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The Penguins end the 2011 calendar year and begin a four game homestand with a 4-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers tonight. Zach Sill scored two goals, including the game winner, and Colin McDonald added two assists. Scott Munroe stopped 14 of 16 shots he faced and got his 5th win in his last six starts.
It was Scott Munroe vs. Kevin Poulin in net. Nick Petersen was scratched in place of the returning Jason Williams. Alexandre Picard took the injured Carl Sneep's spot on the blueline. Ryan Schnell was also a healthy scratch up front for WBS.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins got two goals just six seconds apart early in the middle frame thanks to Zach Sill and Eric Tangradi. But Sill wasn't done on the scoresheet.
After Bridgeport made it a 2-1 game, Sill got his second of the game to make it 3-1 before Bryan Lerg tapped a rebound into an empty top half of the net to make it 4-1 after two periods.
The Sound Tigers got one back halfway through the third period but were unable to make a comeback. Penguins win 4-1.
Highland Park Hockey's December Grades and Player of the Month Award will post on Monday. Stay tuned to see how your favorite prospect fared this month.
Now onto tonight's pregame notes.
Back from Pittsburgh are defenseman Alexandre Picard and forward Jason Williams. Both fill much needed voids in the WBS lineup.
Picard fills in nicely on the WBS blue line and gives the AHL Penguins six healthy defensemen - Picard, Brian Strait, Cody Wild, Alex Grant, Philip Samuelsson and Peter Merth. Joey Mormina (upper body), Carl Sneep (upper body) and Boris Valabik (hand) are all out of lineup for the time being. Picard's offensive ability and defensive responsibility are much needed and he will be on the ice during all the important shifts of the game.
Williams gives the Penguins a forward that can create offense, which has been lacking as of late outside of Ben Street, Eric Tangradi, Bryan Lerg and Colin McDonald. Williams can also command the point on the power play, which has been dreadful this month.
The addition of Williams gives WBS 14 healthy forwards which means two will sit tonight as healthy scratches. Paul Thompson and Ryan Schnell had been sharing the 12/13th forward role so its possible both will be out of the lineup tonight. Matt Rust could also be an option to scratch, but I think his faceoff ability alone should keep him in the lineup.
The question tonight is who starts in net. Brad Thiessen gave up six goals to the Bears on Tuesday and Scott Munroe gave up five. Munroe got the win but neither were that impressive. We'll update that on the blog's Twitter feed as soon as warmups get underway. Recap on the blog shortly after the game.
|Mustache or not, Geoff Walker is the hero tonight!|
It was Scott Munroe vs. Dany Sabourin in net. Peter Merth was added on a PTO and filled in for the injured Boris Valabik. Ryan Schnell was again the healthy scratch.
The Bears lived on the power play tonight, scoring on all but one of their five power play chances tonight. The Pens meanwhile were just one for five tonight with the man advantage.
All seemed lost after Ryan Potulny's power play tally made it a 5-3 deficit for the Penguins. Then the failed 5-on-3 chance for the Penguins really seemed to make it appear improbable after Geoff Walker got the Penguins within a goal with about eight minutes to play.
But Nick Petersen finally got a bounce to go his way, banking one in off Sabourin with 1:53 to play and tying the game at five. The Penguins dominated the overtime session - outshooting the Bears 7-0 - but the game would be decided in the shootout.
Bryan Lerg gave the Pens a 1-0 lead in the third round of the shootout, and Cody Eakin quickly tied it in the beginning of the fourth round. It wasn't until Geoff Walker stepped onto the ice at the end of the ninth round that the game would be ended. A great bounce back after being mauled by the Bears on home ice last night.
Eric Tangradi had a great night, scoring two goals with a team high six shots on net. He scored his 11 and 12th goals of the season tonight. Geoff Walker added a goal and an assist, while Alex Grant tallied two assists.
Scott Munroe also had a great game for the Penguins in the shootout stopping eight of nine shooters including the two leading scorers in the AHL - Kieth Aucoin and Chris Bourque - as well as Ryan Potulny, Kyle Greentree, and Jacob Micflikier. A very potent Bears forward group unable to do anything on the breakaways in the shootout.
After an embarrassing 6-0 home loss to the Hershey Bears last night, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins get a chance right away to bounce back. A rematch at the Giant Center tonight between these two teams.
Peter Merth was added via PTO from Wheeling after Boris Valabik was injured last night. Merth should be in the lineup tonight. In net, it should be Scott Munroe vs. Dany Sabourin.
Other than that, expect another rivalry game between these two teams. The Penguins need a fast start to avoid dropping two straight to the Bears.
Live updates on Twitter. Recap after the game. GO PENGUINS!
|Without Schnell, the Penguins didn't really have anyone to drop the gloves and do some damage.|
Brad Thiessen has just not been himself as of late. He surrendered six goals on 23 shots tonight and looked a little late on some plays. I'd be confused if Scott Munroe didn't lead the Pens out of the tunnel in Hershey tomorrow night. I'm actually surprised he wasn't brought in tonight.
The Bears scored three in the first period and three more in the third period. An ugly game to watch if you were a Penguins fan.
Boris Valabik was slashed on the hand during the first period tonight. He returned for two shifts in the middle frame but missed the rest of the game. His status is unknown right now and with Joey Mormina still not skating, a defenseman may be needed.
Ryan Schnell was the only healthy scratch tonight. Mormina (upper body), Brian Day and Keven Veilleux are all still out.
Rematch tomorrow night. I think the Penguins will come out strong in Hershey. Preview will be up tomorrow afternoon.
|The scene at the end of the last meeting between these two teams in Wilkes-Barre.|
The Penguins are coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Albany Devils last Wednesday, where as the Bears last game before the break was a 5-2 win over Syracuse. The Penguins are 4-1-1 against the Bears this season and look to put a stranglehold on the season series tonight.
Projected WBS lineup:
Bryan Lerg - Ben Street - Colin McDonald
Eric Tangradi - Ryan Craig - Geoff Walker
Brian Gibbons - Matt Rust - Nick Petersen
Brandon DeFazio - Zach Sill - Paul Thompson/Ryan Schnell
Brian Strait - Carl Sneep
Boris Valabik - Philip Samuelsson
Cody Wild - Alex Grant
Joey Mormina still hasn't resumed skating since Corey Cowick's cheap shot at the end of a game earlier this month. Brian Day is still not ready to return to the lineup. Both are day-to-day.
Should be a dog fight tonight. Both teams have a lot to play for, both want to get off to a good start after the lay off and both teams have a pure hatred for each other. A classic rivalry game tonight. Should be fun. Live updates on Twitter right here plus a recap on the blog after the game.
|Valabik got into his first fight as a Penguin tonight, though it wasn't much of one.|
For those who didn't understand (or like?) the word play in tonight's headline, Albany's Mike Hoeffel scored both goals for the Devils tonight. Hoeffel actually made his pro debut against the WBS Penguins in Mohegan Sun Arena last season on March 23rd. He has plenty of good memories of Wilkes-Barre already.
It was Scott Munroe vs. Jeff Frazee in net tonight. Carl Sneep and Brian Strait made their return to the WBS lineup and both started the game. They replaced ECHL call-ups Dan Henningson and Peter Merth, who I expect will not be back with the team when the team returns from their week off. Paul Thompson was also back, replacing Ryan Schnell as the 12th forward.
The team is now off until December 27th. The players get to spend the holidays with their families and friends, before returning to Wilkes-Barre for a home-and-home with their arch rival Hershey Bears. Stay tuned, however, because I will be putting together some interesting posts throughout the week highlighting some of the players.
Recap after the jump.
|Brian Strait has been sent down to the WBS Penguins.|
Tonight the Penguins battle the Albany Devils in what will be the last game before the holiday break. They will pick back up on December 27th.
The Penguins are currently in a three-way tie for first place in the East Division. With a win tonight they can claim sole possession of first place in the division as well as hold a share of the conference lead since they are the only game on tap for tonight.
We will try to live update the game on Twitter but have been having trouble with the internet at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Have contemplated re-naming the blog "Technical Difficulties" because it seems whenever I get something good going, technology has to interfere.
Either way, the Pens take on the Devils at 7:05 p.m. and a recap will be up shortly after the game as usual.
|WBS missed Sneep, who made his NHL debut with Pittsburgh.|
This was a 2-2 game early in the second period but three unanswered goals by the Admirals sealed the deal. Ben Street and Bryan Lerg were the goal scorers for the Pens.
Brad Thiessen was pulled in favor of Scott Munroe after the Admirals third goal, but Thiessen finished the game, coming back in for the third period.
Not much you can ask for with the decimated lineup, but a better effort will be needed Monday night against the Albany Devils. That is the last game before the holiday break.
The injuries continue, but the WBS Penguins must continue to battle on. And tonight will surely be a challenge now. On to my speculations about what these moves mean for tonight:
- Brad Thiessen should get the start in net as Scott Munroe took to the ice last night. Munroe played great but I don't see back-to-back starts in consecutive days.
- The Penguins only have 12 healthy forwards on the roster now so Ben Street should be back in the lineup tonight.
- The Penguins only have 5 defensemen tonight, unless one of Joey Mormina or Boris Valabik can play. Coach Hynes said he'd like to get Valabik in a game before the break and with only two games left before Christmas, maybe tonight will be his WBS debut.
Go (Nailers?) Penguins!
Scott Munroe vs. Iiro Tarrki in net tonight. Ben Street was scratched as he was still under the weather. Joey Mormina is still out of the lineup with an upper body injury from a high hit from Corey Cowick up in Binghamton. Paul Thompson was the healthy scratch. Chris Barton made his WBS debut tonight. With Eric Tangradi and Alexandre Picard called up, everyone else played.
Colin McDonald - Bryan Lerg - Jason Williams
Brian Gibbons - Ryan Craig - Nick Petersen
Brandon DeFazio - Matt Rust - Geoff Walker
Ryan Schnell - Zach Sill - Chris Barton
Carl Sneep - Philip Samuelsson
Cody Wild - Alex Grant
Peter Merth - Dan Henningson
Recap after the jump.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins look to keep pace in the East Division tonight as they battle the Syracuse Crunch up in New York at 7:30 p.m.
The roster took a hit this morning with the announcement coming from Pittsburgh that forward Eric Tangradi and defenseman Alexandre Picard have been called up.
What this means two of the following four forwards will be healthy scratches tonight: Matt Rust, Ryan Schnell, Paul Thompson and Chris Barton. That is if both Bryan Lerg (maintenance day) and Ben Street (sick) play tonight. Both missed yesterday's practice, but should be ready to go tonight.
Defensively, Boris Valabik and Joey Mormina will likely play at least one of the three games before Christmas break but I don't think that will be tonight. The other six defensemen have played pretty well in their absence. Just take a look at the defensemen that should be playing for WBS right now but aren't due to injury/recall:
Basically, only Carl Sneep was projected to play at the AHL level at the beginning of the season, of the defensemen left on the WBS roster currently.
Robert Bortuzzo (concussion), Brian Strait (upper body), Simon Despres (recall), Alexandre Picard (recall), Boris Valabik (knee), Joey Mormina (upper body)
In goal tonight will be Scott Munroe, who has been playing well lately. Brad Thiessen won 4-2 against Binghamton on Wednesday and will likely be in net tomorrow night at home against the Norfolk Admirals.
In-game updates tonight on the Twitter side with a full recap right here on the blog shortly after the game.
It was Brad Thiessen vs. Robin Lehner in net. Recent call-up Chris Barton and Paul Thompson were the healthy scratches. Joey Mormina is still shaken up from the high hit Corey Cowick put on him the last time the two team's played.
The Penguins got back at Cowick for his dirty hit at the end of the last game between these teams. Cowick and Geoff Walker dropped the mitts 2:13 in and both got some good shots in.
The Senators would open the scoring while on a 5-on-3 power play. Stephane Da Costa scored his first AHL goal at the 7:27 mark to give the Sens a 1-0 lead after the first period.
In the middle frame, the Pens tied the game at one after a power play had expired. Eric Tangradi fed a beautiful pass into the slot to a wide open Colin McDonald who made no mistake and buried one past Lehner. Ryan Craig got the second assist 8:38 into the period.
Mike Hoffman gave the Senators a 2-1 lead on a goal from Da Costa and Riley Armstrong while on another two man advantage. But that would be the last time the puck got behind Thiessen tonight.
On a power play of their own at the tail end of the 2nd period, Alex Grant found Ben Street cutting up the middle and fed a nice pass to him. Street did the rest and went forehand to back on Lehner with a defenseman on his back. A great goal for Street and tied the game at two with 1:53 left in the period.
A Carl Sneep point shot was tipped in by Zach Sill to give the Pens their first lead of the game at 3-2 with 11:59 to play. Tangradi unselfishly passed a puck to Colin McDonald for an empty net goal to seal the deal with 7.1 seconds left and that was the game. Penguins 4, Senators 2.
Next for the Pens is a trip to Syracuse before a Saturday night home game with the Norfolk Admirals. We will have you up to date with all the WBS Penguins news this weekend right here at Highland Park Hockey - your source for all Penguins hockey news!
|Carl Sneep is the team's top defensemen tonight.|
Pittsburgh is without many top players such as Sidney Crosby (concussion symptoms), Jordan Staal, Richard Park, Dustin Jeffrey, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek, Ben Lovejoy, Robert Bortuzzo, and Brian Strait.
This has caused some trouble for the AHL Penguins, especially on defense. With Strait and Bortuzzo hurt in Pittsburgh and Simon Despres and Alexandre Picard on recall, two ECHL defensemen are getting a crack at the lineup. Those being Dan Henningson and Peter Merth. They join Carl Sneep, Philip Samuelsson, Cody Wild and Alex Grant as the only six healthy defensemen on the WBS roster.
Joey Mormina didn't practice yesterday and will not play tonight. He received a high hit in Binghamton at the very end of the game and has not played since. Boris Valabik is still skating and might make his WBS debut this weekend, but is out for tonight as well.
Up front, Jason Williams was again called up to Pittsburgh and his roster spot will be replaced by Chris Barton, who was recently signed to an AHL contract.
This on Barton from the team's presser:
Barton has registered 26 points (15g-11a) over 21 games during his rookie season with the Nailers. He leads all ECHL first-year players in points and ranks third overall with 15 goals scored. The 24-year old native of Calgary, Alberta is the reigning ECHL Rookie of the Month after compiling seven goals and eight assists in 10 games during the month of November.So now that all the player movement is out of the way, the Penguins host the Binghamton Senators tonight at 7:05 p.m. Follow the blog's Twitter feed for live in-game updates as I will be in attendance at tonight's game. Recap will be up shortly following the conclusion of tonight's game.
Tangradi and Bryan Lerg scored two quick goals 3:04 apart to start the third period to take a 3-1 lead and after Grahahm Mink intentionally knocked the Bears' empty net off its moorings, a 4-1 lead. Bears get a late one, but too little too late and the Penguins beat the Bears 4-2.
I just want to say ECHL call ups Dan Henningson and Peter Merth really stepped up tonight, and Matt Rust has been bringing it every shift. Not on the score sheet but shouldn't go unnoticed.
Quick recap after the jump.
Tonight the Penguins battle the Bears at the Giant Center in Hershey, with the injuries mounting and call-ups at a premium. Way too many injuries/call-ups but a general overview:
NHL injuries: Crosby, Staal, Letang, Michalek, Lovejoy, Bortuzzo, Strait, Jeffrey, Park.
AHL call-ups: Despres, Williams
The lineup is getting thinner, especially on the blue line. Two defenseman have been added from the ECHL, that being Dan Henningson and Peter Merth.
Up front, the Penguins added ECHL sensation from Wheeling Chris Barton. Barton is tearing it up in Wheeling and was rookie of the month for his hard work.
As for tonight's game, it is going to be a battle for sure. Hershey comes in riding on a four game win streak. Both the Bears and Pens are tied for first place right now in the division (along with Norfolk) so expect a fight until the final horn sounds tonight.
Braden Holtby gets the start in net for the Bears. Danny Richmond will likely be the veteran scratch, with Kyle Greentree and DJ King out of the lineup also with injuries.
For the Penguins, the only roster player with any doubt as to his status is Zach Sill, who has missed the past few games. Everyone else is good to go. Scott Munroe is coming off the shutout so I would expect the Pens to ride the hot hand. But Brad Thiessen is more than a formidable starter in net as well.
Puck drops at 7. Updates on the blog's Twitter feed. Let's get up to 500 followers on the Twitter side tonight (this means shout outs and RT's are welecome!),
|Rust's goal gave the Pens a 1-0 lead they would hold.|
Goaltenders duel between Munroe and Robin Lehner. Lehner stopped 35 of 36 shots he faced but gets tagged with the loss. Zach Sill missed his 5th straight game with an upper body injury and Ryan Schnell was the 13th forward and healthy scratch tonight.
Dan Henningson didn't look out of place at all tonight, being loaned to the Penguins from the ECHL's Chicago Express. He took an interference minor in the third period, but played well defensively. Just what the Penguins needed from him tonight - good positional play with limited mistakes.
For Rust, tonight was his first professional goal and a big one - the lone goal and the game winner. Rust now has 4 points (1G, 3A) in seven games with the Penguins this season mainly as a 4th line forward, bouncing in and out of the lineup. It was nice to see Rust rewarded for his hard work tonight.
The Penguins now lead the season series 4-0-1 against the Senators. These two teams will meet again on Tuesday for the sixth time this season, but not before the Penguins travel to Hershey for a Saturday night tilt against the Bears at the Giant Center.
The win tonight broke the three-way tie for first place in the East Divsion. The Penguins now lead with 31 points, with Hershey (29 pts) and Norfolk (29 pts) nipping at their heels. Saturday night's game with the Bears is a big game, a proverbial "four point game" that could either keep first place tied up or see the Pens extend their lead again.
Highlights courtesy of Eric P from the Pensblog:
The Penguins start this week's games up in Binghamton to take on the defending champs at 7:05 p.m. EST.
For the Senators, Robin Lehner (6-8-1, 2.91 GAA, .915 SV%) will get the start in net tonight against the Penguins. Senators beat writer Joy Lindsay had this nugget yesterday. The Senators are starting to get healthy and it appears as though Riley Armstrong and Rob Klinkhammer will make their home debut tonight.
Defenseman Eric Gryba is also expected to play. Reigning AHL MVP Corey Locke and Mark Parrish won't play tonight but are getting closer to returning to game action and have been practicing with the team.
For the Penguins, Boris Valabik is still not ready to play. That it why yesterday's signing of Dan Henningson to a PTO was necessary. Not sure if Zach Sill will return to the lineup either. Sill has missed the last four games with an upper body injury.
There should only be one healthy scratch at forward if Sill is unable to go and that would most likely be between Matt Rust and Ryan Schnell. All six defensemen on the roster will play tonight. Those being Carl Sneep, Joey Mormina, Philip Samuelsson, Cody Wild, Alex Grant and Dan Henningson.
Brad Thiessen allowed five goals in the Pens last game against the Syracuse Crunch, so expect Scott Munroe to get the start tonight for the Penguins. Munroe is 2-0 against Binghamton this year, with a 1.00 GAA, .964 SV% and one shutout.
|Photo courtesy of the ECHL's league site.|
Henningson, 27, had recorded a goal and three assists in 18 games with the Express this season before being loaned to the Penguins. Henningson captained the Wheeling Nailers, the Penguins ECHL affiliate, last season and recorded five goals and 13 assists in 68 games.
This was a required move after Deryk Engelland was banged up the against the Bruins. Alexandre Picard was called up to Pittsburgh to join Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres as a part of the NHL Penguins' top six, leaving Wilkes-Barre with only five healthy defenseman: Joey Mormina, Carl Sneep, Philip Samuelsson, Cody Wild and Alex Grant.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins head to Binghamton for tomorrow night's game against the defending champion Senators.
|Alex Grant has three assists and a fight in his last two games. You miss that guy in the background yet?|
Ryan Schnell was in for Matt Rust tonight. That was the only lineup change. Zach Sill missed his fourth straight game with an upper body injury. Brad Thiessen vs. Iiro Tarkki in net tonight.
Full recap after the jump.
|Penguins want to continue to do this at the end of games.|
Full coverage of tonight's game right here as well as on Twitter. Please join in and comment, and most of all root on the Pens!
The Crunch are heading in the opposite direction as they dropped their second straight game last night, this one a 4-1 loss to the Hershey Bears who now have a four point lead on Syracuse for third place in the division. Goaltender Iiro Tarkki stopped 49 of 54 shots he faced in a 7-5 win for the Crunch the last time the Pens and Crunch met back November 23rd.
|Simon Despres is getting a look by Pittsburgh right now.|
Without further ado, grades for these guys after the jump.
With Niko Dimitrakos being released from his PTO, Matt Rust took his place in the lineup. Zach Sill missed his 3rd straight game with an undisclosed upper body injury, and Ryan Schnell was a healthy scratch. It was Brad Thiessen vs. Curtis McElhinney in net tonight.
Ben Street is playing with a ton of confidence. Eric Tangradi was a force tonight. Alexandre Picard isn't showing any displeasure with being sent down in favor of Simon Despres. Alex Grant and Joey Mormina had big nights. Everyone had a good night tonight.
I'll post the November Grades for the defensemen and goaltenders first thing tomorrow morning. I've been meaning to post it but didn't want to flood the posts with the news of Despres and the games this weekend. So check in the A.M. for that. Here's the forwards grades if you missed that.
Recap after the jump.
|Carl Sneep will have to play at his best tonight, with the defense being as thin as it is.|
They might also be without forward Niko Dimitrakos, who was released from his professional tryout contract (PTO). I think since the PTO was expiring soon that the Pens released him and intend to sign him to a standard player contract. Dimitrakos was in the midst of a five game point scoring streak, and I would be surprised if he wasn't retained by the team. We will find out more soon as warmups are set to get under way shortly. Follow the blog on Twitter: @H_P_Hockey to get the inside scoop on that.
The Pens will have the services of Alexandre Picard, who was returned by the parent club in exchange for Despres.
Expect Brad Thiessen in net tonight, as Munroe started the last two games and gave up four goals in his last appearance on Tuesday against Norfolk.
Full in-game coverage on Twitter (link to follow us above). Recap shortly after the conclusion of tonight's game.
Straight from the team's press release:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled defenseman Simon Despres from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, and re-assigned defenseman Alexandre Picard to WBS, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.Not sure exactly why the move was made but there are a number of possibilities. The most plausible reason looks to be that Picard would not be waiver exempt 30 days after his first call up on November 3rd, and today would be the 29th day so that could have been it.
The money issue is a dead end because Despres' cap hit is actually higher than Picard's. Maybe Shero and company wanted to see what Despres could do in NHL game action to track his development. Either way, Despres will likely be paired with a somewhat familiar face in Robert Bortuzzo for Pittsburgh's game against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
I haven't forgot about November Grades Part 2: The Defensemen & Goaltenders. That should post late tonight. Until then... Go Penguins!