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Phantoms vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Series Preview

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1: Phantoms 5, Penguins 2  RECAP
Game 2: Penguins 5, Phantoms 4 (OT)  RECAP
Game 3: Monday, May 5 – Penguins 3, Phantoms 2  RECAP
Game 4: Wednesday, May 7 – Penguins 8, Phantoms 4  RECAP
Game 5: Friday, May 9 – Phantoms at WBS
*Game 6: Saturday, May 10 – WBS at Phantoms  TICKETS
*Game 7: Monday, May 12 – Phantoms at WBS
*if necessary

All games start at 7:05 PM.
All Phantoms home games will be played at the Wachovia Center.

The Philadelphia Phantoms and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will meet in the East Division Finals beginning Thursday, May 1.  Game 1 of the best-of-seven series will get underway at 7:05 PM in Wilkes-Barre.

The Phantoms reached the second round by beating the Albany River Rats four games to three in their East Division Semifinal series.  In the other semifinal series, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton dispatched the Hershey Bears four games to one. The Phantoms head into the series having just finished their first-round series last night, whereas Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has been off since wrapping up its series with Hershey last Friday, April 25.
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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has home ice advantage in the series.  They won the East Division title with a regular season record of  47-26-3-4 for 101 points, two better than the second-place Phantoms, who were 46-27-4-3 for 99 points. 

REGULAR SEASON

The Phantoms were 7-3 against the Penguins in the 10-game regular season series between the teams.

Friday, Oct. 17:  W-B/S 1 at Phantoms 4
Saturday, Oct. 13: Phantoms 3 at W-B/S 2
Sunday, Oct. 14: W-B/S 2 at Phantoms 5
Wednesday, Nov. 14: W-B/S 4 at Phantoms 1
Sunday, Dec. 16: W-B/S 3 at Phantoms 2   
Saturday, Jan. 12: Phantoms 2 at W-B/S 1 (SO)
Friday, Feb. 15: Phantoms 1 at W-B/S 0
Saturday, March 1: Phantoms 3 at W-B/S 1
Tuesday, March 4: W-B/S 3 at Phantoms 2
Saturday, April 5: Phantoms 2 at W-B/S 1 (OT)

The Phantoms won all five games in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the season, and won two of the five meetings at home.

After the March 1 win, the Phantoms held a 14-point lead in the division over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  But the Penguins didn’t lose again until March 21st, firing off a nine-game winning streak.  They went 16-2-3-1 over their final 22 games to wipe out that deficit and take the division by two points. 

PERSONNEL
Penguins center Tim Brent is currently leading the league in playoff scoring.  He had a remarkable 11 points in Wilkes-Barre’s five-game first-round series, scoring five goals and adding six assists.  The total includes a four-point game (2G, 2A) in the deciding Game 5.  He led the team in scoring during the regular season with 18 goals and 43 assists for 61 points in 74 games.  He appeared in all 10 games against the Phantoms this season, recording two goals and five assists for seven points.  He took 25 shots on goal in the 10 games, more than any other player. 

Stefan Ruzicka enjoyed a successful season against the Penguins this year.  He also appeared in all 10 games, recording four goals and six assists for 10 points.

Neither team still has the goaltender that played the bulk of the minutes in the series.  Ty Conklin was 1-3 with a 3.07 GAA in four games against the Phantoms, while Brian Boucher was 4-1 with a 1.38 GAA and one shutout in five games against the Pens.  Both goaltenders are currently playing backup roles in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – Conklin with Pittsburgh and Boucher with San Jose.

Among the current goaltending corps, Wilkes-Barre’s David Brown was 1-1-1 with a 1.95 GAA in the regular-season series, while John Curry was 1-1-0 with a1.97 GAA.  Brown has been the go-to guy in the playoffs, posting a 1.97 GAA in the first-round series against Hershey.  For the Phantoms, Scott Munroe was 2-2-0 with a 2.53 GAA, and Michael Teslak was 1-0 with a 0.97 GAA.

PLAYOFF HISTORY
This is the fifth consecutive season in which Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has made the East Division Finals, and they are playing the Phantoms for the third time in those five appearances.  The other two came over the past two seasons, when the Phantoms missed the playoffs.  In Philadelphia’s last playoff appearance in 2005, the Phantoms beat the Penguins four games to one in the East Division Finals.  Game 5 of that series was one of the most memorable in Phantoms history.  The Phantoms were trailing 4-1 near the midway point of the third period, but reeled off six unanswered goals to take a 7-4 win and advance to the conference finals. 

The year before, the Penguins ended Philadelphia’s season by winning the East Division Finals four games to two.  In that series, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton jumped out to a three games to one lead behind the strength of consecutive shutouts by goaltender Andy Chiodo. 

The first playoff series between the clubs took place back in 2001, when Wilkes-Barre won the Western Conference Semifinals four games to two.

QUOTABLE
Phantoms captain Boyd Kane, who has played against the Penguins in the East Division Finals in three of the last four seasons :

“Going into Wilkes-Barre/Scranton they’re probably a little quicker team with a little more offense.  We’re going to have to go in and play our game.  This time of year it’s about what you, not what they do. If we play our game, I think we’ll be fine.”
Phantoms goaltender Scott Munroe finished the first round series against Albany with a 1.29 goals-against average, a .952 save percentage and two shutouts. (Phantoms Photos)

“It’s going to be a hard-fought battle in there, and we’ve just gotta go in and play our game.  We’ve played some of our best games of the year in their rink, and we’ve just got to bring that to the playoffs here.” 

PHANTOMS/ALBANY FINAL SERIES NOTES
•    The Game 7 was just the third in Phantoms history and first since the 1999 season.  The Phantoms are now 2-1 all-time in Game 7.
 
•    It was just the seventh Game 7 shutout in AHL history.

•    The previous AHL record for fewest goals scored by a team in a seven-game series was 13, done several times, most recently by Grand Rapids last year.  Both teams eclipsed that record – Albany scored 12 goals and the Phantoms scored 11.  The NHL record is nine by Toronto and Detroit in a series against one another in 1945.

•    The previous AHL record for fewest total goals scored by two teams in a seven-game series was 28, set in a 1953 series between the Pittsburgh Hornets and the Cleveland Barons.  The Phantoms and Albany combined for just 23 goals in this series.  The NHL record is 18, set in that same 1945 series between Toronto and Detroit.

•    After Albany scored at 17:14 of the second period of Game 5, Munroe allowed just one more goal – the Game 6 overtime game-winner – in the final 235:22 of the series.  He made 102 saves on 103 shots in that time.  That translates to a 0.25 goals-against average and a .990 save percentage.

•    Michael Leighton finished the series with a 1.18 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts.  He drew national attention with 98 saves on Philadelphia’s 101 shots in the five-overtime Game 5.  Leighton was named one of the three stars in six of the seven games in the series.

•    QUOTABLE – defenseman Chad Anderson, who’s run two marathons, on Game 5:  “You’re just running in marathons, but here you’re getting beat up all over the place.  It would be like running a marathon with people throwing their water bottles at you or throwing elbows around the corner or something like that.  The series went well, and that’s all that matters.”
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