Summers Out With Upper-body Injury
WILKES-BARRE — The Penguins played much of the season without captain Garrett Wilson.
Now, they’ll try to maintain their win streak without one of their alternate captains and top defensemen.
Chris Summers was not on the ice for practice Friday morning, and head coach Clark Donatelli said the 30-year-old is week to week with an upper-body injury. The blueliner left Wednesday’s game in Springfield after being checked into an end board on the opening shift and did not return.
Donatelli said veteran Tim Erixon will slot into the lineup as the Penguins prepare to open up a two-game weekend tonight, and the newly acquired Macoy Erkamps will hold the No. 7 spot on the team depth chart.
“It’s an opportunity for some other guys to step in there,” Donatelli said. “Timmy’s been around. He’s been here a long time, too, and is a veteran. But, we have a really good leadership group and those guys will pick up the slack for sure.”
Having Erixon, who has spent all or parts of seven seasons in the AHL, is a luxury. Even if he’s only appeared in three games, the 27-year-old has been with the team since camp and can handle the increased workload.
Summers has been on either the Penguins’ No. 1 or 2 defense pairing all season and had been skating with Jeff Taylor during the team’s recent three-game weekend sweep. He has seven points — all assists — in 26 games this season after playing in 64 contests with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2017-18.
He is also one of the team leaders on and off the ice, and the Penguins expect a collective effort to help fill that void. Kevin Czuczman and Joseph Cramarossa have been the other two alternate captains during games.
Even with only five defensemen, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was able to beat Springfield on Wednesday for its fourth straight victory. Czuczman said he liked the way his fellow blueliners banded together, and the extra ice time allowed them to get in a rhythm early and with a different partner if the situation called for it.
Hopefully, the Penguins won’t have that problem this weekend against Lehigh Valley or Bridgeport, but Summers’ absence is a significant development nonetheless.
“Obviously, he’s one of our anchors back there,” Czuczman said. “Anytime he goes down, especially early in a game like that, it’s tough. He’s one of our top D.
“The culture here, everyone’s pulling the same rope. Everyone here has had some point in their career (being) a leader and has shown it in different ways. It’s tough to lose those guys, but someone has to step up.”
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SCOUTING REPORT: Dec. 15-16
Opponent: Lehigh Valley Phantoms
When: 7:05 p.m. tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena
Season series: The teams split their previous two matchups with one regulation win apiece.
About the Phantoms: Lehigh Valley is 14-8-1-1 through Thursday and fourth in the Atlantic Division. The team is dealing with a handful of injuries — including to Cole Bardreau and David Kase — and is missing reigning AHL MVP Phil Varone, who was recalled by the Philadelphia Flyers. Carter Hart is the No. 1 goaltender after the Flyers also recalled Alex Lyon. The team still has one of the AHL’s leading offensive threats in Greg Carey (12G-16A) and an all-star caliber defenseman in T.J. Brennan. The Phantoms are also excellent on both the power play (21.9 percent) and penalty kill (85.6).
Opponent: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
When: 3 p.m. Sunday at Webster Bank Arena
Season series: The teams split their previous two meetings with one regulation win apiece.
About the Sound Tigers: Bridgeport sits second in the Atlantic Division through Thursday at 14-8-3-1. The Tigers should look a little bit different from when the Penguins faced them on Dec. 8, with goaltender Chris Gibson having returned from the Islanders and forward Josh Ho-Sang getting a promotion last weekend. In a bit of a break for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Bridgeport will be at the end of a three-in-three weekend. Its special teams are middle-of-the-road, but the team has a good group of defensemen and scoring depth.
Online: Both games will be streamed on AHLTV and at wilknews.radio.com. Follow staff writer Tyler Piccotti on Twitter @CVPiccotti for live updates and a postgame recap from tonight’s game.