By Danielle Catalano
With a threatening ice storm postponing Wednesday’s game in Springfield, Mass., against the Falcons, the Binghamton Senators will drop the puck for the first time in six days Friday night when they host East Division rivals, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Broome County Veterans Memorial at 7:05 p.m.
The game is expected to be a lively one, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sits in third place of the division—a mere two points ahead of Binghamton. The Penguins currently lead the season series, 2-1, and claim two of the top three American Hockey League scorers, with left wing Chris Minard and center Jeff Taffe at 41 points each. In addition, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has won seven of their last 10 games, outscoring opponents 38 to 21.
Binghamton though, is not deterred—especially not with owning the league’s top power play, securing two shutouts in 13 games for goaltender Brian Elliott, and overseeing an improved penalty kill that benefited the team to a 7-3-1-1 record last month. To round things off, Elliott was named the Reebok X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December as well as a Canadian starter in this month’s All-Star Classic in Worchester.
So with the recent attention on his play, the team’s performance and weather delays, how is the second-year pro preparing for the East Division foes? By relying on his college-playing days.
“We know it’s a big game—they are right ahead of us in the standings,” says Elliott. “We are going to approach it like any other game. Having a week off really doesn’t matter. It kind of gives us time to rest. I’m used to it actually, from college. It’s just something you have to keep your focus on all week long with practice.”
Also helping the team keep things in focus is the return of left wing Ilya Zubov, whom Ottawa recalled on Dec. 13. At the time, he led the B-Sens with 25 points (10+15) and was often paired with center Zack Smith and right wing Ryan Shannon—all of whom are tied with a team-high 10 goals a piece. Head coach Cory Clouston shuffled Smith and Shannon among different line mates during Zubov’s absence, but the three were reunited during practice and viewed the extended downtime as chance to get their playing styles back in sync.
“Success just won’t come by just going out on the ice,” Shannon says. “It’s going to take some time to get our chemistry back. Zubbie’s been gone for awhile, and I haven’t played with Smitty for awhile, too, but it’s exciting. We’ll get some offensive chances, hopefully, and get back to our old ways.”
Looking to get back to his old ways and helping the B-Sens even their season series against the Penguins is defenseman Geoff Waugh. Waugh is expected to play more shifts now that Ottawa has called up fellow defenseman Matt Carkner.
Waugh’s start of the season was delayed six weeks due to an ankle injury, and his ice time has been limited since returning in mid-November. While eager for Friday’s match-up, the defenseman is steadying himself for the game.
“Injuries are going to happen, and I’m not mad at anyone,” Waugh says. “I’m a good teammate and I watch how the guys do every night…Being in [the lineup] over the last few games, it’s been good getting my groove back. My foot’s feeling good, and yeah, I want to contribute to the team and try to keep things simple…I’m going to do the things that matter: block shots, keep physical, move the puck. More importantly team-wise, we want to come out with a win and that’s what we’re getting ready for.”