Monday's Catch Up & Links 1/5

Monday, January 5, 2015
If he clears waivers at noon on Tuesday, Ryan White will re-join the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
It's the first Monday of 2015, which means the American Hockey League's (AHL) 2015 All-Star Classic in Utica, New York is just around the corner. The AHL announced today that the rosters for the Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars will be released tomorrow afternoon.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will have at least one representative in the AHL All-Star Classic later this month (January 25-26th) as Tom Kostopoulos was already announced as the playing captain for the Eastern Conference All-Stars last month. It's quite possible that Kostopoulos is the only WBS Penguins All-Star, despite the performance of goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (11-6-2, 1.69 GAA, .932 SV%, 2 SO) as of late.

The Eastern Conference is full of top rookie goaltending prospects such as Springfield's Anton Forsberg (16-4-0, 1.93 GAA, .931 SV%, 2 SO) and Syraucse's Andrei Vasilevskiy (10-3-4, 2.25 GAA, .923 SV%, 2 SO). Second year pro Jean-Francois Berube of the Manchester Monarchs has turned in an excellent start to the season as well, going 19-4-2 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .923 save percentage to go along with two shutouts.

I'm sure there are some Penguins fans who feel Zatkoff was snubbed by the AHL for the Goalie of the Month award for December, given to Vasilevskiy. It's possible Zatkoff is left off the East's All-Stars roster for the three aforementioned goaltenders. We'll find out tomorrow.

After the jump, a look at the Penguins and Lehigh Valley Phantoms as well as the weekly extra reading links for a look around the hockey world.

Penguins Take Five of Six Points Last Week

Injuries, call ups and even the mumps hasn't been enough to slow down the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season, who hold a five-point lead for first place in the AHL's East Division after a pair of shutout wins and a shootout loss last week.

Team defense and strong play in net has been the motto for the AHL Penguins as of late with several of their top scorers in the NHL with Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday night at home against rival Hershey, Jeff Zatkoff blanked the Bears with a 24-save shutout. A late 2nd period power play goal by Tom Kostopoulos proved to be the difference before Dominik Uher tallied a goal on his birthday for insurance in a 2-0 win.

Rookie Matt Murray kept the Penguins shutout streak intact on Friday, stopping all 30 shots he faced in a dominant 5-0 win over Binghamton. Nick Drazenovic opened and closed the scoring with a pair of goals on the night, while Conor Sheary tallied his team-leading 10th goal of season. Rookies Sahir Gill and Matia Marcantuoni each scored their first career AHL goal in the win for the Penguins.

The Penguins fell short in a shootout loss in Hershey on Saturday night, but Zatkoff was again stell at in net - stopping 28 of 29 shots through regulation and overtime and four of five shooters in the shootout. Marcantuoni tallied his second goal in as many nights for the lone Penguins goal. The Pens also failed to score on all five of their shot attempts in the shootout.

With the Penguins organization starting to get healthy, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forwards Dominik Uher and Jayson Megna have returned from Pittsburgh. It's possible that more bodies will be on their way back to Wilkes-Barre later this week.


Jeff Zatkoff returned from Pittsburgh after another emergency call up with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss dealing with the mumps. Between Zatkoff and rookie Matt Murray, the Pens have two quality goaltenders manning the nets in the AHL. 

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is also back with the AHL Penguins after scoring his first NHL goal last month. With Dumoulin's return, Paul Cianfrini was released from his professional tryout contract.

Up front, Shavertown, Pa. native Patrick McGrath made his AHL debut in his hometown Wednesday night with the Penguins.

The Penguins have found chemistry amongst their new top line.

Conor Sheary - Nick Drazenovic - Tom Kostopoulos
Sahir Gill - Carter Rowney - Josh Archibald
Dominik Uher - Jean-Sebastien Dea - Jayson Megna
Pierre-Luc Leblond - Matia Marcantuoni - Tom Kuhnhackl

Taylor Chorney - Brian Dumoulin
Reid McNeill - Barry Goers
Nick D'Agostino - Alex Boak

Jeff Zatkoff - Matt Murray

Scratches: Patrick McGrath (healthy), Anton Zlobin (out for season), Adam Payerl (out a few weeks), Clark Seymour (healthy) and Zack Torquato (healthy).

Phantoms Win Back-to-Back Road Contests in Norfolk

After a 6-2 loss in Binghamton last week to end the 2014 calendar year, the Phantoms went to Norfolk for a pair of weekend road games and did something they haven't done all season - win back-to-back road contests.

On Friday night, it was Nick Cousins with an overtime game-winning goal to give the Phantoms two points. Saturday needed a shootout to decide the winner after a Petr Straka goal early in the third period forced overtime. Straka missed his shootout attempt, but Jason Akeson scored on his and goaltender Rob Zepp stopped all three Norfolk shooters for Zepp's and the team's second win of the weekend.

ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms 

Rob Zepp returned from the Philadelphia Flyers and appeared in all three games - in relief of Anthony Stolarz on Wednesday night and starting both games in Norfolk over the weekend.
Mark Alt missed both games in Norfolk over the weekend. The Phantoms recalled defenseman Maxim LaMarche, but with Team Sweden finished at the World Junior Championships Robert Hagg will re-join the team before they head up to St. John's for a pair of games against the IceCaps this weekend. Lamarche was the 7th defenseman for both games over the weekend and was re-assigned to the Reading Royals (ECHL) earlier today.

Ryan White was recalled from Lehigh Valley after appearing in all three games this week, but was placed on waivers today with the purpose of re-assigning him to Lehigh Valley if he clears at noon Tuesday. White hadn't played hockey at all this season before last week, and Flyers GM Ron Hextall told the Philadelphia media that White needs to play some more games in the AHL to get fully back into the swing of things.

Taylor Leier has missed the last three games with an upper body injury suffered in the third period of 12/27's home game against Norfolk. He remains day-to-day heading into this week.

Darroll Powe has also missed the team's last three games with an upper body injury.

With Leier and Powe out of action, Brandon Alderson was recalled from ECHL Reading and played in both games in Norfolk.


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

Brandon Manning - Brett Flemming
Adam Comrie - Steven Delisle
Oliver Lauridsen - Jesper Pettersson

Rob Zepp - Anthony Stolarz

Scratches: Mark Alt (undisclosed), Robert Hagg (returning from WJC), Shayne Gostisbehere (ACL surgery on 11/13), Taylor Leier (upper body), Derek Mathers (healthy) and Darroll Powe (upper body).

Weekly Links 

I caught up with Lake Erie Monsters forward Joey Hishon about overcoming a 22-month absence from hockey dealing with symptoms of a concussion, his NHL debut in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Colorado Avalanche and the road ahead.

Here's an overview of each conference of the American Hockey League for the past month:

AHL Eastern Conference Notebook, December 2014
AHL Western Conference Notebook, December 2014

I spoke with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg before he left for Canada to participate in the 2015 World Junior Championships for his native Sweden. Team Sweden had finished with back-to-back silver medals leaving Hagg wanting that gold medal in his final appearance, but Team Sweden finished fourth in the tournament this year.

Also in December, I caught up with St. John's IceCaps rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and second year defenseman Brenden Kichton to talk about varying topics from the transition to pro hockey to trying to turn things around in Newfoundland.

Here's an interesting look at the impact of man-games lost in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization by my friends at Pens Initiative.

Another Monday means another "Talking To Myself" post from Pensburgh's Eric Majeski - another one of the good guys I met my first time out to Pittsburgh to cover the 2013 development camp.


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