The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have now played over 65 percent of their season, having 57 games under their belts in an 80-game American Hockey League season.
But recently, the Penguins’ grip on first place in the East Division has become less than secure.
Not only are the Penguins now just eight points in front of the defending Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears, their top seven scorers have been summoned to Pittsburgh due to a rash of injuries with their NHL affiliate.
Furthermore, Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi sustained injuries while called up and are now on the NHL's injured list. Jeffrey sustained a leg injury, while Tangradi has concussion symptoms from Friday night’s melee with the New York Islanders.
The recent call-ups have left the AHL Penguins with a record of 3-3 in their six games since the end of the AHL All-Star Break. They have seen several players called up from the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL to fill in for those that have joined the big club.
Wilkes-Barre also felt the injury bug a little bit when Nick Petersen, one of the Nailers call-ups, went down with a shoulder injury in Monday’s game against the Albany Devils.
But the Penguins still have bright spots.
Brad Thiessen, who played on Monday after missing six games with a leg injury, had shutouts against Albany and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He also played on Tuesday against the Manitoba Moose and last night against the Adirondack Phantoms and only allowed one goal in each game.
Ben Street, an undrafted rookie who has spent much of the season in Wheeling, had two goals in Monday’s game. He has five points in 10 games with WBS. If not for the injuries, he may not have gotten his chance.
The Penguins are taking on the Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals, this afternoon. The Bears are also struggling with injuries and call-ups, and both teams are coming off rigorous schedules, so it may not be the prettiest game, but Pens and Bears games always have some level of excitement.
Penguins Prospect Loaned Out
On Thursday, the Penguins announced that they loaned once championed prospect Casey Pierro-Zabotel to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill told The Citizens Voice that Pierro-Zabotel, or CPZ, was loaned to Cincinnati for a change of scenery. He turned professional last year after playing with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. However, he earned just one AHL call-up last year, where he had one assist in nine games.
Many believe that CPZ’s departure from Wheeling was caused by poor work ethic and an attitude problem. There was also some controversy last week when his wife Levi posted to her personal Twitter account that she felt the Penguins were an "(expletive) organization" and that her and her husband needed to get out.
She also blasted Petersen, the Nailers leading scorer at the time, and stated that she felt the organization had something against CPZ.
Needless to say, numerous Penguins fans were upset with her comments, and screenshots of her account with the offending posts were posted across Penguins forums and blogs.
I can’t say for sure, but I doubt it’s a coincidence that his wife (who really has no business commenting on her husband’s place with an organization) blasts his team on Twitter, and then CPZ is moved a few days later.
Just ask Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dan Ellis what happens when you say something unfavorable on Twitter.
There had been a rumor that CPZ was traded to the Nashville Predators, but the Voice later said this is an ECHL only move. The Penguins still own CPZ’s rights and can use him for an AHL or NHL call-up if need be.