The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were also dealing with a roster shortage, with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Nick Drazenovic injured and Bobby Farnham suspended for 1-game for an illegal check to the head against the Syracuse Crunch. So they called up Cody Sylvester and Denver Manderson from the Wheeling Nailers. They also called up Dustin Stevenson to replace an injured Reid McNeill and a struggling Nick D`Agostino on the blue line, since Peter Merth has yet to make his debut after suffering a pre-season injury. While they were shuffling players they also recalled Eric Hartzell to serve as the AHL backup and sent Peter Mannino down to Wheeling. However, Mannino refused to report to the Nailers and has since been suspended and is reported to be contemplating retirement.
These recent moves, plus the release of of Colin Mulvey, the retirement of Ryan Blair, and the recall of Stephen MacAulay by the Montreal Canadiens AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs has left the Nailers in somewhat of a bind. They are down to just one goaltender, so Equipment Manager Billy Higgins was forced to dress as an Emergency Backup, a role he has played multiple times in the past, going back as far as the 2005-06 season. These moves have left them with barely enough players to field a full game roster, just 6 active D and 11 active Forwards.
WBS Baby Pens
The Baby Pens won all 3 games they played this past week, and in fact are undefeated in 9 games while Jayson Megna is in the lineup. They are currently 11-3-0-2 on the season, once again sitting at #1 in the East Division and #2 in the Eastern Conference, just 1 point out of 1st while playing in 1 less game. They are #3 in the AHL, although they have played less games than the current leader and overall have the highest Points%.
Brian Gibbons remains the team leader in Assists, also coming in at #2 in the AHL, and Points, falling in at #3 in the AHL. He is also tied with Harry Zolnierczyk for the team lead in Goals, #18 in the AHL, and tied with Simon Despres for the team lead in Plus/Minus, #1 in the AHL. On special teams he is tied with Jayson Megna for the team lead in Shorthanded Goals, #2 in the AHL,Shorthanded Assists, #5 in the AHL, and Shorthanded Points, #2 in the AHL.
Brendan Mikkelson continues to lead the D in scoring, he is particularly effective on the PP where he leads the team in Power Play Assists, although Simon Despres is on a hot streak and closing in on the lead, having just taken sole possession of the lead in Goals and a commanding lead in Plus/Minus. Scott Harrington continues to be impressive for a rookie, and Brian Dumoulin has started to bounce back since being moved back up the depth chart to partner with Harrington. Samuelsson has been mostly quiet, but effective as a shutdown D whose solid stay at home play has helped improve his partner Despres' overall game.
Tom Kostopoulos and Andrew Ebbett are the next highest scorers after Gibbons, with TK also boasting the team lead in Power Play Goals. They play together on a line with Tom Kuhnhackl, who while he isn't amongst the team leaders does have the most goals for a rookie. With Gibbons up in the NHL Jayson Megna has shifted back to Center, skating with the other of Gibbons' usual wingers Harry Zolnierczyk and Chris Conner, with the 3 of them being amongst the Top 6 scoring forwards on the team. Dominik Uher has been decently effective, especially considering that playing in primarily a Check line role he is outscoring Top 6 sniper Kuhnhackl. Lastly we have Adam Payerl, Paul Thompson, and Mike Carman who have all struggled so far this season, usually fighting just to get ice time playing limited roles in the Bottom 6, although with the recent roster issues they have all found a place in the lineup, but they now need to make a name for themselves if they plan to keep playing once other players start returning.
The starting goaltender remains Jeff Deslauriers, who has gone 10-2-0-2 so far this season with a 2.36 GAA and .902 Sv%. The numbers don't really do his play justice though, as this past week he managed to stop 68 of 73 for a .932 Sv%. This early in the season, with so a few games played, a bad loss here and there really skews the overall numbers. Peter Mannino, who hasn't played since November 8th, is gone now and Eric Hartzell is the new backup. Hartzell had been serving as the backup in Wheeling, so the assumption is that they figured if he was going to be a backup either way he was better off getting AHL experience.
The Nailers had an impressive week, sweeping 3 games against Divisional rival Elmira Jackals over the weekend and falling to the Division leading Reading Royals in a shootout. The Nailers are now 6-5-0-2 on the season, #2 in the Atlantic Division, #7 in the Eastern Conference, and #12 in the ECHL.
The WBS Baby Pens play back to back games away at the St. John' Ice Caps Friday and Saturday at 7:05pm and then another set of back to backs at home mid-week, Tuesday at 5:00pm vs the Hershey Bears and Wednesday at 7:00pm vs the Adirondack Phantoms. With 4 games in 6 days, 2 sets of back to backs, expect Hartzell to make his AHL debut.
The Wheeling Nailers are in the middle of a long road stretch, playing back to back Saturday 7:35pm at Fort Wayne Komets and Sunday 3:00pm at Cincinnati Cyclones and then playing the Cyclones again at 7:35pm on Wednesday. They may need to get goaltending relief, although former Nailer and still Canadiens property Peter Delmas is playing for a non-affiliate ECHL club, so we may see him brought back.