There’s a few reasons why Simon Despres is happy to be back with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Topping the list is simply just being able to play hockey again.
Before Despres was sent down by Pittsburgh on Jan. 16 he was a healthy scratch for five of the last eight games with the NHL club.
Watching from the stands, even if it’s in the NHL, is something that Pittsburgh’s 2009 first round pick clearly doesn’t want to do.
“I’d definitely love to be in the NHL right now, but if that means being in the stands every two or three games, then I’d rather be here playing and helping the team win,” Despres said after Wednesday’s practice at the Toyota Sportsplex. “Right now, with nine D men up there, I’d rather be here and play.”
In his first three games back, Despres has done plenty to help Wilkes-Barre/Scranton win. He has scored three goals and posted a plus-6 rating in those three games while paired with defense partner Philip Samuelsson.
On the season, Despres has played in 20 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has three goals, 14 points and is a plus-19, which is tops on the team.
“It’s like I never left,” he said. “I’m really comfortable with the team and the coaches here, so it’s an easy transition.”
Other than a love of the game, Despres said it’s important to him to be playing rather than watching so he can show the organization just how much he has improved since he turned pro three years ago. The numbers prove it.
In limited action with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the last three seasons, Despres posted 15 points and a minus-5 in 44 games as a rookie and seven points and a minus-5 in 27 games last season.
Heading into this weekend, he is just one point away from matching his season-high in the AHL, and he has only played in less then half as many games.
“I can’t show my game by being in the stands,” Despres said. “It’s my third year pro and I feel like my game’s progressing.”
While success in the AHL has come relatively easily for Despres, his NHL numbers haven’t been as lofty. This season, in 18 games with Pittsburgh, Despres had no goals, four assists and an even rating.
Last year was better, however, with two goals, seven points and a plus-9 in 33 NHL games.
“In the NHL the players are stronger and make more plays. Here, I feel like it’s more chip it in, forecheck, breakout - stuff like that,” Despres said. “I’ve got some good assets to my game and I can help the team put up some offensive numbers.”
- G Eric Hartzell missed Wednesday’s practice due to illness but head coach John Hynes said he will be fine for this weekend. Video coach Samson Lee took Hartzell’s place in practice. Lee is coming off a stellar run as the backstop for the team that claimed the championship in Coal Street’s Fall “D” League.
- C Adam Payerl joined his teammates on the ice for the last half of practice. Payerl has been out with an upper body injury and Hynes said he is still considered week-to-week.
- Former WBS Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey was reportedly placed on waivers by the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
- G Peter Mannino, who was suspended on Nov. 20 when he failed to report to Wheeling, joined the Nailers last week. The move gives the Penguins some much-needed goaltending depth if Wilkes-Barre/Scranton loses a goaltender. “We didn’t have an option down there, is what happened,” Hynes said. “It’s nice that he’s back working and getting himself ready to go.” In three games with the Penguins this season, Mannino was 1-1-0 with a 3.40 GAA and a .877 save percentage.