WILKES-BARRE — Casey DeSmith admits that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in a good spot atop the Atlantic Division, but that doesn’t mean the team is overly comfortable as they embark on a three-game road trip to New England.
With a matchup against Springfield on Wednesday followed by a pair of meetings in Providence over the weekend, DeSmith knows things in the Atlantic Division can tighten up quickly.
“We’re in good shape right now, but there are a lot of good teams in our division. Points are going to be important by the end of the year,” he said. “We have to keep our foot on the gas.”
Fresh off a successful stint with Pittsburgh, DeSmith was re-assigned on Sunday and could get all three starts during the road trip.
Head coach Clark Donatelli said it’s a “luxury” having either DeSmith or Tristan Jarry in net backed up by Anthony Peters, but he admitted the upcoming road trip will be a test.
The Penguins have played well on the road this season, posting a 9-6-3-0 mark, but they’ve also played the fewest away games — 18 — out of everyone in the Eastern Conference.
That will change this month as the Penguins will be on the road for six of their nine games. Perhaps the travel will become a grind at some point, but for now there isn’t a worry.
It’s always good to experience some new cities and spend time with all the guys on the road,” said Jarrett Burton, adding that the pair of wins last weekend helped create a positive vibe in preparation for the trip. “It’s pretty upbeat this week. Everyone is pretty excited about last weekend and building off that momentum.”
The Penguins will hit the road without several regulars.
Zach Aston-Reese and Jarry remain up with Pittsburgh while Tom Kostopoulos and Ryan Haggerty are sidelined with injuries. Defenseman Lukas Bengtsson is a possibility to return.
But Donatelli pointed out that the current lineup is similar to the one that produced wins against Hershey and Lehigh Valley last weekend.
“We comfortable with that,” he said. “We’re a little banged up and we have some guys up top, but we’re OK.”
Daniel Sprong is on a seven game point streak in the AHL, racking up five goals and eight assists for 13 points in that time. … Kevin Czuczman scored goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his professional career with tallies against Binghamton on Jan. 27 and Hershey on Feb. 2. … The Penguins are 2-0-0-0 against Springfield this season, and 1-1-0-0 versus Providence.