Forget the fact that there’s two games left in the regular season. For the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the playoffs have already started.
Tied with Binghamton at 92 points, tonight’s matchup against the Senators could decide who wins the East Division. For the Penguins, it is yet another meaningful game as the regular season draws to a close.
It’s a game that they are approaching the same way they would a postseason contest.
“It’s what you want,” said head coach John Hynes. “You want a meaningful game like this going into the playoffs. There’s something on the line.”
After Thursday’s practice, Hynes finalized some details about what his lineup will look like tonight.
With seven veterans, Hynes can only play five so he will sit Nick Drazenovic and Spencer Machacek. Brian Dumoulin, who has been out with an injury, will return to the lineup, Hynes said, and Peter Mannino will start in net with Eric Hartzell as his backup.
Mannino is anxious for the opportunity.
“Every game here the last four weeks has been so big. You lose one and it becomes even bigger,” he said. “We’re prepared for this. This is basically the playoffs for us.”
In three meeting in Binghamton this season, the Penguins lost twice in regulation and once in a shootout. They’re well aware of just how dangerous the Senators are in their smaller home rink, but the lack of wins there this season doesn’t have the Penguins feeling discouraged about their chances.
“(Binghamton) can carry the momentum pretty easily in that rink,” said Zach Sill. “They always play really well and they always seem to get a lot of shots there. They’re a tough group to beat in that building, but we’ve done it before over the years.”
- Hynes acknowledged Binghamton’s success at home and pointed out one element that the Penguins need to watch. “If you look at some of the games there, they seem to score in bunches. That’s something we need to be aware of,” he said.
- With D Brian Dumoulin healthy and D Reid McNeill out this weekend with an injury - along with D Philip Samuelsson still on the shelf, the Penguins have eight healthy defensemen - Dumoulin, Brendan Mikkelson, Scott Harrington, Nick D’Agostino, Harrison Ruopp, Barry Goers, Simon Despres and Clark Seymour.
- The five veterans who will play tonight are Mikkelson, RW Chuck Kobasew, RW Chris Conner, C Andrew Ebbett and RW Tom Kostopoulos.
- Drazenovic leads the Penguins with eight points in six games against the Senators. Since he will sit out as a veteran scratch, Harry Zolnierczyk becomes the team’s active leader with five points in six games against Binghamton.
- Hynes said G Jeff Deslauriers, who had been ruled day-to-day with an injury, will be out a bit longer. As far as his availability for the postseason, Hynes said he will know that by the end of the weekend.
- C Zach Sill said he felt good after his first game back in nearly three months over the weekend. He also got into a fight - something that Sill said wasn’t neccesarily in the plans. “I didn’t really want to, and I told the other guy that in the middle of it,” Sill said. “I was pretty tired, but I don’t think I can reinjure anything by it.”
Sill added that it’s nice to return to the lineup before the playoffs yet still play in meaningful games. “It’s a chance to jump right back into it, beat the rust off before playoffs and get used to the game again,” he said. “You take three months off and you lose a little bit of awareness.”