Blueger’s Promotion Leaves Void
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Teddy Blueger had been playing so well with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, his promotion to Pittsburgh seemed imminent.
However, that doesn’t make his absence any less significant.
The Penguins are slated to play their first games all season without Blueger tonight against Cleveland and Saturday against Bridgeport. The 24-year-old’s NHL debut on Wednesday was a long time in the making, but his departure leaves Wilkes-Barre/Scranton without its top goal scorer (21 this season) and someone who could play in pretty much any situation — including both special teams and on the team’s top line in 3-on-3 overtime.
With that in mind, making up for that lost production won’t fall on just one individual.
“I think collectively, as a group, we’re going to have to fill the hole that Teddy (leaves),” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said Thursday. “I think we’ve got enough guys here, and some guys can play better in the second half. We’re excited for Teddy, but we’re also excited for some of our guys here to get more ice time.”
The Penguins’ scoring depth has seemingly improved over the last two weeks, and a couple players are on a roll entering the season’s unofficial second half.
After all the rotten luck he had through the start of the month, Adam Johnson is arguably the hottest player on the team with five goals and seven points since Jan. 18. Likewise, Ryan Haggerty entered the all-star break with goals in two straight.
Joseph Blandisi, meanwhile, has made the most of his change of scenery by scoring in both of his games with the team since being traded on Jan. 17.
Furthermore, the team’s overall health is looking better after four days off. Ben Sexton skated during practice in a red noncontact sweater, and Donatelli said his status is now day to day. Rookie Sam Lafferty is still week to week, but he could travel with the team on its road trip to the Midwest next week.
“(The offense) is going to come if everyone keeps working hard,” said forward Jean-Sebastien Dea, who is averaging a point per game in the AHL this season. “We’ve had a lot of injuries the last couple weeks, so everybody’s starting to come back. I think that’s going to help. I think we’ll be fine.”
The Penguins’ opponent might also help the transition. They’ve matched up very well against Cleveland this season, allowing only goal in three games.
A couple wins during the weekend would go a long way toward helping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton enter the playoff picture. The team is still sixth in the Atlantic Division in points despite winning its final three games before the all-star break.
Even if it leads to a shakeup in personnel, one thing everyone seemed to agree with on Thursday is that Blueger is in the right place given his recent level of play.
“I’m so happy for him,” Dea said. “He deserves everything. He’s been playing really good since I’ve been here, and I wish him the best. Hopefully, he’ll get some goals.”
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