There is no wrong time for a team to go on a winning streak, but for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the timing of their current season-best run couldn’t be better.
Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Lehigh Valley extended the Penguins’ win streak to eight games, and it also marked the first of five consecutive contests against Atlantic Division rivals. The Penguins lead the division with a .689 points percentage, and next up is a Friday matchup on the road against second-place Providence.
“No matter who you’re playing two points are on the line, but you definitely don’t want to give up points in your division,” said forward Adam Johnson.
The Penguins have only faced the Bruins once this season, beating them in overtime, 4-3, on Nov. 11. After facing Providence, the Penguins will remain on the road with trips to Hartford, Hershey and Lehigh Valley — all within the next seven days. They have a combined record of 11-5-1-1 against all four teams and, coupled with the eight-game win streak, the Penguins are a confident bunch as they embark on the road trip.
But they aren’t taking anything for granted, nor do they expect to pull away from the rest of the division no matter how many games they win.
“We have a tough stretch coming up,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “In my experience in this division, even when you’re winning you don’t break away. It’s just tough.”
Against the other three teams in the division — Bridgeport, Charlotte and Springfield — the Penguins are a combined 4-2-1-0. In fact, the only division team they have yet to beat is Charlotte, which is 2-0-0-0 against the Penguins.
But first up is Providence, the team that trails the Penguins in second place in the division. As has been the case with every game of late, the Penguins will face Providence without several regulars. Forwards Tom Kostopoulos and Tom Sestito, defenseman Lukas Bengtsson and goaltender Michael Leighton all remain out with injuries, while forwards Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon and Jean-Sebastien Dea and goaltender Casey DeSmith are all up with Pittsburgh.
All of the losses mean players like Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Christian Thomas and Ryan Haggerty will continue to be relied on to provide offense.
Haggerty said they’re up to the task, especially while facing so many division opponents.
“It definitely means a little more” he said. “This stretch before the all-star break is important that we get every point we can.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky