WILKES-BARRE — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have lost six of their last eight games and have dropped to fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
They have also won just three times in the last 10 games, while the trio of teams above the Penguins in the standings are a combined 22-5-2-1 over the same span.
Time to panic, right?
For a team that opened the season with a 12-2-0-1 mark, the confidence generated by that hot start hasn’t wavered during the current slump.
“It’s a long season and you’re going to go through ups and downs,” said center Teddy Blueger. “As a group we’re pretty composed and we know we’ll get through this.”
Head coach Clark Donatelli has seen signs that his team is starting to put the slump behind them. Line changes and shift management have gotten better, he said, and his players have shown improvement in managing the puck through the neutral zone and not getting beat up the ice.
“We’re well aware of the stint we went through, but as of late we’ve been playing the right way,” Donatelli said. “I think we’re coming out of it.”
But that could take a little time, Donatelli cautioned.
“We didn’t get into it in one game, and we’re not going to get out of it in one game,” he said.
There are two factors that may have contributed to the Penguins’ recent losses. The offense dried up during the six defeats, posting just 11 goals.
They also dealt with major turnover in goal as both Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith were up with Pittsburgh at the beginning of December when the team lost four straight.
Now that DeSmith is back and veteran Michael Leighton joined the team in a trade this week, the goaltending appears to be solidified.
But Donatelli doesn’t believe losing both Jarry and Desmith for a time contributed to the losses.
“There was only one time where we thought we were in trouble and we actually won the game. Other than that the goalies we played during that stretch gave us the chance to win every night,” he said. “That wasn’t the problem.”
After losing the last two games, the Penguins will have a chance to get back in the win column when they host the Binghamton Devils on Friday. The Devils are in last place in the North Division and have the second-worst points percentage (.407) in the American Hockey League.
Still, the Penguins are taking nothing for granted.
“I don’t think we look too much at where a team is in the standings right now,” Blueger said. “We haven’t been getting the wins, but there’s some good things we’ve been doing and we can build off that.”
- Forwards Thomas Di Pauli, Tom Sestito and Tom Kostopoulos and defensemen Lukas Bengtsson and Ethan Prow have all been ruled out for this weekend. Christian Thomas will also be absent as he competes in the Spengler Cup in Switzerland. To fill the voids, defenseman Jeff Taylor and forwards Cody Wydo, Jarrett Burton and Freddie Tiffels were recalled from Wheeling earlier in the week.
- Donatelli said Leighton will start one of the two games this weekend, but he hasn’t decided if it will be against Binghamton on Friday or Lehigh Valley on Saturday.