As the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins get ready to play three different opponents in three days this weekend, they’re really not worried too much about the team’s lining up on the opposite side of the ice.
The Penguins are more worried about themselves.
Riding a 3-0 start to the season, the Penguins spent this week of practice more on improving their game and not so much preparing for this weekend’s opponents.
But that doesn’t mean the Penguins haven’t been thinking about tonight’s opponent, the Adirondack Phantoms.
“Our focus this week has been on our game and making improvements, and then you can only focus on one team,” Penguins coach John Hynes said.
But when it comes to the Phantoms, Hynes said they’re an extremely hard-working team whose effort must not only be matched but exceeded if the Penguins want to extend their winning streak to four games.
“They’re known for their work ethic and they’re very good in goal and have some deadly players up front,” Hynes said.
After tonight’s home contest, the Penguins hit the road for a Saturday matchup in Worcester and wrap up the weekend on Sunday in Manchester.
It will be the first time this season the Penguins play three games in three days, and Hynes expects to learn a lot about his team by the end of the weekend.
“It’s a wide variety of teams, and anytime you get in a three-in-three it’s going to test your mental toughness and will,” he said. “That’s what this weekend is about. We’ll be able to see where we’re at.”
• Last season the Penguins dropped their first three games and lost four straight before notching their first win. Despite a 3-0 start this season, Hynes said the pressure is the same.
“It’s not based on wins and losses, the pressure is to get better,” he said. “If we were 0-3 we would’ve approached this week the same way. It’s about building our habits and the foundation that will give us a winning season.”
• Through their first three games the Penguins have scored 14 goals, tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference. After three games last season the Penguins tallied only six goals.
In 2011-12 they scored eight times in the first three contests, and nine in 2010-11. Could this season’s smaller nets be a factor behind the increase in goal production?
“I think it’s too early to tell just because of the way we scored them,” Hynes said. “The difference in goal production has been the players. When they’re in offensive situations they’re making the right plays, and therefore we’re scoring more goals.”
• There has been talk among some NHL players that the new hybrid icing rules in place this season have resulted in more faceoffs and slowed the game down. Hynes hasn’t seen that result at the AHL level yet, but it’s a different story with the NHL games he’s watched.
“I’ve seen more 50-50 pucks that have been blown dead, which has slowed the game down a bit,” Hynes said.
• During Thursday’s practice goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers wore brand new white pads and helmet. He has been playing with the orange-accented pads he wore last season as a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization, but Delauriers admits that he’s looking forward to adding some Penguin black to his new pads.
“I’ll switch to black and white and look less like a Christmas tree,” he said. “The new gear breaks in pretty quickly and maybe one more week with the Christmas color and then change.”