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Penguins minor league notebook: Pressure on young forwards to deliver

| Saturday, March 22, 2014, 10:51 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Avalanche's Nate Guenin poke checks the puck from the Penguins' Chuck Kobasew during the first period Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
The Citizens' Voice
With 19 points in 55 games coming into this weekend, winger Dominik Uher leads the Baby Pens' first- and second-year forwards in scoring.

WILKES-BARRE — The Penguins' lack of prospect depth at forward is on display in Wilkes-Barre this season in an interesting way.

Young forwards aren't scoring much. The Baby Pens' top-six scorers up front have at least three years' pro experience and were acquired via trade or free agency. The leading scorer is 35-year-old Tom Kostopoulos.

But when young forwards score, the Baby Pens win.

When at least one of the team's eight first- or second-year forwards scores a goal, the Baby Pens are 18-2-3. When they're held scoreless, the team is 16-18-5.

It's a stat that puts pressure on the young forwards to produce, which isn't necessarily a bad step in their development.

Jayson Megna, with 26 NHL games this season, is the most accomplished of the bunch. He has nine goals in 22 AHL games this season. Rookie Anton Zlobin and sophomore Tom Kuhnhackl have had their moments — both had eight goals heading into this weekend — but haven't been consistent.

Second-year pros Dominik Uher, Bobby Farnham and Adam Payerl are known more for their physicality than their scoring. Rookies Cody Sylvester and Carter Rowney have been with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers for most of the season.

“We need the younger guys to get into that act,” coach John Hynes said. “It's something we've discussed as a team. When you get later into the season, we feel we have real quality veteran players, and those guys have been the core of our team throughout the year to carry us to where we are at this point, but you need to have some secondary guys coming up.”

On the mend

Zach Sill has returned to practice for the Baby Pens, wearing a red, no-contact jersey two months after he needed surgery to repair a skate-blade cut to his left arm.

The gritty, 25-year-old center expects to be back in the lineup before the end of the regular season.

“I hate the red jersey. I hate what it signifies,” Sill said. “But it is nice to be out there with the guys.”

Where he left off

Chuck Kobasew, waived and sent down by the Penguins at the trade deadline, carried a five-game, nine-year AHL scoring streak into this weekend.

Kobasew hit the scoresheet in his last three games of the 2004-05 lockout season with the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters, spent the next eight seasons in the NHL, then scored goals in his first two games with the Baby Pens last weekend.

“That's what we expected from him, but he delivered,” Hynes said.

Hard to figure

Matia Marcantuoni, the Penguins' fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft, was expected to join the Baby Pens on an amateur tryout contract this weekend.

A 6-foot, 189-pound center, Marcantuoni is an interesting prospect. The Penguins like his speed and energy and see him as a bottom-six difference maker someday.

His stats, however, are unimpressive. He had 15 goals, 32 points and a minus-30 rating in 54 games for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers this season.

Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. Reach himvia email at jbombulie@aol.com.

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