Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin Chad Kolarik will open this weekend by visiting his old stomping grounds and, later, seeing a few familiar faces.
Tonight he will skate on the Wells Fargo Center ice in Philadelphia, miles from his hometown of Abington, as the Penguins take on the Adirondack Phantoms.
On Saturday Kolarik will face his former team – the Connecticut Whale, at the Mohegan Sun Arena – the first time he will face his old teammates since being traded to the Penguins by the Rangers on Jan. 24.
He’s excited about both scenarios, but in different ways.
The last time Kolarik skated on the Philadelphia ice he was six or seven years old, doing a mini-mite shootout tournament during the intermission of a Flyers game.
“That’s the closest I’ve gotten,” Kolarik said after Thursday’s practice at Coal Street. “It was pretty cool for me at the time.”
Now he gets to step foot on the Wells Fargo Center ice as a pro.
“I’m excited. I wish it was for a different reason – playing against the Flyers, but I’ll take it playing against the Phantoms,” Kolarik said.
Kolarik added that’s he’s also excited to see the Whale come to town on Saturday, but it doesn’t have anything to do with reliving childhood memories.
In January the New York Rangers traded Kolarik – who was Connecticut’s leading scorer at the time, to the Penguins in exchange for Benn Ferriero. The day after the trade Ferriero was summoned to New York while Kolarik never got a look this season.
“I don’t want to say there’s hard feelings, but there might be,” Kolarik said. “They (New York) obviously didn’t think I could play in the NHL and hopefully Pittsburgh thinks I can.”
It’s safe to say that Kolarik has some added motivation when it comes to facing his old team on Saturday.
“I’m excited to say the least,” he said. “I’ve been circling this one on the calendar for a while. I can’t wait.”
NOTES- The Penguins will begin their fifth three-in-three stretch of the season this weekend. It’s also their second this month. Head coach John Hynes said his veteran players have done a good job preparing their younger teammates for the grind of a three-game weekend. He also said such series are good indicators of how ready his players are for the grind of the playoffs.
“The playoffs are about mental toughness – the ability to play through fatigue and difficult circumstances,” Hynes said. “In a three-in-three, that’s where you get an idea of your guys’ mental toughness.”
The monotony of the AHL season in February won’t be an issue this weekend, Hynes said. His team gets to play in an NHL rink on Friday, and face two opponents (Connecticut at home on Saturday and Sunday in Bridgeport) that they haven’t seen much of this season.
Chris Collins (lower body) didn’t practice on Thursday and will be out for the weekend. With Paul Thompson and Steve MacIntyre also remaining out of the lineup, Hynes said it’s likely the Penguins will recall a forward from Wheeling for the weekend.