When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins opened training camp on Sept. 21, the goaltending situation was a big question mark.
Last year’s starting netminder Jeff Zatkoff has remained in Pittsburgh and offseason free agent acquisition Peter Mannino is sidelined with an injury, leaving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with rookie Eric Hartzell and tryout Andy Chiodo in net.
Three days later veteran Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers was signed to a tryout agreement, giving head coach John Hynes three options to choose from - two veterans in Chiodo and Deslauriers and a rookie in Hartzell.
Now, as Saturday’s season opener draws near, the Penguins goaltending situation is starting to take shape.
Chiodo was released on Monday, Mannino is still sidelined and Zatkoff remains with Pittsburgh, leaving Hynes with Hartzell and Deslauriers for the time-being.
But, as Hynes said after Tuesday’s practice, nothing is set in stone.
“We want to let the goaltending situation continue to play out,” he said.
The wild card right now is Mannino. The 29-year-old has spent the last five seasons mainly in the AHL and has six NHL games to his credit. If he does get healthy enough to return by the season opener, it’s likely he will bump either Hartzell or Deslauriers from one of the two netminding spots.
Hynes said Mannino continues to show improvement and could be ready for Saturday. If he isn’t, that leaves the Penguins with Hartzell and Deslauriers.
“We do feel comfortable with that situation if Peter isn’t ready,” Hynes said.
While the goaltending picture has become a bit clearer with Chiodo’s release, Hynes isn’t ready to anoint a starter just yet.
“We’ll probably let them know the day before the game,” he said.
• Chris Conner, who was placed on waivers by Pittsburgh on Monday, will join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton today, Hynes said. Conner had two stints with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2009-10 and 2010-11, posting 22 goals and 64 points in 70 games.
• F Andrew Ebbett and D Simon Despres - both of whom were reassigned by Pittsburgh on Monday - will also join the Penguins on the ice today. Ebbett split last season between Chicago in the AHL and the Vancouver Canucks. He has 191 games of NHL experience. Despres finished last season in Pittsburgh, appearing in 33 games with the big club.
“You’re getting NHL-caliber players and, most importantly with them, it’s the type of buy-in, attitude and work ethic they bring that we’re excited about,” Hynes said.
• With three days left before the season opener, the Penguins roster is just about set. Hynes said there may be a couple of moves until then, but not many.