Sunday, July 13, 2014

Penguins hope to power up against Crunch

December 31. 2013 12:09AM

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Syracuse Crunch (13-13-1-3, 30 points, 5th place in the East Division) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (17-9-1-3, 38 points, 2nd place in the East Division)

Tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 5:05 p.m.

Players to watch:

Syracuse - Evan Rankin has three goals and four points against the Penguins this season.

Penguins - Brendan Mikkelson, who played for the Crunch last season, has a goal and four points in four games against his former team.

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The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hope to end 2013 by reversing a trend that has plagued them over the last five games — a lack of goals.

During that span, the Penguins have scored more than one goal just once and have combined for six tallies in their last five games.

Fortunately, the Penguins face the Syracuse Crunch tonight against whom they haven’t had a problem lighting the lamp. In four meetings this season the Penguins have totaled 16 goals while posting a 3-0-0-1 record against their East Division foes.

While a favorable opponent helps, the real key toward posting more points begins with special teams.

“With the way the game is these days, it’s about special teams battles,” said Nick Drazenovic, who is third on the team in scoring with 15 points. “It’s about who can get that key stop and who can get that key goal.”

On the penalty kill, the Penguins have had little trouble getting that key stop. Over their last five games, the Penguins have killed off all but one of the 18 power plays they faced. The last time they faced Syracuse (Dec. 21), they held the Crunch scoreless on all five of their man-advantage opportunities.

But the power play hasn’t been as successful of late. Over the last five games the Penguins power play connected three times on 23 chances. Two of those goals came against the Crunch.

“Our penalty kill does very well and our power play has done very well in the past,” Drazenovic said. “When the power play scores it’s a good chance for us to win the game. When we connect, it starts to feel a lot easier and it starts rolling.”

Tonight’s game will mark the third time the Penguins have played on New Year’s Eve. Head coach John Hynes said playing on a holiday doesn’t necessarily equate to a different approach.

More important, he said, is the opponent.

“We know we have a good team coming in. It’s a game on the schedule that means a lot,” he said. “The day it falls on doesn’t really matter.”


• Monday’s practice was held at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Winger Bobby Farnham wasn’t on the ice due to a maintenance day, Hynes said. D Peter Merth participated wearing the red no-contact jersey.

• The Penguins recalled forward Carter Rowney from Wheeling on Monday and returned defenseman Dustin Stevenson to the Nailers.

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