Penguins minor league report: Defenseman Dumoulin optimistic for home stretch
WILKES-BARRE — Heading into the home stretch of his second pro season, Baby Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin has reached a critical juncture in his career.
Last year he improved his prospect stock with a strong performance in the late part of the regular season and the AHL playoffs. The 6-foot-4, 219-pounder ate up tough minutes and used his reach to make an accurate first pass and erase scoring chances.
If he can manage another late-season surge, Dumoulin could shine up a season that otherwise has been trying.
“Consistency, I think, is the big thing for him right now,” coach John Hynes said. “It's getting his game back and then becoming very consistent in his play and being a leader back there for us.”
Dumoulin entered training camp with a legitimate shot at the NHL defenseman job Olli Maatta ended up winning, but he suffered an upper-body injury and missed a few weeks.
After he recovered, Dumoulin had 12 points in 37 games, but his minus-5 rating was the worst among Baby Pens defensemen. He injured an ankle Jan. 31 and just now is getting back to the lineup.
Despite those setbacks, Dumoulin is optimistic about the way his second season has gone. And how it will finish.
“As the temperature rises,” he said, “I think I play a little bit better.”
Winger Tom Kostopoulos, who played 79 games for the Penguins from 2001-04 and is winding down his career as the 35-year-old captain of the Baby Pens, scored his 20th goal of the season with 3:52 left in a 2-1 victory over the Albany Devils on March 1.
It's his fourth 20-goal season with the Baby Pens, and it came 11 years after his third. He never scored more than eight goals in any of the past eight seasons as an NHL fourth-liner.
“It's been fun to be more offensive and get those chances and put some of them in the net,” he said.
Veteran goalie Peter Mannino is getting a second chance with the Baby Pens. Suspended by the team when he refused to report to the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers in November and reinstated when he changed his mind in January, Mannino was called up when struggling rookie Eric Hartzell was sent down Feb. 28.
Mannino stopped 37 of 39 shots in a pair of appearances last weekend.
“I didn't think I'd be coming back,” Mannino said. “I thought we crossed that bridge, but I'm glad we didn't. I'm glad I'm back because this is a great group here.”
Derrick Pouliot, the Penguins' first-round pick in the 2012 draft, helped the Portland Winterhawks to 21 consecutive victories in the Western Hockey League from Jan. 11 through Feb. 28. Pouliot had 29 points during the streak.
With a week left in the regular season, Portland has the league's second-best record and Pouliot is second in the league in defenseman scoring with 63 points in 52 games.
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 email@example.com.