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Agreement will have impact here


February 20. 2013 1:04AM
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While it will be a few days before it's known just how much of an impact the end of the NHL lockout will have on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, there was a hint of the possible impact at the start of Sunday's game against Connecticut.


When the Penguins took the ice, they were without Eric Tangradi, Beau Bennett and Robert Bortuzzo – all of whom were healthy scratches for the first time this season.


The trio is likely headed to Pittsburgh to join the big club for a brief training camp before the start of the NHL season.


And there could be more.


Counting Tangradi, Bennett and Bortuzzo along with Pittsburgh players on one-way contracts, 23 players will participate in training camp. But general manager Ray Shero was quoted on Pittsburgh's website that he expects 24-26 bodies in camp, meaning a few more Wilkes-Barre/Scranton players could head up soon.


The list of candidates includes Simon Despres, who played on Sunday for the first time after missing the last two games. Brian Strait is another strong contender, and he also missed the last two games before playing on Sunday.


What's in store for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is still uncertain as a team media official said on Sunday that head coach John Hynes was unable to discuss anything related to the lockout until the new agreement is ratified.


That could happen on Tuesday when the team returns to practice after a day off today.


Assuming that Tangradi, Bennett and Bortuzzo are headed to Pittsburgh, the lockout will have a big impact on the Penguins. Bennett leads the team with 23 points, Tangradi is second with 10 goals and Bortuzzo has been the top shutdown defenseman leading the team with a plus-4. While it's not a guarantee that they will make the team out of training camp, they will be gone for at least a while.


But the Penguins aren't the team that will receive a lockout-ending makeover. Virtually every team in the East Division will be significantly impacted, and that bodes well for the Penguins, who are 5-14 against division rivals.


The Hershey Bears will lose goaltender Braden Holtby as he heads back to Washington for presumably the remainder of the season. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov would also likely head up if not for an upper body injury, and blueliner Tomas Kundratek is another candidate to leave Hershey.


For first place Syracuse and the Binghamton Senators, the prospects are varied. The second-place Senators could lose goaltender Robin Lehner as a backup to Craig Anderson in Ottawa, along with Andre Benoit or Patrick Wiercioch and forward Jakob Silfverberg – the team leader in goals and points.


Syracuse has plenty of players that could head up to Tampa Bay, but the parent club already has 22 players on one-way contracts – one less than the limit. Still, potential NHLers on the Crunch include Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Evan Oberg, Cory Conacher and Tyler Johnson, along with goaltender Dustin Tokarski. If even half of that list heads to the NHL, the impact to the Crunch could be enormous.


And just as important as who goes up to the NHL will be those joining AHL teams from the East Coast Hockey League. The Penguins have some nice at Wheeling, including forwards Cody Chupp and Scott Zurevinski and defensemen Carl Sneep, Andrew Hotham and Peter Merth.




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