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Wilkes Weekly: Comings and Goings for the AHL Pens

Old faces pop back up and newer faces go away in our latest report on the Penguins’ AHL affiliates

The Wilkes-Barre Penguins have hit a nice stride on the ice in the last week having been winners of three-straight games. That’s been enough to push them up towards the top of the pack in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.

WB/S’s Nick Hart with the best succinct recap of the action:

Wednesday, Dec. 13 – PENGUINS 4 vs. Syracuse 1

The Penguins started their week by stomping out the Crunch on home ice. Rem Pitlick potted a power-play goal late in the first period, followed by second-period strikes from Jack Rathbone, Austin Rueschhoff and Matt Filipe. Filipe’s goal was a shorthanded tally, the Penguins’ second shorty of the season.

Friday, Dec. 15 – PENGUINS 4 at Utica 1

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton snapped Utica’s four-game winning streak in style. After a scoreless first period, Will Butcher opened the scoring with his first goal as a Penguin. That was swiftly followed by Rathbone’s second tally of the week. Peter Abbandonato added a man-advantage marker in the third, then sealed things up with an empty netter by Colin White.

Saturday, Dec. 16 – PENGUINS 2 vs. Rochester 1

Alex Nylander starred in the Penguins’ nail-biting win in the Americans’ only visit of the season. Nylander set up Sam Poulin’s opening goal, as Poulin returned from an 18-game injury absence. Then Nylander scored his 100th professional goal with three minutes left in regulation to lift Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton to victory.

Off the ice, as ever, the rapid churn of minor league hockey continues. In happy returns, the AHL Pens welcomed back Colin White and Sam Poulin from extended injuries lately. Poulin played on December 16th for his first game since October 29th. Poulin scored a goal in the first period of his return game.

Overall, Poulin has three points (2G+1A) in six AHL games this season after only playing 18 total games last season. In a contract year and draft+5, the former first round pick badly needs to stay in the lineup and get in a groove in the coming days and weeks. This past week was another good first step towards getting there.

By my quick count, we’ve already seen a whopping EIGHT minor league forwards called up from Wilkes to Pittsburgh this season at different points (Zohorna, Nylander, Harkins, Hinostroza, Koppanen, Gruden, Johnstone and Puustinen). It’s not difficult based on that math to imagine that if healthy Poulin would have factored into that at some point, but it wasn’t to be. Unfortunately for one reason or another, all the pieces haven’t fit together at the right time for Poulin yet.

In departures, the team and Libor Hajek decided to part ways. The former New York Ranger was in Pittsburgh’s training camp and then signed to an AHL contract. It was an odd fit since Wilkes-Barre’s most stacked position is the left defense spot that Hajek plays, resulting in Hajek becoming a part-time player for WB/S who only appeared in 11 games this season and was a scratch for the rest. Hajek departs to find a team in his native Czechia.

Beyond that, the typical minor league shuffling has taken place. Lukas Svejkovsky was called up from the ECHL for a time, but now with Gruden and Johnstone returning, Svejkovsky is back down.

Up next, the WB/S Penguins are in Canada for a quick pair of games on Thursday (Belleville) and Friday (Laval). Then the team will get a long holiday break until their next game on 12/27.