WBS Penguins Weekend Preview: Penguins vs. Bears and Sharks

A Note from Ali:
The weekend preview is a deviation from my usual game day preview format. I will be taking my WBS pride to Pittsburgh this weekend, so if you were hoping to know everything you wanted to about the Baby Penguins' next two opponents in one blog entry, your wish has come true! Enjoy!

Last Game Recap:
After playing two scoreless periods, the Penguins got goals from Chris Conner (shorthanded), Nick Johnson, and Ben Lovejoy (power play) to win their fourth straight game by a score of 3-0. Brad Thiessen earned his third shutout of the season by stopping 31 shots. Norfolk got five power plays, including two apiece in the first and second periods, but they were never able to capitalize against the Penguins’ penalty kill.

Three Stars of the Game:
3. Dustin Tokarski (Norfolk): 31 saves on 34 shots
2. Chris Conner (WBS): shorthanded goal; +1 rating
1. Brad Thiessen (WBS): 31 save shutout

WBS Scratches:
Alex Grant
Ryan Bayda
Joey Haddad
Keven Veilleux

WBS Current Record: 37-29-2-3 (79 points; third in East Division)

Scoreboard Watch: With a win on Wednesday, the Penguins moved into third place for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the East Division. They also remain one point behind Bridgeport for the final playoff spot; should they fall back into fourth place.

Matchups to Watch:
WBS at Norfolk (7:15 p.m.) and Bridgeport at Manchester (7:30 p.m.)
Saturday: WBS at Hershey (7:00 p.m.); Worcester at Norfolk (7:15 p.m.), and Bridgeport at Hartford (7:00 p.m.)
Sunday: WBS vs. Worcester (3:05 p.m. and Bridgeport at Lowell (4:00 p.m.)

News and Notes:
Thiessen’s shutout earned him third star of the night on the AHL website on Wednesday.

Penguins forward Mark Letestu was announced as the team’s winner for the Man of the Year Award; which goes to the player on each team with outstanding charitable contributions within their communities. The AHL will announce the league winner within the next few weeks.

Saturday’s Matchup:
Who: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. Hershey Bears
When: Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Giant Center (Hershey, PA)

Last Meeting Recap:
Hershey handed the Penguins their second straight loss with a 4-0 shutout. The Penguins’ limited Hershey to four shots in the first period, but the Bears got goals from Keith Aucoin, Alexandre Giroux, and Francois Bouchard during the next two periods to win the game. Braden Holtby got the shutout victory with 25 saves; while Brad Thiessen took the loss with 24 saves on 28 shots.

About the Bears:

NHL Affiliate: Washington Capitals
ECHL Affiliate: South Carolina Stingrays

Key Statistics/Rank in AHL:
Record: 53-14-0-3 (109 points; first in East Division)
Goals For/Against: 304/175
Power Play Home: 25.7% (1st)
Power Play Overall: 22.3% (1st)
Penalty Kill Home: 89.7% (1st)
Penalty Kill Overall: 87.6% (1st)

Last Game: Hershey lost their first home game since November 25 by dropping a 4-3 decision to the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday . The Bears led 2-1 after the first period, but Adirondack took over the game with three second period goals. Andrew Gordon tied things up at 16:10 of the third, but Mika Pyorala scored 1:10 later to become the first team in fourth months to leave the Giant Center with a win.

Hershey will face Worcester at home on Friday before the Penguins come into town on Saturday.

Sunday’s Matchup:
Who: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. Worcester Sharks
When: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 3:05 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

Last Meeting Recap:
The Penguins won a close 2-1 matchup in Worcester back on November 7. Ben Lovejoy and Mark Letestu scored first period goals for the Penguins. Worcester’s Steven Zalewski put a puck past John Curry in the second period but was not able to get anything going the rest of the game. Curry earned the win with 30 saves on 31 shots.

About the Sharks:

NHL Affiliate: San Jose Sharks
ECHL Affiliate: Kalamazoo Wings

Key Statistics/Rank in AHL:
44-21-2-3 (93 points; first in Atlantic Division)
Goals For/Against: 245/212
Power Play Away: 21.5% (2nd)
Power Play Overall: 19.6% (6th)
Penalty Kill Away: 79.7% (22nd)
Penalty Kill Overall: 81.5% (20th)

Last Game: Worcester won their third straight game on Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over Syracuse. Andrew Desjardins scored two goals for the Sharks while Dan DaSilva picked up two assists. T.J. Trevelyan also scored for Worcester while goaltender Alex Stalock stopped 24 shots in the win.

Worcester will face Hershey on Friday and travel to Norfolk on Saturday before meeting the Baby Pens on Sunday.

Ali’s Analysis:
The Penguins continue a weekend that is crucial to their playoff positioning. Just because they are in third place for the time being does not mean they should get comfortable with that. With Hershey having already wrapped up the East Division title, the Penguins should try to get the Bears off guard and force them to think they are playing a meaningless game.

In the game against Worcester, the Penguins’ key to success will be their penalty kill; which will need to be effective against a top-10 Sharks power play. The goal for this weekend should be to secure five of six points as even one loss may make the hard work the Pens did on Wednesday meaningless.

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