Now that the All-Star festivities have passed, the Penguins look to get back to playing how they were before the break. Since the NHL lockout has ended, the AHL Penguins are 6-1.
Heading down the stretch, the Pens have added two veterans in forward Tom Kostopoulos and defenseman Mark Eaton.
They've also acquired a forward via trade. Enter Chad Kolarik. Benn Ferriero was moved in exchange for Kolarik and had an assist for the New York Rangers in a game I watched. Kolarik scored on his first shift on his first shot last Friday in Rochester and tallied two goals in the AHL All-Star Game Monday night in Providence. Looks like both players are benefiting from a change in scenery so far.
Every team deals with injuries and heading into this weekend, the Penguins have their fair share up front. Tom Kuhnhackl is out for the season after having surgery to repair a separated shoulder. Phil Dupuis hasn't skated since what was originally diagnosed as a minor injury during practice January 14th. Now head coach John Hynes says Dupuis will be out for awhile, but it is not season ending.
Then there's Paul Thompson, who skated by himself after practice yesterday without any equipment. Not even gloves. Hynes says Thompson will be out a few weeks with an upper body injury.
Don't forget about Beau Bennett either. He thought to be battling the flu but it's apparent after missing last weekend's games and the All-Star Game that Bennett isn't 100%. He didn't skate at practice yesterday and even though he came out for some off ice shooting, I don't think he'll be in the lineup tonight. We'll see about the rest of the weekend.
But that's what the AHL is about after all. Isn't it? Guys like Bobby Farnham, Dominik Uher, Adam Payerl and Chris Barton, who has been signed to another PTO this morning, have come up and filled in nicely.
Defensively, Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Brian Strait have graduated to the NHL. Carl Sneep was traded to Dallas for a draft pick to clear some more room for the young guns like Brian Dumoulin, Joe Morrow, Philip Samuelsson and Alex Grant. Dylan Reese and Joey Mormina are the veterans on the blue line.
Goalies Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff have both had times of success as well as some inconsistency in net. Zatkoff began the season as the team's number one goalie and was AHL Goalie of the Month earlier this season. Thiessen has been strong of late. Both
Two or three guys I suggest you watch heading down the stretch?
I think defensively Alex Grant can be a difference maker on the point of the power play unit. He has a big shot and if it doesn't beat the opposing goalie clean, a deflection in front is nearly impossible to react to.
Up front, Adam Payerl is a big power forward the Penguins were missing with Eric Tangradi's departure to Pittsburgh. Payerl is good around the net and isn't afraid to go to the "dirty areas" of the ice to work out the puck and battle along the boards. His offensive touch is starting show since his last recall from Wheeling.
Home games tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. for the Penguins. Tonight it's the Manchester Monarchs. Tomorrow the Adirondack Phantoms come to town. Sunday, the Penguins travel to Hershey to take on the Bears at 2 p.m.
As always, you can get live in-game updates on the Twitter feed @H_P_Hockey (right hand side of the Highland Park Hockey main page) with recaps of the action here on the website shortly after.