Welcome to “Hocktober”!
In this edition of Baby Penguins Banter, we will look at how the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fared in their four-game exhibition schedule. We will also look forward to opening night on Saturday, Oct. 9.
WBS Penguins Go 1-3 In Preseason
The Baby Penguins wrapped up their preseason schedule on Saturday night in Hershey. They lost by a score of 5-1, giving them a 1-3 record for the 2010 preseason.
Here is a brief wrap-up of each set of games.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Penguins played a home-and-home set with the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.
In the first game, the Penguins lost in a shootout by a score of 7-6. In my opinion, the game’s biggest standout was Keven Veilleux, a prospect who missed much of his rookie year with a shoulder injury. He tallied two goals and an assist.
If he stays healthy, he will be exciting to watch. He stands at 6’5” and can drop the gloves as well as play offense.
Geoff Walker, a newcomer who spent last season in the Los Angeles Kings organization, also stood out. He had two goals.
Andrew Lord, a player who spent last season with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, had a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Mattias Modig started in goal for Wilkes-Barre. He made 21 saves on 27 shots.
Modig was signed in the offseason and is on his first North American team; he played prior seasons in Sweden.
On Wednesday, Syracuse topped the Penguins in Oswego, N.Y., by a score of 5-2.
Veilleux and Walker once again were responsible for the Pens’ offense.
Meanwhile, Lord and Ryan Schnell, a physical presence for the Nailers last season, picked up fighting majors for the Penguins.
Friday and Saturday brought a set with the Penguins’ inter-state rivals, the Hershey Bears.
During Friday’s game in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins went to their second shootout in three days and defeated the Bears 4-3. Nick Johnson, Nick Petersen, and Chris Collins scored in regulation.
John Curry was the starting goalie and stopped all of Hershey’s players in the shootout.
The shootout is Curry’s specialty, so there is no surprise that he did well in the tiebreaker.
Last night, the Penguins traveled to the Giant Center in Hershey for a rematch with the Bears. This time, the Bears took the game by a score of 5-1.
Jason DeSantis had the Penguins’ only goal, while Brad Thiessen was the starting goalie and stopped 29 shots.
Opening Night Preview
This coming Saturday, the Penguins will open their regular season schedule against the Bears. Hershey is the
AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals and has won the Calder Cup for the last two years.
The final rosters for the teams are not set yet, so let’s look back at how the 2009-2010 season series went, as well as any players from both teams who will not be back this year.
2009-2010 Season Series
Last year, the Penguins played 12 games against Hershey, with the Bears winning the series 10 games to two.
Four of the games were shutouts, with Hershey keeping the Penguins off the board three times by scores of 3-0, 4-0, and 5-0.
However, in a February matchup, the Penguins held off the Bears 5-0.
Hopefully, the 10 matchups between these two teams this year will be a little more even.
Hershey lost top scorer Alexandre Giroux, who signed a contract with the Edmonton Oilers. He was the league’s MVP in the 2008-2009 season with 97 points for Hershey, which included 60 goals. He had 103 points last year, scoring 50 goals.
Chris Bourque, who had a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being re-claimed by the Capitals, left to play in the KHL. He had at least 50 points in four out of his five seasons in Hershey.
Other notable losses for the Bears include defenseman Bryan Helmer, who was the team’s captain in 2009-2010.
He was an unrestricted free agent following the end of the season and did not receive a new contract with any organization. He could be forced into retirement.
Defenseman Greg Amadio, who spent two seasons with Hershey, signed with the Detroit Red Wings and will likely end up playing with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich.
John Carlson, a top-ranked Capitals defensive prospect, is still in the organization but is likely to play in Washington this year. In 48 games with Hershey, he posted 39 points.
Carlson is known for scoring the goal that gave USA the gold medal over Canada in the World Junior Championships.
After last season’s disappointment, some players on the Penguins ended up signing elsewhere and will not return for 2010-2011.
Wade Brookbank, who was playing his second stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, signed with the Rockford Ice Hogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Team captain Wyatt Smith, who was previously a member of the Milwaukee Admirals team that defeated the Penguins in the 2004 Calder Cup Finals, signed with the Boston Bruins and was recently waived to be assigned to Providence of the AHL.
Defenseman Chris Lee signed with the Cologne Sharks in Germany, where he currently has three points in six games. He had 39 points in 79 games with the Penguins.
Jon D’Aversa, a defense prospect who never found his way with the Penguins, also went to Germany and currently plays with the Augsburg Panthers.
He has six points in seven games, which is more than he did during the majority of his playing time in Wilkes-Barre.
The Penguins’ significant losses on forward were Konstantin Pushkarev, who signed with the KHL, and Ryan Bayda, who signed with a team in Germany.
The Penguins are expected to be a significantly better team in 2010-2011, while the Bears may still be good, but not as dominant as they were the last two years.
I expect that the Penguins will not be pushed around as easily by Hershey this year. However, this game is still important for the Penguins to show how they have improved and how they will handle the Bears.
If the Penguins pull off the win on Saturday, then there will only be more excitement for the remaining 79 games.
However, a loss could leave fans wondering if the team has really changed and is confident enough to get some revenge on Hershey after last year’s series.
A Look Ahead
This week, the Baby Penguins are expected to release their final roster for 2010-2011. Once that happens, I will be back with a look at the roster and some analysis on key players.