Pens Face Life Without Blueger
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Teddy Blueger had been playing so well with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, his promotion to Pittsburgh seemed imminent. That doesn’t make his absence any less significant. The Penguins are slated to play their first games all season without Blueger tonight against Cleveland and Saturday against Bridgeport. The 24-year-old’s NHL debut Wednesday was long in the making, but his departure leaves Wilkes-Barre/Scranton without its top goal scorer (21 this season) and someone who could play in pretty much any situation — including special teams and on the team’s top line in 3-on-3 overtime. Making up for that lost production won’t fall on only one individual. “I think collectively, as a group, we’re going to have to fill the hole that Teddy (leaves),” Penguins coach Clark Donatelli said Thursday. “I think we’ve got enough guys here, and some guys can play better in the second half. We’re excited for Teddy, but we’re also excited for some of our guys here to get more ice time.” The Penguins’ scoring depth has seemingly improved over the last two weeks, and a couple players are on a roll entering the season’s unofficial second half. Adam Johnson has five goals and seven points since Jan. 18. Ryan Haggerty entered the all-star break with goals in two straight. Joseph Blandisi, meanwhile, has made the most of his change of scenery by scoring in both of his games since being traded Jan. 17. The team’s overall health is looking better, too, after four days off. Ben Sexton skated during practice in a red noncontact sweater, and Donatelli said his status is now day to day. Rookie Sam Lafferty is still week to week, but he could travel with the team on its road trip to the Midwest next week. “(The offense) is going to come if everyone keeps working hard,” said forward Jean-Sebastien Dea, who is averaging a point per game in the AHL this season. “We’ve had a lot of injuries the last couple weeks, so everybody’s starting to come back. I think that’s going to help. I think we’ll be fine.” Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPiccotti on Twitter SCOUTING REPORT Cleveland Monsters When: Tonight, 7:05 Where: Mohegan Sun Arena Season series: This is the final of four matchups; the Penguins won the previous three. About the Monsters: Cleveland has one of the worst goal differentials of any squad in the playoff hunt at minus-16 overall. Starting goalie Jean-Francois Berube has a 3.13 GAA and a .891 save percentage. Forwards Zac Dalpe and Nathan Gerbe are the teams leaders in points with 31 and 29, respectively. Bridgeport Sound Tigers When: Saturday, 7:05 p.m. Where: Mohegan Sun Arena Season series: The Penguins won three of five previous matchups, including nine days ago in Bridgeport. About the Sound Tigers: Like Cleveland, the Sound Tigers also have a negative goal differential. They were dealt a significant blow Thursday when forward and leading scorer Michael Dal Colle (16 goals) and defenseman Devon Toews were recalled by the Islanders.