#Pens Re-Assign Gibbons, #WBSPens Recall Rowney From #Nailers

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Brian Gibbons has been re-assigned to the AHL Penguins, but with all the injuries in Pittsburgh right now how long will he back?

Lots of news this morning as the Pittsburgh Penguins re-assigned forward Brian Gibbons to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL). Gibbons scored his first NHL goal and added an assist in debut with the NHL Penguins for two points in five games played in his first NHL stint.

Pittsburgh also put forward Matt D'Agostini on waivers today. If D'Agostini clears waivers, he'll be eligible to play in the minors with the AHL Penguins. D'Agostini tallied one assist and a minus one rating in eight games with the NHL Penguins.

The AHL Penguins also announced a roster move, adding forward Carter Rowney from the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL). Rowney ranked second on the Nailers in scoring with 13 points (6G-7A) in 15 games.

All this was going on while I was at the newly renamed Toyota Sportsplex, the AHL Penguins practice facility in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

The AHL Pens roster gained more depth today and got two more healthy bodies back on the ice.

Forward Pierre-Luc Leblond, who hasn't skated since a 6-5 loss against the Albany Devils on November 8th, took part in today's practice and was a regular participant in line rushes and every drill, making it appear as though he's ready to return to the lineup for tomorrow night's game with the Adirondack Phantoms.

Good timing for Leblond's expected availability tomorrow as the Phantoms/Penguins games tend to be physical and penalty filled. In the last meeting between the teams back on October 18th, referees whistled 26 infractions and a total of 80 penalty minutes in the Penguins 6-3 home win. Tomorrow night, the Penguins take on the Phantoms in the Glens Falls Civic Center in upstate New York.

Also on the ice as a full participant is defenseman Peter Merth, who has yet to appear in his first game this season. Historically, the AHL Pens have a pretty good record with Merth in the lineup.
I'm sure the Merth Effect, as it's referred to by those at the Mohegan Sun Arena, will be back in action in 2013-14 somewhere soon whether it's to Wheeling to get in some games and get conditioned or sometime this week with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.    

With Leblond and Merth back on the ice, the Pens had 13 forwards and eight defenseman at practice along with goaltenders Jeff Deslauriers and Eric Hartzell.

The top line stayed intact, with Jayson Megna centering Chris Conner and Harry Zolnierczyk. From there it was a scramble:
Zolnierczyk - Megna - Conner                                                   
Uher - Carman - Kostopoulos
Farnham - Payerl - Thompson
Kuhnhackl/Sylvester - Manderson - Leblond
Samuelsson - Despres
Harrington - Dumoulin
D'Agostino - Mikkelson
Stevenson - Merth
Hartzell - Deslauriers
With Brian Gibbons on his way back from Pittsburgh (and I expect he'll make it to Glens Falls tomorrow night) these lines will be juggled again. What's interesting to note is that Tom Kuhnhackl was rotating on the fourth line with Cody Sylvester at practice today.

It is uncertain whether Kuhnhackl is feeling any ill-effects of an illegal check to the head he received Saturday from St. John's IceCaps forward J.C. Lipon or whether coach Hynes is unhappy with his lack of offensive production - no points and a minus one rating in last seven games - but Kuhnhackl isn't a stranger to slow starts. It wasn't until late November last season in a game against the Albany Devils at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City that Kuhnhackl found his groove and started to chip in offensively. After missing most of last season with another shoulder injury, it will take some time for Kuhnhackl to get fully adjusted to the pro-style game. He is, with only 28 career AHL games under his belt, still considered a rookie this season.

Here's my best guess as to what the forward lines will look like tomorrow. Take your pick of three of the bottom five for the 4th line:
Zolnierczyk - Gibbons - Conner
Uher - Megna - Kostopoulos
Farnham - Carman - Thompson
Kuhnhackl/Sylvester - Manderson - Payerl/Leblond
Weather permitting, I should be live from Glens Falls tomorrow night for the AHL Penguins vs. Adirondack Phantoms at 7:00 p.m EDT. You can follow all the latest breaking news, in-game updates, features and more with Highland Park Hockey on Twitter (@H_P_Hockey) or on Facebook and Instagram!


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