Game 65 Preview: W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley

Saturday, March 25, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Saturday Showdown: Phantoms/Penguins - Round 9

Editor's Note - 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 (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 players.
ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (42-19-4) aim to solidify their standing in the Atlantic Division while also making it four wins in a row when they host their bitter rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (44-18-3) in a battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins throttled North Division leading Syracuse 5-1 Friday night, and maintain their 1st place lead over the Phantoms in the division by three points as team's start to hit single digits in terms of games remaining on the 2016-17 regular season.

With less than a dozen games to go for both teams, these final four head-to-head matches will likely provide an Atlantic Division regular season champion - the number one seed in the opening round of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.

After the jump, a full preview of everything you need to know in advance of tonight's game.

Phantoms' Playoff Update - Lehigh Valley enters Saturday night's game three points behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Third place Hershey is in St. John's this weekend for a pair of games sitting just three points behind the Phantoms. Providence and Bridgeport are battling it out for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division currently. Both teams face Hartford once this weekend, while the Sound Tigers visit PPL Center Sunday for a meeting against the Phantoms and the PBruins are in Albany tonight.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' magic number to clinch a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs is currently at 16 points. You can also keep track of the playoff races in the AHL's daily Playoff Primer.

By The Numbers

LV: 65 games played, 42-19-4-0 = 88 points
2nd Place Atlantic Division
Streak: 3-0-0-0
Last Ten Games: 7-2-1-0

WBS: 65 games played, 44-18-3-0 = 91 points
1st Place Atlantic Division
Streak: 2-0-0-0
Last Ten Games: 7-2-1-0

Special Teams

Power Play

LV - 69-for-314: 22.0% = 5th in AHL
WBS - 48-for-277: 17.3% = 17th in AHL

Penalty Kill

LV - 207-for-248: 83.5% = 8th in AHL
WBS - 237-for-272: 87.1% = 1st in AHL

Leading Scorers

LV:  T.J. Brennan (65GP, 20G-33A), Andy Miele (54GP, 8G-40A), Greg Carey (65GP, 26G-21A) and Colin McDonald (64GP, 22G-18A)

WBS: Tom Kostopoulos (65GP, 23G-26A), David Warsofsky (50GP, 15G-29A), Kevin Porter (61GP, 11G-33A) and Jean-Sebastien Dea (63GP, 16G-15A)

Starting Goaltenders

LV: Anthony Stolarz  (25GP, 13-7-0, 2.95 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO)
WBS: Tristan Jarry (41GP, 26-14-1, 2.24 GAA, .922 SV%, 1 SO)

Season Series

Tonight marks the ninth of 12 meetings between the Phantoms and Penguins this season. Lehigh Valley is 4-3-1 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.

The Phantoms opened up edge in the season series with a pair of home wins in gritty, physical affairs between bitter rivals but the Penguins dominated the Phantoms in Wilkes-Barre in the next two meetings, in 7-1 and 5-1 wins.

The most recent meetings have been closer as February 25th's game at PPL Center was a nail biter, as the Penguins won in overtime in Lehigh Valley. On last Wednesday March 8th, the Phantoms went into Wilkes-Barre and shut out the Penguins 3-0 in the Penguins' first home game after a disappointing road trip.

The previous meeting was in the back end of a home and home series last weekend on St. Patrick's Day. Friday night in Allentown, a strong second period by the Penguins combined with a "letdown" second period for Lehigh Valley resulted in a 4-1 Penguins win. But Saturday in Wilkes-Barre, it was the Phantoms holding on for a 3-2 win after a pair of goals seconds apart broke the game open.

The season should only continue to heat up as the Phantoms will face the Penguins three more times in their final 10 games of the season.

Season Series Schedule 

Wednesday, November 16th: W-B/Scranton -1 at Lehigh Valley - 4
Friday, January 20th: W-B/Scranton - 3 at Lehigh Valley - 5
Saturday, February 4th: Lehigh Valley - 1 at W-B/Scranton - 7
Tuesday, February 14th: Lehigh Valley - 1 at W-B/Scranton - 5
Saturday, February 25th: W-B/Scranton - 4 at Lehigh Valley - 3 (OT)
Wednesday, March 8th: Lehigh Valley at - 3 W-B/Scranton - 0
Friday, March 17th: W-B/Scranton - 4 at Lehigh Valley - 1
Saturday, March 18th: Lehigh Valley - 3 at W-B/Scranton - 2
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

Roster Notes

Coming off back-to-back wins in St. John's, Anthony Stolarz has earned a start in tonight's game whether that ends up coming to fruition or not. Before the Newfoundland trip, Alex Lyon had started in six of the team's previous seven games. Either way, expect each goalie to get a game in this weekend.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed their 2014-3rd round draft pick, defenseman Mark Friedman, to an entry level contract beginning in the 2017-18 season. The former Bowling Green State Univeristy product, who tallied 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 40 games this season in the WCHA, will join the Phantoms this weekend on a tryout contract for the remainder of the season. He participated in his first on-ice practice with the Phantoms Friday in Whitehall.

Taylor Leier returned to the lineup Saturday in Wilkes-Barre after missing the previous 19 games with lingering symptoms of a concussion he suffered back in late January. We debuted Leier's story in our new 'Friday Feature' weekly series.

The latest casualty to the injury bug is Chris Conner, who did not travel with the team and missed last Saturday's game with an injury per head coach Scott Gordon. As per usual, no further details were provided on Conner's status moving forward.

Defenseman Will O'Neill left early in the 1st period of Saturday's 4-1 win against Utica on March 11th after an apparent upper body injury he sustained jamming his left hand/wrist after a fall into the boards.

Robert Hagg and Steven Swavely are also nearing returns to the lineup. Hagg is skating with the team in practice and is expected to play in one of the games this weekend according to Phantoms' radio broadcoaster Bob Rotruck, who attended a rare Friday afternoon practice yesterday.

Swavely was reassigned to ECHL Reading on Tuesday per the league's transactions, and it appears he'll be getting back into action soon.

Jesper Pettersson was also reassigned to ECHL Reading earlier this week. With Hagg's expected return to the lineup and Friedman's arrival from the collegiate ranks, the Phantoms had nine healthy defensemen on the roster.

Boyd Gordon, who left in a Wednesday home game against Binghamton after a sliding BSens' forward crunched into his legs in the corner boards, was initially expected to miss a few weeks with a knee injury. He was seen at last Friday night's game in Allentown walking with a knee brace over his suit pants.

Expected Scratches: Robert Hagg (lower body), Mark Zengerle (healthy), Will O'Neill (upper body), Chris Conner (undisclosed), Boyd Gordon (lower body) and Mark Friedman

Expected Lines

Taylor Leier (A) - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Greg Carey - Andy Miele (A) - Cole Bardreau
Danick Martel - Corban Knight - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Tyrell Goulbourne - Radel Fazleev - Chris McCarthy

T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Travis Sanheim - Max Lamarche/Robert Hagg

Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon

Recent Transactions

3/24: DEL - D Jesper Pettersson returned on loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/21: DEL - RW Steven Swavely returned on loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/13: ADD - D Jesper Pettersson recalled from loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/13: ADD - D Max Lamarche recalled from loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/4: ADD - LW Tyrell Goulbourne recalled from loan to Reading (ECHL)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Roster Notes

Tristan Jarry, coming off a Penguins 5-1 win in Syracuse Friday night, is expected to get the start in net for the Penguins tonight against Lehigh Valley.

Expected Scratches: Ryan Segalla (healthy), Patrick McGrath (healthy), Garrett Wilson (injured), Stuart Percy (injured) and Lukas Bengtsson (illness, out for season)

Expected lines:

Zach Aston-Reese – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Dominik Simon – Teddy Blueger – Ryan Haggerty
Thomas DiPauli – J-S Dea – Sahir Gill
Troy Josephs – Jarrett Burton – Adam Krause

Derrick Pouliot – David Warsofsky
Tim Erixon – Ethan Prow
Brett Stern – Barry Goers

Tristan Jarry – Casey DeSmith

Recent Transactions

3/23: DEL - RW Josh Archibald recalled from loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
3/21: DEL - D Frank Corrado recalled from loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
3/21: ADD - D Derrick Pouliot returned on loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
3/21: DEL - C Oskar Sundqvist recalled from loan by Pittsburgh (NHL)
3/20: ADD - D Ryan Segalla recalled from loan to Wheeling (ECHL)
3/18: ADD - RW Zach Aston-Reese signed to amateur tryout (ATO)
3/17: ADD - C Troy Josephs signed to amateur tryout (ATO)


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