The Bridgeport Sound Tigers made the bus ride from Fairfield County to Nassau on Thursday afternoon in preparation of their road-home games on Friday and Saturday at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Bridgeport takes on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in an opening round, best-of-7 American Hockey League playoff series. (Coincidentally, the Baby Pens got a mention in Thursday’s ep of “The Office.”)
One regular Sound Tigers observer provided us with this prediction of Game 1 lines:
Jesse Joensuu – Ben Walter – Kyle Okposo
Trevor Smith – Rob Hennigar – Mike Iggulden
Jon Sim – Tyler Haskins – Sean Bentivoglio
The fourth line will be comprised of three of the following: Micheal Haley, Pascal Morency, Tomas Marcinko and Dennis Packard.
Notes: As in the NHL, don’t expect to see many fighters in the AHL playoffs, or at least much fighting among AHL heavyweights…The Sound Tigers have been carrying several young Islanders prospects, including Robin Figren, Justin DiBenedetto, Mark Katic, Max Gratchev (unsigned Travis Hamonic has gone home). Although you can be certain Bridgeport will go with a more veteran lineup for most, if not all of the series, our money is on the 20-year old DiBenedetto as the kid most likely to get a look.
University of North Dakota star Ryan Duncan, signed to an ATO last week, is also likely to be part of the “Black Aces” at the start of this series…Like the Islanders, the Sound Tigers have been hit hard by injuries. Junior Lessard has not practiced all week. The absence of strong AHL vets Jeremy Colliton and Kurtis McLean is a big blow to Bridgeport.
On defense, you could see the following:
Jack Hillen – Joe Callahan
Andrew MacDonald – Dustin Kohn
Jamie Fraser – Chris Lee
Jon Glead – Mark Wotton
In goal, expect Nathan Lawson to get the call as No. 1. But with three games in under 72 hours, Peter Mannino will likely see action in the series.
Fornabaio’s Preview: We asked for a brief email analysis from the great Mike Fornabaio, who covers the Sound Tigers every day of the year for the Connecticut Post. Check out his blog and the paper’s site for his prediction and additional info. Here’s what Mike was kind enough to write especially for us:
“As Jack Capuano has said a couple of times this week, these are two teams that play a similar game, that love to pressure, that can play at a high tempo. They both send out talented forwards who excel when they get the puck deep; both have more than one line that can score. Both have defensemen who can move the puck.
“Bridgeport has to contain the Penguins’ transition; the Sound Tigers got in trouble a few times when the Penguins got loose for odd-man rushes. And whether Capuano decides on Nathan Lawson or Peter Mannino (if only for a given night), that goalie has to at least match John Curry, who won 33 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“If you’re looking for some other players to watch, aside from Curry: D Ben Lovejoy (steady presence in the back), LW Janne Pesonen (first year over here, though not a kid; top scorer), C Jeff Taffe (big AHL scorer, playing only his second playoff), RW Chris Minard (sniper). Connor James, fearless and speedy little captain, has been out of practice with one of them lower-body injuries.”
“They’ve got speed, deception, grit. Ben Lovejoy was plus-42. John Curry in goal has been tremendous for them.
“I’ve told our team that the little things are going to be the big things. It’s going to come down to discipline, turnovers, territorial battles.
“No matter who we’ve put in the lineup, these guys have given us their all. Win or lose or draw, I guarantee you they will work extremely hard and play for each other.”
Game 1 – Friday, Apr. 17 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at SOUND TIGERS 7:30 p.m. (NVMC)
Game 2 – Saturday, Apr. 18 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at SOUND TIGERS 7 p.m. (NVMC)
Game 3 – Sunday, Apr. 19 – SOUND TIGERS at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5:05 p.m.
Game 4 – Wednesday, Apr. 22 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at SOUND TIGERS 7 p.m.
Game 5 – Friday, Apr. 24 – SOUND TIGERS at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 7:05 p.m.
Game 6 – Saturday, Apr. 25 – SOUND TIGERS at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 7:05 p.m.
Game 7 – Sunday, Apr. 26 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at SOUND TIGERS 4 p.m.
Point Blank will have coverage of Games 1 and 2 from the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and will blog throughout the series. Kevin Schultz and I will be at Game 1 and Kevin will take care of Game 2.
As I’m sure you know by now, although their season is over, 24/7 coverage of all things New York Islanders has not ended on Point Blank. Although we have not nailed down our long-term future at this, we can guarantee daily coverage until at least Memorial Day. Please continue to spread the word. Thanks as always.
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