March 27, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen (39) defends the net against the New York Islanders during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The New York Islanders won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins minor-league report: Baby Pens down, but Nailers up

Sidney Crosby played in a hockey game this week.

OK, it was on a plastic rink and his competition consisted of local dek hockey enthusiasts. And, oh yeah, he played goalie. But hey, he got a shutout against a team named “Flyers Suck!”

At least the fleeting prime of one of the world’s best athletes isn’t going completely to waste right now. And at least there’s hockey being played somewhere, including at the Penguins’ twin minor-league outposts of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., and Wheeling, W.Va.

Thank the Lord for that.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (13-10-2, 28 points – 3rd in AHL’s East Division)

It wasn’t long ago that the Baby Pens were on a winning streak and threatening the top in the East Division. Now, after losing all three games last week, WBS hasn’t won in six games and sits nine points behind first-place Syracuse.

The Pens dropped regulation decisions to Albany, Binghamton and Syracuse last week, but they have rematches against the latter two teams coming up on Wednesday and Saturday. Coincidentally, the Crunch and the Senators are the two teams ahead of WBS in the East.

Offensively, rookie Beau Bennett leads the team with 21 points (5g, 16a) in 25 games. On the goaltending side, Brad Thiessen played in all three games last week, giving reigning AHL goalie of the month Jeff Zatkoff a few much-deserved days off. It will be instructive to see how much Thiessen, who has allowed at least three goals in all nine starts this season, gets to play in the next few weeks.

Wheeling Nailers (8-10-5, 21 points – 4th in ECHL’s Atlantic Division)

While the Baby Pens played three games last week, the Nailers one-upped their organizational brothers with four tilts. Wheeling split those four down the middle, losing at Toledo and Trenton before coming home and defeating Fort Wayne and Evansville at WesBanco Arena.

Newcomers Luke Pither and Andrew Hotham played critical roles in Saturday’s 3-2 comeback win over Fort Wayne, the first game between the two longtime minor-league franchises. Pither, acquired from Trenton in a recent trade, assisted on Hotham’s tying power-play goal late in the third before scoring one himself in overtime to down the Komets. The Nailers brought last year’s rookie star back to Wheeling via a swap with Cincinnati.

The loudest goal horn in hockey got quite the workout Sunday, when the Nailers outgunned visiting Evansville 7-5. Two goals apiece from first-year pros Scott Zurevinski and Phillipe Lefebvre helped Wheeling build a 6-2 second-period lead over the IceMen. Christiaan Minella, Peter Merth and Hotham recorded two points each, part of an assault that got 11 different Nailers on the scoresheet.

In transaction news, third-year Nailers goalie Patrick Killeen was released to make room for fellow Wheeling veteran Peter Delmas, who made his 2012-13 debut Sunday against Evansville. Wheeling faces another four-game week, starting Tuesday and Wednesday when the Greenville Road Warriors come to West Virginia. The Nailers host Elmira in a two-game set Friday and Saturday.

Tags: NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Wheeling Nailers Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

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