Penguins minor league notebook: Gibbons remains patient for next opportunity
WILKES-BARRE — For a while, it looked like Brian Gibbons was going down the path once walked by Rico Fata and Konstantin Koltsov — fleet-footed Penguins prospects with the speed to create scoring chances but not the finish to make them count.
An undrafted free agent out of Boston College, the 5-foot-8 Gibbons created offensive opportunities by the handful during his first two seasons with the Baby Pens, but his numbers — 30 points in 70 games both years — lagged badly behind.
Gibbons has exactly 30 points again this year, but this time, they've been racked up in 27 games. He scored goals in two of his first three games after being sent down at the start of the Olympic break.
Gibbons thinks he knows what's at the root of his offensive insurgence too.
“Confidence. Not in terms of playing but in terms of finishing scoring chances,” Gibbons said. “I've always been able to get points in high school and college. My first two years here, I was struggling to do things that had always been pretty easy for me, like breakaways and two-on-ones.”
Spending some time on the right wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz helped his confidence too, but he doesn't know when he'll get the next chance to do that again. As the Penguins get healthier up front, there's no guarantee Gibbons will be called back up at the end of the break.
“No one here is under the impression that they're here for a couple weeks, they're going to get in some games and they're going to be automatically recalled,” coach John Hynes said.
Young man's game
The Baby Pens wore special jerseys Saturday night, replicas of the ones the Americans wore in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics with the letters “WBS” instead of “USA” on the front.
Tom Kostopoulos is the only player on the roster who was born when the Miracle on Ice happened, and he had just celebrated his first birthday.
By contrast, four Baby Pens players — Anton Zlobin, Dominik Uher, Scott Harrington and Harrison Ruopp — hadn't been born when the Dream Team won basketball gold in Barcelona in 1992.
The Baby Pens came into Saturday on a five-game losing streak, the second-longest skid in the four seasons Hynes has been head coach.
After winning AHL goalie of the month honors in January, rookie Eric Hartzell was pulled from three of his first five starts in February. Harry Zolnierczyk, a 17-goal scorer, took his turn as a healthy scratch. Defenseman Brendan Mikkelson has been a minus in six straight games.
“This is probably the roughest stretch we've had,” Hynes said.
Nebraska-Omaha junior Josh Archibald, the Penguins' sixth-round pick in 2011, is on the kind of scoring streak that could vault him into Hobey Baker Award contention.
Archibald, a 5-10 right wing, has nine goals and four assists in his last seven games, including two hat tricks. Archibald is second in the country with 23 goals, trailing only Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau.
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.