For the first time this season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins experienced what might be considered a setback of sorts, as the team dropped three consecutive games during a three-in-three road trip over weekend. It was just the second time all year the Penguins (37-14-3-0, 77 points, first place in the Atlantic Division) dropped consecutive games.
But head coach Clark Donatelli isn’t losing any sleep over the subpar record on the road.
“No reason to hit the panic button,” said Donatelli following Tuesday’s practice at the Toyota SportsPlex.
The Pens dropped decisions in Albany (4-0 on Friday), Springfield (2-1 on Saturday) and Providence (3-2 on Sunday afternoon). Still, Donatelli continued to show faith in his club, which has been at the top of the American Hockey League standings all season.
“It was a tough road trip for us. We didn’t get the results that we wanted. The first game against Albany (on Friday night), I didn’t think we played that well.
“I thought the next two games…I thought we played really well, some of our best hockey. We just came up short. That’s going to happen some of the time.”
In recent weeks, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has seen several players summoned by the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the likes of Carter Rowney, Josh Archibald, Steve Oleksy and Cameron Gaunce, just to name the most recent recalls. But Donatelli is quick to downplay the notion that player movement had anything to do with this past weekend’s results.
“We’ve missed players all year,” he said. “I don’t think we can say ‘we miss Jake anymore’. He’s not here. We have to move on from that. Rowney’s not here, [but Oskar Sundqvist is] playing well.
“It’s not a personnel thing. Guys are playing different roles, but the nucleus is still here and I don’t think that affected it one way or another.”
Archibald, who recorded his first two NHL goals on February 11 against the Arizona Coyotes, rejoined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the midst of the recent road swing. He preferred to point to the positives over the weekend than any shortcomings.
“I didn’t think we played terrible as a team,” he said. “Our power play was clicking (3 for 15 on the weekend), penalty kill was doing good (11 for 12). I think just five-on-five, if we can put a little more pucks on the net, that will help us out a lot.”
Donatelli gave some credit to the opposition as well, especially Springfield’s Reto Berra, who snuffed 37 of 39 shots thrown his way on Saturday, and Providence’s Zane McIntyre, who stopped 34 of 35 on Sunday afternoon to up his nearly unblemished record to 13-0-1 on the season.
“Sunday was just as good of a game as we’ve played all year,” Donatelli said. “As long as we’re playing the right way, we’ll get the results we want.”