The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins look to keep their 12-game point streak rolling on Friday when they travel to Syracuse to face the Crunch. The game is the first of a home-and-home set as the Penguins will return to Wilkes-Barre to host the Crunch at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.
With a day off on Thursday for Thanksgiving, winger Ryan Haggerty didn’t think the back-to-back games without a practice beforehand would be a problem.
“It’s more about everyone resting, not getting too stuffed on turkey and coming in on Friday morning, having a good skate and jumping on the bus for Syracuse,” Haggerty said.
In the only meeting so far between the two teams, the Penguins defeated the Crunch 6-1 in Wilkes-Barre on Oct. 15. That game kicked off the Penguins current 12-game point streak, and despite the success, head coach Clark Donatelli cautioned not to read too much into it.
“That was just one game and it was early on,” Donatelli said.
Still, the weekend set against the Crunch does pose some questions for the Penguins.
Will their depth be tested as Tom Kostopoulos, Tom Sestito and Garrett Wilson remain out of the lineup and Thomas Di Pauli might return?
And how will they fare with no practice on Thursday, traveling to Syracuse on Friday and then playing the next day at home?
“I’d rather it start at our (building), but that’s OK. It’s not bad,” Donatelli said. “It’s just a three-hour trip up there.”
Haggerty agreed and said the plan to win both games is simple.
“It’s about getting out to a good start, putting our game plan in place on the first shift and push that forward through the next six periods we have against them,” he said.
And then there’s the goaltending question: Will Donatelli play Casey DeSmith, who has made seven straight starts, in back-to-back games against the Crunch?
“I’m not sure yet. We’ll talk to him about it,” Donatelli said. “He’ll definitely get the start on Friday.”
For his part, DeSmith has fared well with the heavy workload. He’s won five straight starts and is 6-0-1 since Tristan Jarry went up to Pittsburgh.
Donatelli said the schedule has been a bit forgiving with no three-in-threes recently, but DeSmith has been used in back-to-back games before and has performed well.
“I think he’s thriving with (the heavy workload),” Donatelli said.
DeSmith agreed and said he feels his play improved in the second game of back-to-back contests.
Having a heavy workload is what every goaltender desires, DeSmith said.
“I love it. It’s the first time in my pro career that I’ve been the guy, other than a couple playoff runs,” he said. “I played back -to-back games a couple times in the past weeks. If anything, I think I’m better in the second game. I’m not opposed to it.”