WILKES-BARRE — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have faced the Providence Bruins three times over the last four postseasons, and they’ve won each one.
So does the upcoming fourth playoff matchup against the Bruins mean the Penguins can parlay that past success into an advantage this time?
Nevermind the fact that the Penguins swept the Bruins last year in a thrilling double-overtime win on the road. Disregard the 2013 series when the Penguins battled back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the last four games and topple Providence.
The way the Penguins are looking at this year’s series, which starts Friday in Providence, the past doesn’t matter.
“It’s a totally new slate,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “They’re as good a team as we’ve played all year.”
Netminder Casey DeSmith was in goal for all three of the Penguins wins — all in overtime — against Providence in last year’s playoffs. DeSmith said every season is different, but he admitted last year’s series win gives the team a good feeling going into this year’s matchup.
DeSmith also added there is even more reason for optimism this season, as the team finished atop the AHL and he and Jarry combined to win the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award for fewest goals allowed.
“We had a really good team last year, and our regular season shows we have an even better team this year,” DeSmith said. “There’s a lot of really good pieces that we didn’t have last year.”
In last year’s series, Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney and Daniel Sprong led the Penguins in scoring. They’re gone, so that leaves defenseman Tim Erixon as the active scoring leader from last year’s matchup against the Bruins. Erixon registered two goals and four points in three games, but he’s through thinking about the past.
“We have some good memories from it, but it’s a new team,” Erixon said. “You still have that core group, but there’s a lot of movement in the AHL and with new players you start from scratch.”
One thing that Erixon will try to carry on from the past is his play down the stretch during the regular season. He finished with points in four of his lat 10 games and was a plus-4 in that span. On the season, Erixon finished with four goals, 17 points and a plus-11 in 54 games.
“You want to play your best hockey at the end of the season, and I normally get going at the end,” Erixon said. “You get that confidence going into playoffs.”
Zach Aston-Reese returned to Northeastern University to finish up a few classes this week. The rookie winger finished with eight points in 10 regular season games, but has been sidelined with an upper body injury. Donatelli said Aston-Reese is day-to-day and his status won’t be known until immediately before Game 1 on Friday. Forward Sahir Gill is also battling an upper body injury but might practice with the team on Wednesday. Gill is also day-to-day.
Defenseman Barry Goers has been going through the concussion protocol and skated on his own on Tuesday. Donatelli said Goers might practice on Thursday as well.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVeneskycomments powered by Disqus