Penguins minor-league report: Zatkoff earns monthly AHL honors

It appears that legitimate progress has been made at the latest NHL CBA negotiations in New York, but City of Champions will continue providing periodical minor-league coverage once the Penguins season gets underway.

For now, though, it’s on to the exploits of Pittsburgh’s prospects over the past week.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (13-7-0, 26 points – 3rd in AHL’s East Division) 

Sept. 21, 2011; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jeff Zatkoff (36) prior to the game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. The Kings beat the Coyotes 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

While rookie forward Beau Bennett’s success is probably the story of the first two months for the Baby Pens – the 21-year-old leads Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 16 points (5g, 11a) – goalie Jeff Zatkoff may be the team’s biggest surprise.

A former draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, Zatkoff was just named AHL goalie of the month. In nine November appearances, Zatkoff posted a .955 save percentage, a 1.21 goals-against average and two shutouts, as WBS went 8-1-0 in his starts. At 25, the 6-foot-1 Detroit native is off to his best start in three AHL seasons, with a 10-5-0 record, a 1.81 GAA and a .930 SV%.

Largely behind Zatkoff’s performance, the Baby Pens have won five games in a row and are on an 11-2-0 stretch. After victories over Syracuse and St. John’s last week, WBS hosts Hershey and Portland on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Wheeling Nailers (6-8-2, 14 points – 4th in ECHL’s Atlantic Division)

Winners of three of their last four, the Nailers have also gotten a boost from excellent goaltending. Scott Darling was runner-up for ECHL goalie of the week after allowing only four goals on 60 shots, helping Wheeling get wins over division rivals Elmira and Trenton.

The Nailers welcome the defending Kelly Cup champion Florida Everblades to WesBanco Arena this Friday and Saturday. In an attempt to bolster both phases of their game, the Nailers acquired defenseman Andrew Hotham from Cincinnati and forward Chris Higgins from Utah in a pair of trades last week.

Hotham is a familiar face for Nailers fans, as he posted 44 points in 52 games with Wheeling last season, earning a spot on the ECHL all-rookie team. Higgins was a prolific scorer at Boston College and won an NCAA title in 2009.

Topics: NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Wheeling Nailers, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

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