January 24, 2012

The Latest on the Penguins Organization

Remember not that long ago when the Penguins had lost 6-straight games and the fans were ready to doom the season?  Those thoughts have since been silenced by 6-straight wins, including victories over the 1st place New York Rangers and the hated rival Washington Capitals.  Undoubtedly a huge part of the turnaround is the stellar play of All-Star center Evgeni “Geno” Malkin.  Malkin has an ability rarely seen; he can take complete control of a game like few others.  “Geno” has taken the team on his back, become a favorite for the Hart Trophy, and has left players, coaches, and fans scratching their heads wondering how did he do that?  Throughout the years, Pittsburgh has been blessed with players with this ability such as Lemieux, Jagr, and a healthy Crosby. Now Malkin continues to show why he belongs on that list.  Malkin has propelled into the NHL scoring lead with 58 points (26 goals-32 assists).  Although Crosby’s season is still in question, the return of All-Star defensemen Kris Letang should help the Pens continue to climb in the standings as they currently sit 6th in the East.

The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t the only Penguins winning 6-straight games.  Their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have not only won 6 in a row, they’ve also won 8 of their last 10.  During those 10 games, Defensemen and Pens 2007 4th round draft pick Alex Grant racked up 2 goals and 12 assists and was a +3.  Grant (22) only played in 4 AHL games last season but was part of the Wheeling Nailers run to the ECHL conference Finals.  Alex isn’t the only player emerging for the Pens.  Second year pro and former Wisconsin Badger Ben Street has been outstanding.  Street was the ECHL rookie of the year a season ago, tallying 51 points in 38 games before joining the Wilkes-Barre and racking up 23 points in 36 games.  So far this season Street is third on the team with 31 points (15 goals-16 assists).  The “Baby” Pens are currently tied for 1st place in the East Division. 

The Penguins ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers are also having a good season.  The Nailers are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and currently sit 2nd in the Atlantic Division, 8 points back of Elmira.  Wheeling plays Elmira 8 more times which gives them plenty of opportunity to retake 1st place and better solidify their playoff position.  The Nailers are led by rookie forward Chris Barton who leads the team and is second among ECHL rookies with 38 points (21 goals-17 assists).  The Nailers are backstopped by Canadians prospect Peter Delmas and Penguins 2008 6th round pick Patrick Killeen.  Killeen notched his first shutout of the season and 4th of his ECHL career Friday January 20th against Toledo in a 3-0 win.  The ECHL All-Star of a year ago is 10th in the ECHL with 12 wins and is 11th with a 2.83 GAA.    Off the ice, the team is for sale and its future is uncertain but on the ice the Nailers continue to impress.  

By Andrew Grimm

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