- Friday, April 8th Vs. Lehigh Valley - 7:05 pm
The Phantoms will make the trek up the Northeast Extension for the final time this season looking to extend their winning streak to 5 straight games. As I mentioned above, the Penguins come into the game with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth for the 3rd consecutive game, and are looking to start this crucial weekend off on the right foot. WBS leads the season series thus far with a record of 6-3-1-0, and in the last meeting The Penguins claimed their most dramatic victory of the season by erasing a 3-goal 3rd period deficit to win in OT on a Carter Rowney goal. Broadcaster Mike O'Brien gave TK credit originally, but you can see from the video link above that Carter Rowney would end up with the winner. A couple personnel notes for Lehigh Valley; former Penguin Forward Tim Brent has returned from injury. Aaron Palushaj and Jay Rosehill will not play due to suspensions. An ex-factor for the Phantoms could be their young goaltender Martin Ouellette, who is entering the game red-hot and he recorded his first career AHL shutout this past weekend at St. Johns. Their are a few interesting personnel questions to be answered on the Penguins side as well. Carter Rowney missed Sunday's game against Portland with an upper-body injury but is likely to play Friday Night according to @CVSethLakso. Barry Goers is also day-to-day with a lower body injury, and newly signed D-Man Ethan Prow (undrafted Hobey Baker Finalist out of St. Cloud State, led the nation in defenseman scoring) is itching to make his Pro Debut. Defensive issues have plagued the Pens of late and I would expect Prow to play regardless of what happens with Goers' injury. On Wednesday Prow practiced on a pairing with Will O'Neill, which would seem to indicate that Clark Donatelli thinks highly of the 23 year old. Tristan Jarry has now played 10 consecutive games for WBS, and I would think that this game is the most logical choice to give him a break. I would expect Brian Foster in the net, especially with Sean Maguire (signed 4/6 to ATO - BU graduate) nursing an injury from the end of his collegiate tenure. The good guys simply cannot afford to lose this game and expect to win the division. Hershey is hosting Bridgeport, who is fighting for the final playoff spot, so it won't be an easy night for The Bears either. Make sure you follow @TonyAndrock for LV updates!
- Saturday, April 9th @ Hershey - 7:00pm
Trailing Hershey by just 3 points, the Penguins will have a chance to control their own destiny by taking care of business against the boys from Chocolatetown. Saturday will be the 1st of 3 times the rivals will play over the final week of the season, including a showdown on the final day of the season at the Giant Center. The Penguins absolutely must win on Saturday night and set the tone for Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Penguins have now won 3 straight against The Bears after horrible losses to them early on in the Clark Donatelli era, that includes the 5-0 mauling they took in his first game behind the bench on the day after Christmas. Should the teams finish tied in the standings, the first tie-breaker is to see which team won the season series, and right now WBS leads it with a record of 5-4-0-0. Hershey comes into this weekend after gaining 3 points in the standings last weekend with a SO win and OT loss to the surging Providence Bruins. Longtime Penguin killer Chris Bourque is once again leading the AHL scoring race with 28 goals, 45 assists and 73 points, and rookie sensation Riley Barber (named to AHL All-Rookie Team on 4/6) is their second leading scorer and has 24 goals, and 28 assists for 52 points. Another young talent for Hershey, Jakub Vrana has fully recovered from a pretty severe injury and picked up where he left off maintaining a point-per-game pace with 30 points in 30 games. The Penguins will look to build on what they did a few weeks ago, when they beat the Bears on back to back nights. The first was a 4-1 win at home. The following afternoon they erased multiple deficits including being down 2 goals early in the 3rd period, to come back and claim a huge OT win at the Giant Center. Make sure you don't overlook the first goal of the game by Kael Mouillierat, which is arguably the best goal all year in the AHL, but I'll let you decide for yourself. Dustin Jeffrey is leading the way since joining his former team in WBS, he is up to 4th in the league in scoring with 19 goals, and 41 assists giving him 60 points on the year in just 58 games. I would expect the goal-tending match-up to be Jarry (17-12-3 5 SO, 2.64 GAA, and .908 SV %) vs. Peters (15-8-7, 1 SO, 3.13 GAA and .894 SV %) considering I expect Foster on Friday for WBS and Hershey will most likely use Ellis on Friday and save him for Sunday afternoon. This will be the biggest game of the year to date for both teams, and it will go a long way in determining the Atlantic
Check back on Sunday morning for a Recap of Friday and Saturday's results and I will have a preview of Sunday's game with a better idea of what is on the line. Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment or check me out on twitter @jfoo1654.