Monday, July 21, 2014

A lot on the line for Pens

April 10. 2014 10:40PM

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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (40-23-3-5, 88 points, 2nd place in the East Division) at Syracuse Crunch (29-30-4-7, 69 points, 5th place in the East Division)

Tonight at 7, at the War Memorial in Syracuse, N.Y.

Listen live on The Sports Hub, 102.3 FM

Players to watch:

Syracuse — Evan Rankin has three goals, five points and 23 penalty minutes in nine games against the Penguins.

Penguins — Harry Zolnierczyk leads the Penguins active players (with Kostopoulos out) with three goals against the Crunch. He has a total of six points in seven games against Syracuse this season.

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The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have a lot on the line this weekend.

They are playing their last three-in-three of the season, have a chance to clinch a playoff spot and will get a rematch against Binghamton in a chance to redeem themselves after last Sunday’s 6-2 loss.

But there is one thing more important.

“We’re want the division title,” center Nick Drazenovic said. “It’s nice to get that X beside your team name, but we’re driving for first.”

The Penguins are tied with Binghamton with 88 points, but the Senators hold the East Division lead. They face the Senators at home this Sunday in a game that could decide the division, but the Penguins aren’t looking that far ahead — yet.

“We’re looking forward to redeeming ourselves against Binghamton, but it really starts Friday night in Syracuse,” Drazenovic said. “We need to focus on that game first.”

This weekend will mark the third three-in-three for the Penguins since March 1. With so much on the line, the Penguins really aren’t worried about the grind that comes from playing three games in three days.

Nor does it matter that this weekend’s three-game set begins on the road and ends with two at home.

“Every weekend is important, but the difference now is you have to win because there’s less games,” head coach John Hynes said. “That always ups the ante and it doesn’t really matter home or road. You have to be able to win at both places.”

Another aspect that helps players ignore the toll of a three-in-three is the playoffs are right around the corner. Drazenovic said it’s different than playing a three-in-three in the middle of the season.

“Right now, at least you see a light at the end of the tunnel with the playoffs,” he said. “That makes the three-in-threes a little easier this time of year.”


• After Thursday’s practice, Hynes said Tom Kostopoulos will serve as the veteran scratch for tonight’s game in Syracuse. Who will sit for the rest of the weekend has yet to be decided, he said.

• G Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers has been absent from practice with a lower body injury. Hynes said he is day-to-day.

• ATO Bryan Rust will likely get into a game this weekend, Hynes said, adding there’s a chance that fellow ATO Scott Wilson could also see ice time.

• With nine healthy defenseman in Pittsburgh, Hynes said he hasn’t heard anything about someone coming down from the parent club.

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