WBS Update: A Week of Firsts

Nick Johnson and Bryan Lerg have been the best two forwards lately for WBS. Johnson scored his second career hat trick Wednesday and Lerg has 5 goals in his last 4 games.

An interesting week for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (AHL) with a lot of first timers. Are you ready?

The Pens 5-0 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday was their first win over the Crunch this season. The Crunch were also the first team to beat the Pens this season. 

Their boring 1-0 loss in the Consol Energy Center on Thursday was their first loss to Hershey in five meetings this season.  It was also the first time the Pens were shutout this season.

And to top it off, in their first game of 2011 the Pens got their first victory over the Norfolk Admirals on the season, 4-3.

A recap of last week's games, a look ahead to their four games this week and an update on the status of the team (injuries, possible reinforcements, etc.)

Wednesday, Dec. 29th, 5-0 Win - Syracuse

Wednesday night's game was probably the best I have seen the WBS Pens play all season. Not becuase they scored a bunch of goals or because the shutout the opponent, but because they controlled the puck and played a full 60 minutes of consistent, physical hockey and really gave their all against a Crunch team that has given them fits this season. 

Nick Johnson scored his second career hat trick, and three of the four forward lines got involved in the scoring.  Brad Thiessen stopped all 23 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.  He also got his 14th win of the season, matching his win total from last season.  He's now 14-3 on the season.

Thursday, Dec. 30th, 1-0 Loss - Hershey

Thursday's game in the Consol Energy Center was very uneventful.  Unfortunately for the fans in Pittsburgh, the Pens couldn't put on much of a show.  But don't worry the loss in this game was only their 8th in their 33rd game, and usually they are a lot more exciting to watch.  Hershey's lone goal, a Keith Aucoin powerplay goal, found its way past Thiessen after multiple deflections, most notably off Eric Tangradi's stick.  The defensemen had a ton of miscues passing and transitioning and the Pens had six forwards on the ice at the end of the game with the goalie pulled.  Not much to say other than that.

Saturday, Jan. 1st, 4-3 Win - Norfolk

 The Pens started off 2011 they way they began the season, with a win over  a much hated rival.  The Pens twice jumped out to what seemed like sustainable leads but let Norfolk made it interesting and got within one in the last few minutes of the third.  In reflecting on this game I was kind of glad the game didn't become a blow out so the game didn't get out of hand. 

After the second period ended and people headed to the concourse the team benches nearly cleared into an all-out brawl. I missed what started the whole altercation but it's clear the Pens were unhappy with Norfolk's Radko Gudas.  Gudas took a run at Keven Veilleux near the middle of the period with a knee-on-knee hit that sent Veilleux sprawling to the ice holding his knee.  Gudas might have been trying to get even since Veilleux destroyed one of his teammates in this fight in the first period. Geoff Walker took exception to Gudas' hit and was ejected because of a fight-strap violation.  Veilleux didn't return after being taken off the ice with the help of teammates and the medical trainer.  I think being down two forwards for the third period helped Norfolk back into the game.

John Curry was good enough in net to get the win but I wasn't overly impressed with his play.  He only faced 12 shots through the first two periods but gave up two goals on the 11 shots he faced in the final period.  Bryan Lerg scored two goals including a redirect of a Steve Wagner shot on the powerplay for the game winner.

Injury Updates:

Joe Vitale needed to crawl off the ice after blocking a shot off the inside of his foot during Wednesday's game and hasn't played since. The good news is he was seen walking around without any sort of special boot or anything like that. Hopefully it's nothing serious.

Keven Veilleux's injury is still unknown to me.  I heard he was seen icing the area above his knee and not the knee itself. Not sure if that's good or bad news. Look for the Pens to recall either Joey Haddad or Ben Street with both of these forwards unable to play as the Pens travel for two games on Tuesday and Wednesday in Charlotte.

Andrew Hutchinson, who has missed should resume skating with the team this week according to WBS Pens beat writer Jonathan Bombulie.  Hutchinson has only played 17 games this season and hasn't played since December 1st, so he is still probably a week or two away from getting back into the lineup.

The Road Ahead:

The Pens will travel to Charlotte for two games Tuesday and Wednesday night against the Checkers.  The Checkers are tied for second in the division and eight points behind the Pens entering Tuesday's match. The Checkers are 7-2-0-1 in their last ten games and are looking to cut the Pens division lead in half.

After the two game trip to Charlotte the Pens travel back to Wilkes Barre for two home games Friday against Bridgeport and Saturday against the Providence Bruins.

Final Comment:

Just wondering what you guys like/dislike about the weekly updates. Is there anything you would like to know more of that I'm not covering?  I'm trying to get more player interviews but access to the team lately has been tough.  Any questions, comments, concerns, etc. can just be thrown in here.  I would love to get more conversation about the team going as it gets closer to the halfway point of the season.

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