Riding a four-game win streak coming into a week’s worth of practices, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach John Hynes wanted to send a message to his team: don’t get comfortable.
That message was sent through lengthy practices that featured plenty of hard work and attention to details. There were no light scrimmages or fluff in this week’s practices. Everything was done with a purpose and a goal – to get better.
“We do that because we have to make sure we continue to play the way we’ve been and build on the things we’ve been doing in practice,” Hynes said.
“You have to get better whether you’re winning or losing. You have to be consistent. That’s what we talked about this week.”
But it wasn’t the only thing discussed. This weekend will feature a matchup against the rival Hershey Bears tonight at home, followed by a trip north to face the defending Calder Cup champions, the Binghamton Senators. It’s going to be a stiff test for the Penguins and their defensive unit that is missing a key member.
Pittsburgh recalled assistant captain Alexandre Picard on Thursday, leaving the Penguins with a defense corps consisting of three rookies and only one player with more than three years pro experience.
Hynes said Picard was a team leader who logged a lot of minutes in important situations. He mentioned third-year pro Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Sneep, who is in his second season, as two possibilities who will be relied upon to pick up the slack.
Along with Joey Mormina, who is in his seventh AHL season, Bortuzzo and Sneep will have to provide a bit of veteran presence to a young D corps that Hynes expects to be tested this weekend by Hershey and Binghamton.
“They’re both excellent teams with high-powered offenses. Early in the year you’re going to play tough games, which is what you want,” he said. “It really gives you a good idea of where you’re at.”
• D Boris Valabik participated in the entire practice on Thursday and didn’t show any lingering effects from the injury that has sidelined him all season. Hynes didn’t know when Valabik would be ready to play.
“I don’t know how close he is but he did look good,” Hynes said. “His conditioning, game speed and reads are all going to take a little time.”
• C Matt Rust, who has been limited to one game this season due to an injury, is ready to return to game action, Hynes said. When he will play will be determined by the type of lineup that Hynes chooses to use.
Hershey Bears (6-2-2-0)
at Penguins (5-2-1-1)
7 p.m. today
Mohegan Sun Arena
• The Penguins are a perfect 5-0 on the road but winless in four tries at home.