|The Phantoms welcome the Penguins tonight at PPL Center. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
I'll have full coverage of tonight's Phantoms game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins live from the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, Pa. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. ET, but make sure you're following along on Twitter -> @TonyAndrock and Facebook (be sure to like the Facebook page!) for all the latest updates and information.
Stay tuned here online after the game for a recap of the action. Don't forget to subscribe to Highland Park Hockey's YouTube channel for post-game interviews with AHL hockey players.
The American Hockey League's (AHL) 'Game of the Week' is in downtown Allentown, Pa tonight at the PPL Center as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-10-2) host the Atlantic Division-leading rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (29-8-3).
The game will mark the end of the first half of the 2016-17 season for the Phantoms, who face their bitter rival an hour north on the Pennsylvania turnpike for just the second time this season. In fact, the Phantoms/Penguins season series is so back-loaded that the Phantoms will face the Penguins 10 more times in their final 38 games this season.
Simply put, the regularity of the Phantoms and Penguins facing off against one another should have no problem rekindling the rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins organizations at the AHL level.
After the jump, a full preview of everything you need to know in advance of tonight's game.
You can help keep me on the road covering the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season by making a donation via GoFundMe or PayPal.
Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook
By The Numbers
LV: 37 games played, 25-10-2-0 = 52 points
2nd Place Atlantic Division
Last Ten Games: 6-3-1-0
WBS: 40 games played, 29-8-3-0 = 61 points
1st Place Atlantic Division
Last Ten Games: 8-2-0-0
LV - 43-for-183: 23.5% = 5th in AHL
WBS - 33-for-175: 18.9% = 10th in AHL
LV - 115-for-140: 82.1% = 16th in AHL
WBS - 130-for-150: 86.7% = 2nd in AHL
LV: Jordan Weal (35GP, 12G-25A), T.J. Brennan (37GP, 11G-20A), Chris Conner (37GP, 9G-22A) and Greg Carey (37GP, 21G-9A)
WBS: Oskar Sundqvist (38GP, 14G-19A), Tom Kostopoulos (40GP, 12G-17A), Garrett Wilson (40GP, 10G-14A) and Kevin Porter (36GP, 6G-15A)
Expected Starting Goaltenders
LV: Anthony Stolarz (11GP. 8-3-0, 2.38 GAA, .921 SV%, 1 SO)
WBS: Tristan Jarry (24GP, 17-6-1, 2.16 GAA, .920 SV%, 1 SO)
This is just the second of 12 meetings between the Phantoms and Penguins this season. Back on November 16th, the Phantoms handed the Penguins a 4-1 loss in a gritty, physical affair between bitter rivals. Expect much of the same as the Phantoms will face the Penguins 10 more times in their final 38 games of the regular season.
Season Series Schedule
Wednesday, November 16th: W-B/Scranton -1 at Lehigh Valley - 4
Friday, January 20th: W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, February 4th: Lehigh Valley at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday, February 14th: Lehigh Valley at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, February 25th: W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday, March 8th: Lehigh Valley at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Friday, March 17th: W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 18th: Lehigh Valley at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 25th: W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 1st: Lehigh Valley at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Friday, April 7th: W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday, April 12th: Lehigh Valley at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Anthony Stolarz is expected to get the start in net for Lehigh Valley this evening against the Penguins. Stolarz is celebrating his 23rd birthday tonight. Alex Lyon is expected to get into game action at least once this weekend as Lehigh Valley hosts Providence tomorrow and travels to Hershey Sunday.
The Phantoms loaned defenseman Reece Willcox and forward Radel Fazleev to the Reading Royals today in advance of tonight's game. Since both were expected to sit as healthy scratches, better for the rookies to get ice time in nearby Reading versus not playing at all.
Reece Willcox had been a regular healthy scratch as the team's seventh defenseman of late, but it was Will O'Neill sitting as the odd man out in the Phantoms' most recent game on Monday afternoon in Springfield.
I expect it was just a game off for O'Neill after a physical weekend for him in back-to-back games against Hershey last weekend. Since his glove-on punch after the December 26th game against the Bears, O'Neill has had a target on his back and Hershey has been coming at him after the whistle just about every time he's on the ice.
Boyd Gordon could make his Phantoms' debut tonight after clearing waivers and being reassigned to Lehigh Valley from Philadelphia last weekend. Gordon skated with his new team for the first time Wednesday, and despite only having played a handful of games this weekend is expected to play tonight according to head Scott Gordon through the team's radio broadcaster Bob Rotruck.
Gordon won't play three back-to-back games this weekend, so with 14 healthy forwards entering tonight's game expect it to be a rotation of bodies on the fourth line this weekend.
Expected scratches: Corban Knight /Nicolas Aube-Kubel (healthy), Radel Fazleev (healthy/loaned to Reading) and Reece Willcox (healthy/loaned to Reading)
Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Corban Knight/Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Cole Bardreau - Boyd Gordon - Mark Zengerle
T.J. Brennan - Mark Alt
Will O'Neill - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon
1/20: DEL - D Reece Willcox reassigned by Philadelphia (NHL) to Reading (ECHL)
1/20: DEL - F Radel Fazleev reassigned by Philadelphia (NHL) to Reading (ECHL)
1/14: ADD - F Boyd Gordon loaned from Philadelphia (NHL)
1/6: ADD - D Mark Alt loaned
Tristan Jarry is expected to get the start in net for the Penguins tonight. Casey DeSmith will serve as the team's backup goaltender.
Defenseman Michael Webster was recalled from his loan to Wheeling by the WBS Penguins this morning.
High-flying forward Jake Guentzel is back in the NHL with Pittsburgh as are defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Cameron Gaunce. David Warsofsky is back on the AHL Pens' blue line as the defensemen continue shuffling between leagues.
Lines from Wednesday's game vs. Hershey:
Tom Sestito - Jean-Sebastien Dea - Tom Kostopoulos (C)
Garrett Wilson - Oskar Sundqvist - Josh Archibald
Dominik Simon - Carter Rowney - Danny Kristo
Sahir Gill - Teddy Blueger - Ryan Haggerty
Brett Stern - Tim Erixon
Stuart Percy - Barry Goers
David Warsofsky - Ethan Prow
Tristan Jarry - Casey DeSmith
Scratches from Wednesday's game: Pat McGrath (healthy), Thomas Di Pauli (injured), Derrick Pouliot (injured), Lukas Bengtsson (illness) and Kevin Porter (illness)
1/20: ADD - D Michael Webster recalled from loan
1/17: DEL - D Cameron Gaunce recalled from loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
1/17: ADD - D David Warsofsky returned on loan from Pittsburgh (NHL)
1/16: DEL - C Jake Guentzel recalled from loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
1/16: DEL - D Chad Ruhwedel recalled from loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
1/15: ADD - D Brett Stern signed to PTO