JENKINS TWP. – It’s not like last week’s games with Manitoba and Toronto weren’t intense.
Just ask Ryan Stone, targeted by the Moose in the second game the teams played, or Wade Skolney, who had two fights on the weekend and nearly got in a third.
But tomorrow’s game against the Philadelphia Phantoms and former head coach Joey Mullen – now a Philadelphia assistant – should be played on an entirely different level.
“I’ve played with them and I’ve played against them so much, too. It’s always a huge division rivalry,” said Penguins enforcer Dennis Bonvie. “It’s like when we play Hershey or Binghamton.”
This year’s Penguins haven’t gotten much of a taste of big rivalry games.
They’ve played four games against East Division opponents, but of those four, only the 7-4 loss to Hershey on Oct. 7 could be considered a rivalry game. The other three were a home and home series with newly realigned Albany and a yawner of a game against Bridgeport.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Penguins head coach Todd Richards. “Hershey was pretty intense, so I’m excited to see what the Wilkes-Barre and Philly rivalry is like.”
“It’s a great rivalry we have going,” said Penguins forward Jonathan Filewich.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ awful start may have taken some bite out of it.
The Flyers, who have won just three of their first 11 games, called up Triston Grant and Ben Eager, two of the Phantoms’ leaders in penalty minutes.
However, Riley Cote is still around, and defenseman David Printz has 25 penalty minutes already.
“They always (have a tough team),” Bonvie said. “I don’t know what the whole rationale for it is, but they certainly have that aura about them. It’s a nice aura and it certainly adds another dimension to any hockey club.”
But with the likes of Bonvie, Daniel Carcillo, Skolney, a former Phantom, and Matt Carkner in their lineup, it’s not like the Penguins have to worry about being intimidated by anyone.
“We’re a tough team, as a group,” Richards said. “I mean, we have some guys that are tougher than others, but it has to be those other players too that step up. As a player I loved these games, because I wasn’t a tough guy, but they challenged me.”
The Philadelphia Flyers sent two players to their AHL affiliate on Thursday.
Defenseman Lars Jonsson, the seventh pick in the 2000 draft, was sent to the Phantoms after playing in just two games for the big club.
Also, defenseman Alexandre Picard was assigned to the Phantoms. Picard had appeared in four NHL games.
Penguins at Philadelphia
7:05 p.m., tomorrow