Weekly Catch Up & Links (2/10)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are on the outside looking in right now in the playoff race. Brandon Manning (left), Jason Akeson (middle) and Nick Cousins (right) look to lead the way for the Philadelphia Flyers' AHL affiliate.

There's only ten weeks left in AHL's 2014-15 season and the playoff races are starting to take shape.

In the East Division, the three Pennsylvania teams - Hershey, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Lehigh Valley - remain in the top three spots, though the Phantoms are six points out of the playoffs heading into this week's games while the Bears and Penguins would face each other in the first round if the playoffs started today at the three and six seeds, respectively.

Penguins Poised For Postseason Yet Again in 2014-15

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff race, currently in 6th place in the Eastern Conference heading into tomorrow night's home matchup with Binghamton.

Chemistry is being formed in the top six as the lines have remained the same up top for the AHL Penguins this season. Conor Sheary, Nick Drazenovic and Tom Kostopoulos had a good run as the team's top line most of the 2015 calendar year, but the return of Scott Wilson, Andrew Ebbett and Bryan Rust from Pittsburgh has formed as the new top line for WBS.

The Pens' third line of Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney and Jayson Megna was arguably the team's  best line last weekend. Forward depth is building in Wilkes-Barre, with five forwards - Dominik Uher, Bobby Farnham, Adam Payerl, Pierre-Luc LeBlond and Matia Marcantuoni - rotating in on the fourth line of late.

Highly touted rookies Josh Archibald and Jean-Sebastien Dea have been sent to the ECHL affiliate in Wheeling, where both often appeared on the Nailers' scoresheet in their respective first week in the ECHL.

Remember when the forward depth was so thin that the Penguins signed Jim O'Brien to an AHL contract only to have rival Hershey claim him on AHL waivers?

While it certainly doesn't look like WBS needs a forward now, O'Brien landed in Hershey and the Bears subsequently got hot. Since O'Brien joined the Bears and made his debut on January 9th, the Bears have gone 10-1-1-1. It's not like his presence alone changed how things in Hershey were going, O'Brien tallied points in each of his first seven games with the Bears and has 11 points (2G-9A) in 11 AHL games this season.

Up Next

Wednesday (2/11) vs. Binghamton, 7:05 p.m. EST
Friday (2/13) vs. Portland, 7:05 p.m. EST
Saturday (2/14) vs. Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m. EST


Matt Murray is starting to take over in net for the Penguins with much better numbers in 2015 than his veteran counterpart Jeff Zatkoff.

Harrison Ruopp made his return to the WBS lineup Sunday in Hershey - his first AHL appearance since October 11th's opening night loss to Lehigh Valley. Alex Boak was a healthy scratch in his place.

Scott Harrington was re-assigned to the AHL Penguins on Monday.

Forward Mark Arcobello was placed on waivers by Pittsburgh Tuesday. If he goes unclaimed by noon Wednesday, Arcobello could be re-assigned to the AHL Penguins as well. (EDIT: Arcobello was claimed on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes.)

One change up front as Dominik Uher slotted into the left wing spot on the fourth line for Adam Payerl.

Scratches: Alex Boak (healthy), Anton Zlobin (out for season), Adam Payerl (healthy) and Pierre-Luc Leblond (healthy)


Scott Wilson - Andrew Ebbett - Bryan Rust
Conor Sheary - Nick Drazenovic - Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Kuhnhackl - Carter Rowney - Jason Megna
Dominik Uher - Matia Marcantuoni - Bobby Farnham

Brian Dumoulin - Taylor Chorney
Reid McNeill - Barry Goers
Nick D'Agostino - Harrison Ruopp

Matt Murray - Jeff Zatkoff

Phantoms Push Towards Postseason Needs To Start Now

The Phantoms have played better hockey lately and with Sunday's OT win over Hershey are just six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 

They're entering a crucial stretch of games in the coming weeks that will ultimately determine whether they'll be able to contend for a playoff spot or be playing to move up next season's depth chart.

It was a tough weekend for goaltenders in the organization as Steve Mason was injured in Philadelphia while Rob Zepp left Saturday night's game in Binghamton after being taken out by a sliding Matt Puempel. 

Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Sunday evening that Anthony Stolarz would be recalled after he played in net for the Phantoms against Hershey. 

Rob Zepp didn't travel with the Phantoms to Giant Center and reigning ECHL goalie of the week Connor Knapp was called up from the Reading Royals to serve as Stolarz's backup. If Zepp isn't ready, the Phantoms would likely need to call up rookie Martin Ouellette from Reading as well.

Up Next 

Friday (2/13) vs. Binghamton, 7:05 p.m. EST
Saturday (2/14) @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 7:05 p.m. EST 
Sunday (2/15) @ Springfield, 5:00 p.m. EST


Who will start in net for the Phantoms this weekend remains to be seen. Connor Knapp was re-assigned back to Reading and Martin Ouellette was called up in his place. Rob Zepp practiced with the Phantoms today and while his lower body injury suffered Saturday night appears to not be anything serious, Anthony Stolarz is the guy who got the call up to Philadelphia. Steve Mason is expected to be out 2-3 weeks. 

One change on defense as Jesper Pettersson returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch following the tallying of his first AHL goal last Saturday.

It might not be long before some more defensemen will be sitting as a healthy scratch. Mark Alt and Shayne Gostisbehere both took part in the Phantoms' team practice today. While both participated in non-contact drills, it might not be until next week - or even later for Gostisbehere - before Terry Murray has some more lineup decisions to make.

Up front, the same 12 forwards for the Phantoms as well. Darroll Powe has been skating with the team in practice but hasn't been cleared to return to the lineup yet. Blair Jones is out long term (6 to 8 weeks).

Scratches: Mark Alt (broken hand - out since 12/31), Shayne Gostisbehere (ACL surgery - resumed skating), Blair Jones (lower body - out long term), Adam Comrie (healthy) and Darroll Powe (upper body - day-to-day).


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

Brandon Manning - Brett Flemming
Robert Haggg - Steven Delisle
Oliver Lauridsen - Jesper Pettersson

Anthony Stolarz - Connor Knapp

Weekly Links 

Eric Majeski's weekly "Talking To Myself" feature at Pensburgh. This week, Talking to Myself looks back at Sidney Crosby's all-star injury one last time, looks ahead to Blake Comeau's return, talks about Simon Despres' skating, and more.

A great look at the rocky road Beau Bennett has faced. First injuries, and now a healthy scratch in four of the Pens' last five games? Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review had this great write up.

It was a busy week for me at The Home News, as I got an extra Lehigh Valley Phantoms piece in at THN:
In last week's print edition, I had a feature on Phantoms rookie defenseman Jesper Pettersson.  
I took a look the rivalry between the Phantoms and Penguins in a web-exclusive for THN. 


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