Lafferty back to Wilkes-Barre, likely not for long


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Sam Lafferty. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Sam Lafferty's headed back to the other end of the commonwealth, though he definitely should be renting rather than buying.

The Penguins, faced with a combo crunch of an overflow roster and only one forward who could be demoted without having to clear waivers, reassigned Lafferty to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Thursday afternoon. That'll allow him to join that team for its game Friday night against Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pa.

There can't be any doubt he'll be the first forward recalled when needed.

Lafferty, a 24-year-old right winger and Hollidaysburg native, made his NHL debut Oct, 8 in a loss to the Jets and made an immediate impression, that night and beyond, in producing three goals, three assists and a plus-4 rating in 10 games. His six points rank fifth among rookies in the league. Five of those points came in a two-game trip through St. Paul and Winnipeg, but his impact and visibility never diminished, even when he was moved out of necessity to center.

One reason he's headed back is that all of the forwards have finally regained full health, with Evgeni Malkin, the last one out, expected back for the Saturday game against the Oilers at PPG Paints Arena. And among those healthy forwards, even those who'd been slumping have snapped out of it.

The other reason is that only Lafferty and John Marino, a defenseman, can go up and down without restrictions. If the Penguins tried to push through anyone else, they'd risk losing them for nothing via the NHL's waiver wire.

Management couldn't be more delighted with Lafferty and, as I wrote Tuesday night following the 7-1 rout of the Flyers -- Lafferty's first as a healthy scratch -- their hope was to have kept him in Pittsburgh for good.

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