PENGUINS TAKE SECOND FROM SENS, 3-1
WILKES-BARRE, PA – Saturday night was probably the final opportunity many of the players in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp would have to make an impression on head coach Dan Bylsma. With the NHL waiver period set to expire on Monday afternoon, the Pens active roster could expand by more than 10 players in one fell swoop.
But that didn’t keep the likes of Mitch Woods, Mike Salekin and Kevin Harvey from putting their stamps on the team’s second preseason game.
Three fights in the first four minutes set the tone for the night, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took a 3-1 win against the Binghamton Senators, in a rough and tumble contest at the Wachovia Arena.
“You ask the kids at the beginning of the week to make an impression, and show what they can do, and to play hard and try to earn a spot…a lot of kids went out there and did a great job of earning that respect and earning that spot and showing they can play in this league,” said the head coach, noting that a set of cuts was likely coming on Sunday. “Who’s going to stay and who’s going to go…there’s only a few spots to stay here. But a lot of kids did real well and there are a lot of kids that earned the right to be watched very closely in the future.”
Harvey dropped the gloves with Mick Lawrence three seconds into the game, Salekin and Chaz Johnson went 1:50 later for the first of two battles on the night, and Woods invited Kaleb Betts to tangle at center ice to get the arena rocking.
“It certainly settled down and it turned into a game after that, for sure,” said Bylsma.
It wasn’t long after that fight that the real game got going.
Turning to a different skill set, Jean-Michel Daoust intercepted a clearing attempt in the slot, turned around and beat netminder Kevin Desfosses over the left shoulder to open the scoring. That tally came 4:16 into the contest.
Shawn Weller capitalized on a Tommy Goebel hooking call to pick up a power play goal less than a minute and a half later.
That was the only blemish on Dave Brown’s sheet on the night, as the netminder stopped 19 of 20 shots he faced over 40 minutes of play. That performance kept Brown and newcomer Adam Berkhoel basically deadlocked in the battle for a spot behind John Curry on the roster.
“It goes to next weekend,” Bylsma said of the competition. “One of them will play better than the other, and one of them will be the guy that deserves that spot.
“If there was no challenge for that second spot, you’d be wondering what’s going to happen if you get an injury or a call up, whatever the situation might be. It’s great to have two goalies that can challenge the number one guy and take over that spot if they play better as well. It’s a luxury, totally.”
Dustin Jeffrey tallied before the first period was out to put the Penguins back in front, and Ben Lovejoy notched his first of the preseason – a power play tally early in the second period – to pad the score.
The team that takes the ice on Friday against the Hershey Bears will look extremely different than that that took the ice against Binghamton on Saturday. Most of the tryouts will be with their respective ECHL or junior clubs by that point.
But the Penguins might be missing a few faces they figured to be in the lineup if teams are searching the waiver wire for help. Bylsma will find out at noon Monday how many of those players assigned to Wilkes-Barre from Pittsburgh have cleared.
“I think every player, to a man, that is here right now, if they clear waivers and they’re here, they’re going to happy to be here and they’re going to be hard working, and they’re going to be on board. I’m confident of that,” he said. “And frankly, for some of them, I hope they do get picked up. They want to play in the NHL. If they get to the NHL, I’ll feel a little bit a part of that.
“Yeah our roster may change a little bit, but at the same time, it will give them a chance to play in the National Hockey League. And that’s something I would hope for them and be proud of.”