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Penguins Eager To Earn Roster Spots Deliver Win

September 28, 2018

Penguins Eager To Earn Roster Spots Deliver Win

WILKES-BARRE TWP. ­— With many members of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins desperate to show they belong on the opening day roster, or deserve a future opportunity, they weren’t timid in the team’s first preseason game.

Even against a Lehigh Valley Phantoms team that played a handful of its regular starters.

The Penguins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, fought off a Phantoms rally in the middle period and held on for a 3-2 win at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Here are three players that stood out in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton victory:

Matt Abt

Even if it came with a little help from referee Dan Kelly, Abt was happy to make the most of an early scoring chance.

With the game scoreless 13 minutes into the first period, the Penguins dumped the puck into the Lehigh Valley zone. However, Phantoms defenseman Philippe Myers collided with Kelly on the retrieval and fell to the ice, allowing the puck to circle around to Abt near the blue line.

The 6-foot-4 defenseman took a step in and rifled a shot that flew past goaltender Branden Komm and gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

Abt didn’t stop there, frequently leading offensive rushes up the ice and going hard to the net. His six shots tied Johnny Austin for most on the team.

“I see myself as a pretty versatile defenseman,” Abt said. “I love to skate with the puck. It’s been a part of my game since juniors. I also like to move the puck, too, but I definitely like to skate with the puck.”

Abt played four seasons at RIT and joined Wheeling late last season, recording six points in 12 games with the Nailers. He has the combination of size and skating ability head coach Clark Donatelli always likes to see in a defenseman.

He signed a deal with Wheeling over the summer, but Abt definitely hopes to show he’s a balanced player as training camp continues.

“I like to pride myself on playing aggressive in the (defensive) zone, being hard to play against,” Abt said. “Definitely shooting for a well-rounded game.”

Sam Miletic

Miletic scored the game-winning goal, swatting home a rebound chance on a second-period 5-on-3 for the Penguins. He also had an assist, using his speed to go hard to the net and set up a chance for the trailing Linus Olund.

There’s no questioning the 21-year-old Miletic’s offensive ability. After spending the 2017 offseason at Pittsburgh development camp and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton camp, he put up 36 goals and 92 points with London and Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League.

“It was a good choice for us to send him back to juniors, get that confidence,” Donatelli said. “He’s had a really good camp. We know he’s a good player.”

Miletic said he’s more comfortable this year and feels he is a stronger presence on the ice. On Thursday, he showed off his speed and even contributed on the penalty kill.

“I just feel more comfortable with the strength of the game,” Miletic said. “Obviously, these guys are grown men. I was playing against 16-year-olds last year. Some of these guys are 28, 29, 30, so they’re grown men and I feel a little more comfortable in the corners with battles and stuff like that.”

John Muse

The 30-year-old Muse didn’t make the Penguins’ backup goaltender battle any easier to decipher.

He allowed two goals on power plays in the second period, but the Massachusetts native made plenty of big saves down the stretch to preserve the Penguins’ lead. During one sequence, he slid to his right to deny David Kase right on the doorstep before stopping Alex Krushelnyski only moments later.

Earlier in the game, he also made two stops on a breakaway attempt by Radel Fazleev.

“I thought he played excellent,” Donatelli said. “He made some big saves down the end. A really good win for us.”

Anthony Peters will get his chance to respond Saturday against Hershey, as Donatelli said the plan is for him to play the full game.

Contact the writer: tpiccotti@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPiccotti on Twitter

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