Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes will have some tough choices to make as the team prepares for another three-game set this weekend.
And that’s a good thing.
For the first time in quite a while, Hynes has an abundance of forwards to choose from as he sets the roster for tonight’s game in Binghamton. Brian Gibbons - fresh off his all-star appearance, and Jayson Megna are back from Pittsburgh and will play this weekend.
In addition, Adam Payerl and the newly-acquired Spencer Machacek are both recovered from their injuries and will be ready to play.
The new additions, along with Thursday’s reassignment of Denver Manderson, Zach Torquato and Carter Rowney to Wheeling, give Hynes 14 forwards to choose from.
“It’s always a good thing as a coach when you have tough lineup decisions,” Hynes said. “It’s nice to have options to choose from.”
That abundance of choices will put plenty of players on the bubble, such as Tom Kuhnhackl, who hasn’t registered a point since Jan. 11.
And there are other decision for Hynes, such as where to play his top forwards against a Binghamton team that is currently one point ahead of the Penguins for first place in the East Division.
The Penguins are 2-0-0-1 against the Senators this season and haven’t seen them since Jan. 5. Beginning tonight, the Penguins will face Binghamton six more times this season.
Hynes said facing a division rival so many times late in the season is a good thing.
“I like these challenges at this point in the year because you want to be in tough games and be tested,” he said. “You have to be at your best.”
That goes for the Saturday and Sunday games against Hershey as the Penguins play their fifth three-in-three this year.
While playing three games in three days is demanding, Hynes said it’s really only an issue when a lot of travel is involved. Considering the Penguins will travel to Binghamton and Hershey before coming home on Sunday, it shouldn’t be much of an issue this weekend.
“At this point in the season guys are used to three-in-threes and as the year goes on they know how to prepare for them,” Hynes said.
- Gibbons had two assists in Wednesday’s AHL All-Star game. Hynes wasn’t surprised by Gibbons’ success. “He’s been very consistent in the way he plays, whether it’s here, with Pittsburgh or in the all-star game. He’s playing the game the right way,” Hynes said.
-The AHL All-Star team defeated Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League 7-2 on Wednesday, the first international contest in AHL All-Star history. Hynes said he wasn’t sure how the game would go at first, but added the level of play was outstanding. “It’s nice to see the AHL come out on top and it was a good test,” he said. “These players are very competitive and you could see they took this game seriously.”
- Eric Hartzell leads the league with a 1.93 goals against average (1.93). His string of 10 straight starts of allowing two goals or less came to an end on Sunday in Hershey.
- The Penguins overtime loss to the Bears on Sunday was their first all season when leading after the first period.