WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Every player in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins lineup for Thursday’s preseason game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is working to earn a job.
But in the preseason opener, the short-term was the more important goal as they hoped their play would give them another game.
Facing a Phantoms lineup that consisted mainly of regulars, the Penguins skated to a 3-2. Sam Miletic and Linus Olund each had a goal and an assist, defenseman Matt Abt also scored and goaltender John Muse, who is battling for a job with Anthony Peters, allowed two power play goals while stopping 27 shots.
Head Coach Clark Donatelli also singled out Nick Saracino as one who impressed, particularly with his work on the penalty kill. In addition to his point, Donatelli said Olund looked good in the faceoff circle as well.
But Miletic impressed in a number of areas, particularly with his speed and offensive instincts. On several occasions he beat opponents to the puck and in the second period used his speed to race in and put home a rebound during a power play.
“We know he’s a good player,” Donatelli said of Miletic. “He’s had a really good camp and it’s great to see him come out and work the way he does.”
Miletic is no stranger to the Pittsburgh organization. He attended development camp the last two years and appeared in a few NHL preseason games with the Penguins. That experience has helped him as he fights for a job with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“Last year I didn’t know what to expect. This year I came in and knew what to expect. It made me feel really comfortable on and off the ice,” Miletic said.
Pittsburgh signed Miletic to a three-year, entry-level deal in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. He spent the last three season in the Ontario Hockey League and scored 36 and 37 goals in each of the last two years.
Facing a Phantoms lineup with plenty of veterans on Thursday was a good test, Miletic said.
“I was playing against 16-year-olds last year and these guys are grown men. You want to face the best to see where you’re at,” Miletic said.
– Donatelli was happy with the play of Muse in net as he stayed in for the entire game. Peters will play the entire game on Saturday as the two battle for the backup goaltending job.
– Abt and fellow defenseman Johnny Austin led the Penguins with six shots each. Defensemen Jeff Taylor and Dane Birks, along with Saracino each had an assist on the night.
– Yushiro Hirano, who traveled from his native Japan to attend training camp, didn’t have a point and recorded two shots and two penalty minutes.
– Abt scored his goal on a long wrist shot in the first period and showed a willingness to skate the puck up the ice throughout the game.
“We saw it in practice and we just didn’t know if it would correlate in a game. He’s got some offensive abilities and he’s very coachable,” Donatelli said.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky