When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take on the Adirondack Phantoms and Connecticut Whale this weekend, in one instance they hope history repeats itself.
The last time the Penguins faced the Phantoms, Brad Thiessen was in net for a 20-save shutout win. To take it a step further, the Penguins have only allowed one goal in two meetings against Adirondack this season.
But when it comes to Connecticut, the Penguins are hoping history changes course. The last time they met, the Whale shutout the Penguins 2-0.
Both opponents are prime examples of how goals are at a premium this season for the Penguins, both for and against.
This season the Penguins have earned seven shutouts, while they’ve been on the losing side of five. At the current pace, they will break last year’s total shutout mark of 12 (six for, six against).
When it comes to shutting out opponents, head coach John Hynes acknowledged that his defense has played lights out for most of the season. In addition to the seven shutouts, the Penguins have also allowed only 120 goals against, second only to the Springfield Falcons total of 117.
“We’ve done a god job,” Hynes said, referring to the goals and shots against departments. “We’re competing the right way defensively. There’s a commitment, we’re in good positions and well structured.
“We’ve also played more with the puck, and that’s your best defense right there.”
Offensively, only four teams have scored fewer goals than the 121 recorded by the Penguins. Three of them (Adirondack and Norfolk with 120, and Hamilton with 108) are in last place in their divisions.
Granted, the Penguins have lost quite a bit of firepower with the subtractions of Eric Tangradi (trade), Beau Bennett (Pittsburgh) and Paul Thompson (injury). They’ve also endured slumps from proven goal scorers Benn Ferriero, who has since been traded, and the injured Phil Dupuis.
But there is hope for improvement in the goal scoring department. The Penguins added Chad Kolarik – who is 11th in the AHL in scoring, at the all-star break and they’ve signed Chris Collins – a former 20-goal scorer in the AHL, to a PTO.
Now, Hynes said, it’s just a matter of his team becoming more committed to playing harder around the net and bouncing in more second and third opportunities.
“I still believe with the players that we have, with some adjustments, we’ll score more goals,” he said. “It’s a simple matter of we need to be smarter in and around the net.”
• D Mark Eaton was released from his professional tryout agreement on Wednesday. (PTO). Eaton, 35, signed a PTO with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 23 and skated in six games for the Penguins, registering one assist and four minutes of penalties.
The fifteen-year pro played four seasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2006-2010 after being signed as a free agent on July, 3, 2006. He appeared in 627 NHL games with Philadelphia, Nashville, Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders, while totaling 24 goals, 61 assists and 238 penalty minutes.
-• Pittsburgh assigned D Reid McNeill to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) on Wednesday. On his second assignment this season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, McNeill has yet to appear in any games for the Penguins. He has recorded one goal, four assists and 39 penalty minutes in 27 games with the Nailers this year in his first pro season.