Monday's Catch Up & Links 1/12

Monday, January 12, 2015
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff has played solid in net regardless of who the team in front of him is.
Things are really beginning to tighten up in the East Division as American Hockey League (AHL) teams approach the halfway point of their respective 2014-15 regular season schedules.

January is a busy month for most teams, and certainly writers included. Last week, I made a 9 hour round trip to Glens Falls, New York to see the Adirondack Flames host the San Antonio Rampage - some more AHL Western Conference hockey like I took in last month up in Cleveland (Lake Erie hosted Milwaukee).

I also saw first hand the last two losses for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at home Friday night against Norfolk and up in Syracuse Saturday night against the Crunch.

The Penguins loss Friday night against Norfolk marked the halfway point of the regular season. In years past I did a monthly grades report on all the WBS Penguins players, but check back tomorrow for a midseason report card with grades for the AHL Penguins through the team's first 39 games. (I'm including Saturday's game, knowing full-well that there are 76 games in the regular season and halfway is technically 38.)

News, notes and thoughts on the AHL Penguins, as well as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and more weekly reading links to help get you through your Monday after the jump.

Penguins Losing Skid Reaches Four Games

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have just one win since the calendars turned to 2015, having now lost their last four games (0-3-0-1) with a pair of losses to Norfolk at home and a loss in Syracuse on Saturday to the Crunch their last time out.

The four-game losing skid is a season-high, which is a credit to the coaching staff - especially considering literally a dozen players were out of the AHL Penguins lineup at one point this season. The Penguins did have a six game win-less streak last season from February 9th-22nd, where they went 0-3-2-1 in that six game span. It happens.

Go figure the WBS Penguins went 9-4-0-1 in the 14 games prior to this four-game losing streak, with a patchwork lineup of rookies and ECHL call ups. Now that the organization is getting healthy and guys are returning from Pittsburgh, perhaps it's a chemistry issue.

Chalk it up (for now) as a mid-season lull. The AHL regular season schedule is 76 games long. You also have to realize a lot of these first year players aren't used to playing nearly as many games. A quick look at games played in the entire 2013-14 season for the rookies on the team, counting their pro games played at the tail end of last season:
Dea (76), Archibald (46), Marcantuoni (54), Sheary (51), Boak (49), Rust (43) and Wilson (31). 
Perhaps a full week of practice with their next game not until Saturday night in Worcester is just what the team needs to re-group. The good news is the Penguins are still in first place in the division. The bad news, though, is that they are just one point ahead of Hershey (HER has 2 games in hand) and three ahead of Lehigh Valley (LV has 4 games in hand). That's what a four-game losing skid will do.

Up Next - Saturday (1/17) @ Worcester at 7:00 ET & Sunday (1/18) @ Providence at 3:05 ET

Jeff Zatkoff got the start in net for the Penguins Saturday night, with rookie Matt Murray backing him up.

AHL All-Star defenseman Derrick Pouliot was re-assigned to the AHL Penguins this afternoon.

On defense, Alex Boak slotted in for Nick D'Agostino and played well.

Reid McNeill left in the 1st period with a lower body injury, before later returning and playing through. He was seen standing on the bench stretching that lower body ailment throughout Saturday
night's game. Wouldn't surprise me if he wasn't present for the team's next practice on Tuesday morning.

Up front, Nick Drazenovic took warmups Saturday but was a late scratch. Sahir Gill didn't participate in line rushes during the warmup but found himself in the lineup as Drazenovic must have had some lingering issues from Friday night's physical game against Norfolk.

Scratches: Nick Drazenovic (injured), Anton Zlobin (injured), Nick D'Agostino (healthy) and Adam Payerl (injured).


Tom Kostopoulos - Conor Sheary - Jayson Megna
Sahir Gill - Carter Rowney - Dominik Uher
Tom Kuhnhackl - Matia Marcantuoni - Josh Archibald
Pierre-Luc Leblond - J-S Dea - Bobby Farnham

Brian Dumoulin - Taylor Chorney
Reid McNeill - Barry Goers
Scott Harrington - Alex Boak

Jeff Zatkoff - Matt Murray

Phantoms Finish Five-Game Road Swing With Four Straight Wins

After going 4-10-2 in their first 16 road contests, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have won four straight road games including a pair of wins over the St. John's IceCaps.

They've closed the gap in the East Division to just three points behind the Penguins and with four games in hand on their intra-state rival heading into this week's games. They will make up one of those games in hand Friday night when they return home to host the Albany Devils.

The team has been playing very well of late, and getting scoring up and down the lineup helps. The Phantoms had six different goal scorers in their most recent game Sunday afternoon in a 6-2 win over the IceCaps.

Up Next - Friday (1/16) vs. Albany at 7:05 ET, Saturday (1/17) vs. Binghamton at 7:05 ET & Sunday (1/18) @ Hershey at 5:00 ET


Anthony Stolarz (21 saves - 23 shots) picked up his 6th win of the season Sunday. With Rob Zepp called up to Philadelphia, the Phantoms signed a local 22-year old from the St. John's area to a one-game PTO to serve as Stolarz's backup. I'd expect the Phantoms will recall goaltender Martin Ouellette from their ECHL affiliate in Reading for practice this week.

The change in goal was the only lineup change for the Phantoms Sunday afternoon from Saturday night's game.

Brandon Alderson joined the team from Reading (ECHL) before the start of the team's four-game win streak.

Scratches: Mark Alt (broken hand), Jesper Pettersson (healthy), Shayne Gostisbehere (ACL surgery), Kevin Goumas (healthy), Derek Mathers (healthy) and Darroll Powe (upper body)


Jason Akeson - Blair Jones - Brett Hextall
Zack Stortini - Nick Cousins - Andrew Gordon
Petr Straka - Ryan White - Brandon Alderson
Jay Rosehill - Austin Fyten - Taylor Leier

Robert Hagg - Brandon Manning
Adam Comrie - Steven Delisle
Oliver Lauridsen - Brett Flemming

Anthony Stolarz - Martin Ouellette*

Weekly Links

Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Pens defenseman Olli Maatta is expected to miss the rest of the season, this coming just hours after the team announced it had re-assigned defenseman Derrick Pouliot to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

Colleague Ian Altenbaugh of Hockey's Future had this detailed update on prospects throughout the Penguins organization. If you haven't already, check it out.

Friend Eric Majeski over at Pensburgh has his weekly "Talking To Myself" post. This week takes a look at thoughts on Steve Downie and thoughts on the Craig Adams incident(s). 

Pittsburgh Penguins beat writer for The Tribune Review Josh Yohe had a nice story on the much-needed skill newly acquired forward David Perron brings to the Penguins.

Last week, I caught up with Binghamton Senators rookie forward Ryan Dzingel. Head coach Luke Richardson is very high on the former Ohio State Buckeye, and what better time to promote my latest feature for Hockey's Future  than when the night of college football's national championship between the Ohio State and Oregon. Stay tuned for more AHL features later this month. I have talked to several AHL All-Stars that will convene in Utica later this month for the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic.

Binghamton Senators beat writer Matt Weinstein of the Press & Sun Bulletin caught up with 17-year NHL veteran Todd Bertuzzi, who today practiced with the Binghamton Senators for the first time since signing with the team over the weekend. From Detroit beer leagues to the AHL, Bertuzzi is attempting a comeback to pro hockey.


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