Kolarik seems to be good fit
On the morning of Jan. 24, while playing for the AHL's Connecticut Whale, winger Chad Kolarik was called into the coach's office.
There were rumors the New York Rangers were looking to send down rookie Chris Kreider and replace him with a call-up from Connecticut. Kolarik had been playing well — posting four goals and nine points in his previous 10 games — so he figured he was headed to Broadway.
“The coach pulls you in and says, ‘The Rangers just called.' You're thinking, ‘OK, I got called up. This is good news,' ” Kolarik said. “Then he drops the bomb on you.”
The bomb was that Kolarik had been traded to the Penguins for winger Benn Ferriero.
“Out of the blue. Obviously the shock is there,” Kolarik said. “At the same time, you have to be excited about a fresh start.”
Kolarik, a former University of Michigan standout from Montgomery County, is known for his scoring touch but not his two-way game, so even though he has hit the 20-goal mark in his three previous AHL seasons, he's been traded three times since turning pro in 2008. He also missed all of last season after having knee surgery.
Whether Kolarik is a candidate to play for the Penguins remains to be seen. He's a 27-year-old with only six NHL games to his credit, and he's a bit undersized at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. But there's little doubt he will bring more to the organization than Ferriero did.
After showing promise in three seasons as a San Jose prospect, Ferriero managed just four goals in 34 games with the Baby Pens this year.
Kolarik is already off to a better start. He scored on his first shift in a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton uniform Jan. 25, then netted a pair of goals for the Eastern Conference in the AHL all-star game Monday in Providence, R.I.
“Your imagination runs wild, obviously, with (Evgeni) Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby there, but you have to be realistic,” Kolarik said. “If you do get that call, you're probably going to be a third- or fourth-line guy and be a role player. I'm willing to do anything to get up there. If it means being the 13th forward, picking up pucks every day, I'm that guy.”
With his performance Monday, Kolarik joined an eclectic group of four Baby Pens to score at least two goals in the same AHL All-Star Game. Winger Matt Murley did it in 2004. Veteran center Jeff Taffe had a hat trick in 2009. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo scored twice in 2011.
Rookie Beau Bennett left a Jan. 23 game with an undisclosed injury, did not play last weekend and pulled out of the all-star game. Coach John Hynes said he's day to day.
With the addition of Tom Kostopoulos and Mark Eaton, the Baby Pens have seven players with more than 260 games of high-level pro experience and therefore are classified as veterans by AHL rules. Teams may only dress five veterans per game, so players like defenseman Joey Mormina and forward Phil Dupuis could see ice time dwindle.
Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.