Weekend Preview: IceCaps vs. Penguins
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps hook up with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this weekend at Mile One Centre for the first time in franchise history.
Fresh off a win over the Toronto Marlies Wednesday night, the IceCaps (22-9-4-1) look to wrap up their six-game homestand on a winning note. St. John’s has won three-of-four since returning home in the new year, sweeping the two-game series with the Manchester Monarchs last weekend and splitting a pair of games versus the Marlies earlier this week. The IceCaps sit atop the Atlantic Division, five points up on the Monarchs, and are four points back of the Hershey Bears for first overall in the Eastern Conference.
Wednesday, captain Jason Jaffray carried the IceCaps with a three-point effort (1g, 2a) and David Aebischer bounced back from a tough start Tuesday night to make 23 saves for his 11th win of the season, a 3-2 triumph. Jason King’s third period marker turned out to be the winner for St. John’s, which dominated the play for much of the night, outshooting the Marlies 38-25 for the game.
Jaffray has been riding the wave since returning from Winnipeg during the Christmas break. In seven games, the veteran winger has collected 10 points (3g, 7a) and now has 22 points in as many games this season.
Also on fire for the IceCaps is the penalty kill. St. John’s has killed off its last nine short-handed situations and is operating at an 89.5% efficiency since the turn of the calendar.
On the injury front, forwards Marco Rosa and Riley Holzapfel remain sidelined with various ailments but may return to the lineup in the near future. The IceCaps will receive a boost however, as centre Patrice Cormier was reassigned to St. John’s by the Winnipeg Jets and is expected to be in the lineup Saturday night. That leaves defenceman Mark Flood as the only member of the opening-night roster still on recall in Winnipeg.
The Penguins (20-12-1-4) have alternated wins and losses over the past six contests and are coming off a 3-2 victory over the Norfolk Admirals on Tuesday. Rookie Paul Thompson had a pair of goals while Ben Street chipped in with a goal and an assist.
Street, a native of Coquitlam, British Columbia, has close ties to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 24-year-old’s parents, Rob and Jan, are both natives of St. John’s, and his grandfather Don Randell was a former chief of police in the city. Many members of Street’s family will be in attendance at Mile One Centre this weekend to show their support.
The Penguins find themselves in third place in the East Division with 45 points as a result of possessing one fewer win than second place Norfolk, which also has 45 points. Leading-scorer Colin McDonald will return to the lineup for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after a brief two-game stint with the Penguins’ NHL affiliate, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 27-year-old winger has a team-high 20 assists and 28 points in 33 games along with a +15 rating, also tops on the club.
Saturday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. while Sunday’s contest begins at 4:00 p.m. Catch all the action with broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador (all times Newfoundland). Pregame show gets underway a half hour before the drop of the puck.