AHL Game Preview: New Look Penguins Host Portland Pirates

Friday, February 7, 2014
Photo credit: Ron Morin/Portland Pirates
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (26-16-1-3) continue their five-game home stand this weekend, starting tonight with a 7:05 p.m. EST match up with the Portland Pirates (17-19-2-7), top minor league affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Penguins (WBS) are coming off back-to-back regulation losses for just the second time this season, including a 4-0 shutout loss to Rochester their last time out. They look to right the ship and pick up two points tonight with their game in hand on division-leading Binghamton.

The Pirates (POR) started off a four-game road trip Wednesday with a convincing 5-1 win over the Binghamton Senators, and look to continue their winning ways against another East Division opponent in the Penguins tonight.

As always, live in-game coverage of tonight's American Hockey League action between the Penguins and Pirates can be found on Highland Park Hockey's Twitter feed, starting with the pregame warm up skate around 6:15 p.m. EST. Don't have Twitter? Follow along on this website now with Twitter updates on the left column of the webpage.

Check back shortly after tonight's game for the recap. More pregame news and notes after the jump.

By The Numbers

WBS: 26-16-1-3, 56 points, Second Place East Division (5th - East)
Last Ten Games: 5-5-0-0

POR: 17-19-2-7, 43 points, Fifth Place Atlantic Division (13th - East)
Last Ten Games: 4-4-1-1

WBS Leading Scorers: Tom Kostopoulos (16G-13A), Brendan Mikkelson (3G-22A), Nick Drazenovic (8G-15A)

POR Leading Scorers: Andy Miele (19G-26A), Lucas Lessio (14G-16A), Chris Brown (11G-17A)

Expected Starting Goaltenders

WBS - Jeff Deslauriers (16-11-2, 2.39 GAA, .901 SV%, 1 SO)
POR - Mark Visentin (11-14-4, 3.08 GAA, .905 SV%, 0 SO)

Lineup Notes

It's been quite a busy week for the Penguins, despite not having played a game since February 1st.

On Monday they called up defensemen Nick D'Agostino and Harrison Ruopp, seemingly an insurance move after Brian Dumoulin went down in the second period of last Friday night's game against Norfolk. With D'Agostino and Ruopp, the Pens now have eight healthy defensemen unless someone else is banged up.

Tuesday, Pittsburgh re-assigned forward Andrew Ebbett to the AHL Penguins only to recall Harry Zolnierczyk up to the NHL Penguins later that day. It seems as though Zolnierczyk's days in a WBS uniform could be over, as he would need to clear waivers in order to return to the AHL after having played in his 10th NHL game earlier this week.

Last night, the Penguins traded forward Paul Thompson to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for another right wing in Spencer Machacek, who had tallied 19 points (9G-10A) in 34 games with the Blue Jackets AHL affiliate in Springfield. Thompson fell out of favor early in the season with the WBS staff and could never recover, while Machacek was on a highly veteran-loaded Falcons team where he was occasionally a healthy scratch.

More on Machacek, who was in Springfield awaiting tonight's game between the Falcons and Syracuse Crunch before being traded and assigned to the AHL Penguins yesterday. He immediately becomes 2nd on the Pens in goals scored with nine. After a slow start for Machacek, which saw him tally just three goals and an assist in his first 18 games of the season, he's picked up his play significantly and is on a bit of a hot streak with 15 points (6G-9A) in his last 16 games.

As far as line combinations go, I think you see a new top line of Anton Zlobin, Nick Drazenovic and Tom Kostopoulos. The return of Andrew Ebbett gives you a solid 1-2 punch up the middle, and he was frequently paired up with Tom Kuhnhackl earlier this season. Throw the new guy, Spencer Machacek onto the right wing and keep the other lines in tact.

Projected WBS Lines:

Zlobin - Ebbett - Kostopoulos
Uher - Drazenovic - Machacek
Kuhnhackl - Carman - Rowney
Farnham - Torquato - Leblond

Despres - Samuelsson
Harrington - Mikkelson
McNeill - Ruopp

WBS Scratches: Brian Dumoulin (lower body), Zach Sill (upper body), Nick D'Agostino (healthy), Barry Goers (healthy), Adam Payerl (upper body) and Denver Manderson (healthy)


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