Ryan Haggerty and the rest of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are resigned to the fact that an integral part of the team will be absent for a few weeks.
One could argue the missing element is the heart and soul of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team — the face of the franchise, even.
For the first time in the last five seasons, captain Tom Kostopoulos will miss extensive time with an injury. Kostopoulos, who has played an average of 73 games during each of the last four seasons, has been out of the lineup since Oct. 27 with an upper-body injury.
Penguins coach Clark Donatelli said Kostopoulos is considered week-to-week, and while Chris Summers, Garrett Wilson and Jean-Sebastien Dea have all donned the “A” in his absence, no one will wear a “C” on their jersey.
That honor is reserved for Kostopoulos.
“It’s tough missing a guy like TK. He’s such a role model for all of us,” Haggerty said. “It’s not easy, but things happen like this during the year and you just have to adjust.”
Donatelli said the leadership duties while Kostopoulos is out won’t fall on just one player. It will be a group effort, he said, adding the Kostopoulos still has a presence away from the ice.
“We still see him. He’s still involved in the guys and interacting,” Donatelli said. “He’s just not on the ice with us.”
When the Penguins face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday, that leadership group will be a little thin as Tom Sestito and Wilson have also been ruled out for the game.
It was a similar situation when the Penguins played Binghamton on Friday as Kostopoulos, Sestito and Wilson all missed that contest as well.
That’s when Dea served as an alternate captain along with Summers. Considering Dea’s time with the Penguins dates back four years, he’s very familiar with the value that Kostopoulos brings as captain.
“It’s weird to be without him. You’re used to seeing him on the ice every day,” Dea said. “He’s always there to help anyone, and without him there’s a big part missing.”
• Donatelli acknowledged that the absences of Kostopoulos, Wilson and Sestito on Wednesday are tough, but he said the leadership on the ice won’t suffer. “We have some guys who can step up in the room. We feel fine in that department,” he said.
• The Penguins are 2-1-0-0 in three meetings against the Phantoms this season, who are trailing them in second place in the Atlantic Division. After Tuesday’s practice, Donatelli emphasized a key part of the game plan when facing the Phantoms.
“Stay out of the penalty box. We’ve been talking about it,” Donatelli said. “We have to stay away from seven, eight penalties a game. (Lehigh Valley) is too good and we can’t keep putting them on the power play.”