Monday's Catch Up & Links 2/2

Monday, February 2, 2015
The Hershey Bears are in the driver's seat in the East Division heading into February.
The end of the 'big game' means football is done and hockey is entering the second half of the season. As the calendar hits February and AHL teams hit the home stretch, games become increasingly more intense as things ramp up heading towards the postseason. It's no different for teams in the East Division.

The three teams from Pennsylvania still hold the top three spots in the East Division, but the Hershey Bears have moved ahead of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for first place. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms remain in third place, on the outside looking in with two and a half months left in the regular season.

The latest roster news/notes and more on the Penguins and Phantoms, along with the extra weekly reading links after the jump.

Penguins Split Weekend With Pair Of Lopsided Scores

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 
24-18-1-3, 52 points - 2nd Place East Division 
8th Place - Eastern Conference
Last Ten Games: 4-6-0-0

Up Next: Tuesday (2/3) vs. Springfield, 7:05 p.m. EST
                Saturday (2/8) @ Hershey, 7:00 p.m. EST
                Sunday (2/9) @ Bridgeport, 3:00 p.m. EST

The Pens won their fourth straight game Friday night in Springfield in blowout fashion, shutting out the Falcons 5-0. Matt Murray stopped all 28 shots he faced. The Penguins had five different goal scorers. Things looked good.

The next night in front of a sellout crowd at home, the Pens jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and looked well on their way to their 5th straight victory. From there, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms tallied six unanswered goals in a 6-2 loss for the Penguins.

The Penguins actually out shot Lehigh Valley 16-2 in the second period and appeared to take a 3-2 lead when they put one past goaltender Rob Zepp, but the goal was waived off and Zepp stopped everything he faced from there on out.

In a bit of a surprise, the Penguins decided to have a full team practice Sunday morning on an originally scheduled day off. Perhaps the 6-2 loss was part of the reason, but with a game Tuesday night and a snowstorm that dropped roughly a half foot of snow in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton overnight Sunday into Monday perhaps the reasoning was to guarantee at least one practice before the team's next game.

It will be interesting to see how the Pens respond to Saturday's loss on Tuesday night at home against Springfield in the rematch of Friday night. The Pens also shut out Springfield 5-0 at home earlier this season and I'm sure the Falcons players are well aware of the fact they haven't scored a goal against the Pens yet this season. Should be a good tilt.


Matt Murray earned his 4th shutout of the season with a 28-save performance against Springfield Friday, but was pulled halfway through his start on Saturday after allowing three goals on 12 shots in 25:10 of work. Jeff Zatkoff came on in relief of Murray, but was victimized for three goals on just eight shots.

Goaltender Eric Hartzell was re-assigned to the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) along with defenseman Alex Boak. Harrison Ruopp was recalled from Wheeling and joins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).

For Ruopp, with the Pens only carrying six defensemen, it's just his second AHL game this season - his only other game coming on opening night against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Those in Wheeling say injuries have hampered things for Ruopp this season. He's not in the doghouse.

On defense, Derrick Pouliot was recalled by Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon and played Sunday afternoon for the NHL Penguins in their 4-0 loss to Nashville. After the game, Pens head coach Mike Johnston said that Pouliot will be joining the team on their road trip out in Western Canada - a sign that Pouliot will remain in the NHL until at least February 11th when the Pens host Detroit.

Up front, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton received help from Pittsburgh in the form of Andrew Ebbett, who tallied assists on both WBS goals Saturday night in his return to the AHL.

Forward Pierre-Luc Leblond is facing amother suspension after serving a two-gamer last week. In Saturday night's game, LeBlond received two game misconduct penalties - one of which was for receiving a fight instigator penalty that carries an automatic suspension upon further review from the league.

The AHL Pens had plenty of healthy scratches at forward Saturday night - Adam Payerl, Josh Archibald and Matia Marcantuoni - so they won't need to call up a forward if/when Leblond is suspended.


Conor Sheary - Nick Drazenovic - Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson - Andrew Ebbett - Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl - Carter Rowney - Jayson Megna
Pierre-Luc Leblond - Dominik Uher -Bobby Farnham

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

Matt Murray - Jeff Zatkoff

Phantoms Rebound From Back-to-Back Home Losses With Road Win

Lehigh Valley Phantoms
21-18-4-1, 47 points - Third Place East Division
11th Place - Eastern Conference 
Last Ten Games: 4-6-0-0

Up Next: Wednesday (2/4) vs. Worcester, 7:05 p.m. EST 
                 Saturday (2/7) @ Binghamton, 7:05 p.m. EST
                 Sunday (2/8) @ Hershey, 5:00 p.m. EST

Things were looking bleak for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms halfway through the first period Saturday against the Penguins, down 2-0 and on their way to six losses in their last seven outings. After back-to-back blowout losses at home, 4-1 to Albany on Thursday  night and 6-1 to Hershey on Friday, the Phantoms dug deep and found a way to pull it together. While it's too early to tell, Saturday's win is the kind of performance that could really turn things around for a Phantoms team that was fading fast in the East Division.


Rob Zepp got the start Saturday night against the Penguins and looked particularly sharp in the second period when the Phantoms were out shot 16-2. Rookie Anthony Stolarz seemed to be getting over a slow start to the season but has been average at best in his last half dozen or so starts.

The Phantoms dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for all three games last week, with Blair Jones and Darroll Powe still out with injuries and Ryan White and Petr Straka called up to Philadelphia.

Petr Straka has since been re-assigned to the Phantoms and Powe has resumed skating in a no-contact jersey at practice, so head coach Terry Murray has a decision to make on which one of his seven defensemen will sit out starting Wednesday night vs. Worcester.

Scratches: Mark Alt (broken hand since 12/31), Shayne Gostisbehere (ACL surgery - resumed skating), Blair Jones (lower body) and Darroll Powe (upper body)


Zack Stortini - Nick Cousins - Andrew Gordon
Taylor Leier - Kevin Goumas - Jason Akeson
Jay Rosehill - Austin Fyten - Brett Hextall
Derek Mathers - Brandon Alderson

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

Rob Zepp - Anthony Stolarz

Weekly Links

It wouldn't be a Monday without Eric Majeski's "Talking To Myself" feature over at Pensburgh. This week, Talking to Myself pulls sound from a variety of sources outside of Pens Radio 24/7 including friend Ian Altenbaugh - a great source for all Penguins prospects at both the pro and amateur levels.

Here's a nice overview of the Pittsburgh Penguins free agency options both this and next offseason by Brian K of Pens Initiative.

Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune Reivew, Josh Yohe, had this post on the Pens inability to come back in games this season.
Plenty of American Hockey League (AHL) coverage over at Hockey's Future this month. Here's some of my league-wide AHL stories:
AHL Eastern Conference Notebook, January 2015
AHL Western Conference Notebook, January 2015
Russian Duo Among Lightning Prospects Pushing Crunch to the Top of AHL Standings
Norfolk Admirals Forward Trio Making Strides Toward NHL
Dzingel Heads Group of Binghamton Rookies Transitioning to the Pro Game


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