It may be a bit unsettling to face one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference with a roster that is without five of its top 10 scorers.
But the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are approaching tonight’s contest against the Springfield Falcons with confidence and not insecurity.
Because they have a game plan.
“The important thing for us when you’re playing a real good team like Springfield is you want to make sure you’re ready to play a 60-minute game,” head coach John Hynes said after Tuesday’s practice. “With Springfield’s track record, they’re a team that shows up every night. We need to make sure we’re not in a situation where we’re not ready to play.”
With forwards Andrew Ebbett, Chris Conner, Zach Sill and Jayson Megna, along with defensemen Simon Despres and Brian Dumoulin up in Pittsburgh, the Penguins’ roster is a shell of what it was at the start of the season.
But that doesn’t mean it’s decimated. With a half-dozen call-ups from Wheeling, the Penguins split last weekend’s set against the St. John’s IceCaps, winning Saturday’s contest 5-0.
While it may be a bit ambitious to expect the same result tonight, the Penguins are carrying confidence from last weekend knowing that the new faces are adjusting quickly.
“They did a real nice job last weekend,” Hynes said. “The big thing on Saturday that we really liked is they impacted the game. A lot of it was getting more comfortable in their roles and getting more ice time in certain situations.”
Left wing Cody Sylvester is one of those recent call-ups, and in seven games with the Penguins he has a goal and is plus-2.
Sylvester said last weekend’s series against the IceCaps and tonight’s game against the Falcons are all good tests for the newcomers, and it’s one that doesn’t have them worried.
“We’ve learned a lot about the systems and had some good practices,” Sylvester said. “The last couple of games, I thought we did really well and we just need to continue that.”
So what’s the key against a balanced team like the Falcons, which has only four regulation losses and has the highest winning percentage in the Eastern Conference at .773?
According to Denver Manderson, another new face, it’s all about sticking to the game plan.
“I think we want to play a tight game and not get into a shootout with them,” he said. “If we stick to our systems, it should be a tight game and that’s always the goal here.”
• The Penguins offense received a huge boost with F Harry Zolnierczyk was reassigned by Pittsburgh later in the day on Tuesday. Zolnierczyk leads Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with nine goals and has 12 points in 18 games.
• F Nick Drazenovic participated in practice on Tuesday and Hynes said he looked good in his recovery from an injury. “Nick’s worked real hard on getting back from his injury so it’s nice to see him take that first step today,” Hynes said.
• F Mike Carman skated in practice with a red no-contact jersey and will be ready for tonight, Hynes said.