by-player season review with how each guy did this season.  Plan on the team makeup article tomorrow and the first player review (Robert Bortuzzo) on Wednesday.
After that I will try to get a new player's review up every other day or so until next Sunday when I get back from Florida. But once I'm back I will really get into dissecting the players on the team and who and what to look forward to next season.

Thanks to all of those who have been reading and I hope I'm doing all the right things. Continue to spread the word about Highland Park Hockey and as always, let's go Penguins!

Game Thread: Round 2, Game 6: CHA @ WBS

We don't want to the see the handshake line tonight!

Join in on the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Charlotte Checkers in Game 6 tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

A preview of everything you need to know about tonight's game here.

You can listen to tonight's game live online at 102.3 The Mountain. You can also buy a feed to watch tonight's game on the AHL's website.

For up to the minute updates of tonight's game and WBS breaking news in general, I suggest following the blog's Twitter feed.

Round 2, Game 6: WBS Penguins Pregame Report

Hopefully we see a lot of this tonight. Let's do this!

After defeating the Charlotte Checkers 1-0 last night in Game 5, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins look to continue their comeback at home tonight in Game 6. I'll be in attendance at tonight's game and will have live in-game updates via the blog's Twitter feed. The game thread will be up and running at 6:30 p.m. EST. Puck drops at 7. Let's do this!

Exclusive Game 5 Photos - WBS Penguins

Really nice arena they have in Charlotte. The NBA's Bobcats also play in the Time Warner Cable Arena.
I was fortunate enough to get some pictures sent to me from last night's Game 5 action in Charlotte so I figured I would share them. A special thanks to Michelle for these great pictures!

More after the jump.

WBS Penguins Send the Series to Game 6, Win 1-0

Friday, May 6, 2011
Chris Collins is the Penguins hero tonight!

With the game scoreless midway through the 3rd period, Nick Petersen was hooked up on his way into the offensive zone and the Penguins were awarded a power play. Though they didn't officially get credit for a power play goal, as the penalty expired Bryan Lerg took a shot from the point and Chris Collins deflected it past Mike Murphy to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

The Checkers didn't throw in the towel. They recorded 19 shots on Brad Thiessen in the third period after only being credited with 9 shots through the first 40 minutes. On one flurry of shots late in the third the Checkers appeared to have tied the game at one. But the puck never went in. It clanked off of both goal posts and somehow stayed out of the net. A few seconds later the Checkers would whiff on an empty net and Thiessen would hang on for a whistle.

The Penguins were able to hold on tonight 1-0 and send the series back to Wilkes-Barre for Game 6 tomorrow night at 7 p.m. EST. While the Pens still have to win the next two games to advance, they took the first step by staving off elimination and making it a 3-2 series deficit.

I hope to have a post of some pictures from tonight's game on the blog either later tonight or sometime tomorrow. What a game. What a series this is turning out to be. Still a long road ahead for the Penguins but they took a step in the right direction tonight. The Penguins will get a police escort to the airport in Charlotte right after the game and should arrive in Wilkes-Barre around midnight. Let's hope the Penguins have enough left in the tank to take the next step: Force a Game 7 on Monday night.

Game Thread: Round 2, Game 5: WBS @ CHA

In the biggest game of the season to date, look for captain Ryan Craig to lead his team tonight.
Join in on the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Charlotte Checkers in Game 5 tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

A preview of everything you need to know about tonight's game here.

You can listen to tonight's game live online at 102.3 The Mountain. You can also buy a feed to watch tonight's game on the AHL's website.

For up to the minute updates of tonight's game and WBS breaking news in general, I suggest following the blog's Twitter feed.

Round 2, Game 5: WBS Penguins Pregame Report

Steve Wagner leads the WBS Penguins with 3 playoff goals. Can he add to his total tonight?

Down 3-1 in the best of seven series, the comeback begins tonight at 7 p.m. EST when the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins take on the Charlotte Checkers in Game 5 at the Times Warner Cable Arena in North Carolina.

In a year where a series lead in the playoffs has been anything but secure, the WBS Penguins will look to come back from a 3-1 deficit yet again. Those fans who were on board back when the Penguins were down 3-1 to Bridgeport in a best of seven series in 2005 know nothing is over until a team wins four games. This organization has done it before with their backs against the wall and what better time to repeat history than the present?

Checkers Put WBS Penguins On The Brink

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The WBS Penguins are certainly missing the likes of Eric Tangradi right now.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins lost another close, hard fought game tonight to the Charlotte Checkers and find themselves down 3-1 in the best of seven series. The WBS Penguins out-shot the Checkers 44-32, but Mike Murphy was up to the task tonight. Game 5 will be in Charlotte on Friday night.

Game Thread: Round 2, Game 4 - WBS @ CHA

We know Brad Thiessen will be in net tonight. What about the rest of the lineup?

Join in on the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Charlotte Checkers in Game 4 tonight at 7 p.m. EST. Charlotte stole the first game Thursday night 3-2 in Wilkes-Barre, but the WBS Penguins responded in Game 2 on Saturday night, shutting out the Checkers 3-0 to even the series at one game apiece. The teams came to Charlotte for this week's games and on Monday night the Checkers regained the series lead after a 2-1 OT win.  The Penguins are going to respond. We just have to wait to see how they'll respond. The game has the feel of a "must win" because you never want to go down 3-1 in a series. Especially when Game 5 (5/6) is still in Charlotte. If necessary, Game's 6 & 7 will be on Saturday 5/7 and Monday 5/9 in Wilkes-Barre.

You can listen to tonight's game live online at 102.3 The Mountain. You can also buy a feed to watch tonight's game on the AHL's website.

For up to the minute updates of tonight's game and WBS breaking news in general, I suggest following the blog's Twitter feed.

WBS Penguins Look to Make Series "Best of 3"

The Penguins and Checkers square off in Game 4 tonight.

Last Time Out
After Brett Sutter's tough angle shot found its way into the back of the net 5:40 into overtime on Monday, the Checkers took back the series lead over the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, 2-1.

Tonight the Penguins will look to even up the series and guarantee that the series will finish in their building. With their fans. The game thread will be up at 6:30 p.m. EST. Puck drops tonight at 7.

Tuesday Update: Penguins Back to Where They Were

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
It's time for the WBS Penguins to dig deep. Let's tie up this series at 2 and finish it at home!

The WBS Penguins loss makes tomorrow night's Game 4 similar to Saturday night's Game 2. The Penguins trail their best of seven series by one game again against the Checkers and need to respond to the 2-1 loss. With a full lineup and a mentality to be physical and smart with the puck like Game 2, the Penguins can and will get back in this series.

I still stick by my prediction at the beginning of the series (Pens in 6) and knew this was going to be a hard fought battle.It continues tomorrow night in the Time Warner Cable Arena and the Penguins need to bring that effort into every shift. The Penguins will look to get back to that kind of style that has given them success the entire second half of the season: Great defense & goaltending, with timely goals and physical effort.

Penguins Fall 2-1 in OT, Trail 2-1 in Series

Monday, May 2, 2011
The WBS Penguins have gone with 7 defensemen the last two games and Carl Sneep got to play in his first two career AHL playoff games. Played well in my opinion.
In a low scoring playoff hockey game, not capitalizing on your opportunities and turning over the puck in the neutral zone will hurt a team's chances of winning every time. It really did in the WBS Penguins tonight, as they lost 2-1 against the Charlotte Checkers. The Checkers have now regained the series lead two games to one with Game 4 on Wednesday night in Charlotte.

The Penguins were getting out chanced early in the first period but Brad Thiessen made the necessary stops to keep it scoreless. Later in the first, Tim Wallace would make a good play in the defensive zone that would lead to a 2-on-1 with Chris Collins. Wallace flipped a pass over to Collins who would tap it home into basically an empty net, as Checkers goalie Mike Murphy was caught going the other way.

The 2nd period was one of the worst periods of hockey I've seen from the Pens since early in the Norfolk series. They were having trouble clearing the zone and turning over the puck a lot without getting the puck deep into the offensive zone. A Brad Thiessen attempted clear was knocked down by Nicolas Blanchard and Nick Dodge tied the game 1-1 just three seconds after David Marshall's hooking penalty had expired. The Checkers out shot the Pens 11-5 in the middle frame.

The Penguins played much better in the third, out shooting the Checkers 7-2 in the period, but were unable to get one past Murphy. The game would go to overtime. Both teams had chances early in the extra session but the goalies were up to the task. The dagger in the Penguins side came 5:40 into overtime when Brett Sutter flung a puck on net down low and it bounced off Thiessen and found its way into the top of the net. Game over. Charlotte wins 2-1 and leads the series by the same score.

Game Thread: Round 2, Game 3 WBS @ CHA

Join in on the action and comment in the thread as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins battle the Charlotte Checkers in Game 3 tonight at 7 p.m. Charlotte stole the first game Thursday night 3-2 in Wilkes-Barre, but the WBS Penguins responded in Game 2 on Saturday night, shutting out the Checkers 3-0 to even the series at one game apiece. The series has shifted to Charlotte for three straight games, but the WBS Penguins have been much better on the road this postseason (3-0) compared to at home (2-3).

You can listen to tonight's game live online at 102.3 The Mountain. You can also buy a feed to watch tonight's game on the AHL's website.

For up to the minute updates of tonight's game and WBS breaking news in general, I suggest following the blog's Twitter feed.

Round 2, Game 3: Preview and Lineup Possibilities

The Penguins and Checkers square off in Game 3 tonight.
After splitting the first two games of the series in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins will look to take control in a pivotal Game 3 tonight in Charlotte against the Checkers.

Be sure to predict the final score and who you think the first star will be in tonight's game and post that either on Twitter with the #HPHockey tag or in the Game Thread before 7:00 p.m. EST.