There's a sense of familiarity when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take on the Syracuse Crunch.
Sure, the Penguins have faced the Crunch seven times this season coming into tonight's 7:05 contest at the Mohegan Sun Arena, but it's more than that.
Despite being in fourth place in the East Division, the Crunch have played the Penguins much like division nemesis Norfolk this season, piling up points and turning games into offensive grudge matches.
In seven games this season, Syracuse has scored 27 goals against the Penguins, winning three contests. Norfolk has fared better, winning five of seven, while piling up 28 goals against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"They're very much alike," Penguins coach John Hynes said. "They're both very deep with high-end offensive firepower through all four lines, and they've gotten production from their D corps."
But the similarities don't end there.
Norfolk rookie Cory Conacher has pounded the Penguins this season, racking up eight goals in seven games. Syracuse has a dangerous rookie as well in Peter Holland, who has totaled 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in seven games against the Penguins. Throw in Kyle Palmieri's seven goals in four games, and the Crunch offense is as dangerous as Norfolk's.
"(Syracuse) forwards are so high-scoring and every line can hurt you," said defenseman Alex Grant, who leads the Penguins with 10 points against Syracuse. "You have to be aware of every line that's on the ice. You can't take a shift off against them."
Hynes agreed and said if the Penguins want to extend their winning streak to three games, they need to keep the pressure on Syracuse's forwards.
"You can't give them time and space. They have guys that don't need a lot of chances to score," he said. "They're a deadly team to play against because your margin for error is thin."
A handful of Penguins skated on Friday, including newcomer Cal O'Reilly, who participated in his first practice since being reassigned by Pittsburgh this week.
O'Reilly has been a solid point-producer in the AHL, totaling 255 in 267 games. His 198 assists are indicative of his playmaking ability, and Hynes said there's a possibility he could be on a line with a sniper such as Colin McDonald.
"Anytime you have the numbers he's had, you see there's an offensive mind there," Hynes said. "Whoever he's put with, they need to be able to play their game but also expect pucks and capitalize on opportunities."
Syracuse Crunch at
7:05 p.m. today
Mohegan Sun Arena, W-B Twp.