Bylsma visits WesBanco Arena again

What does an NHL head coach do during the lockout?

What else? Watch hockey.

Such was the case Thursday night when Pittsburgh Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma took in the Toledo vs. Wheeling ECHL contest at WesBanco Arena.

“This is what I do in my free time,” Bylsma said during the Nailers’ 3-2 shootout victory at the sparsely filled downtown Wheeling venue. “I’ve watched all of the Wilkes Barre/Scranton games and a couple of Nailers’ games.”

Last night wasn’t the first time that Bylsma had visited WesBanco Arena. He also took in last Friday’s home opener, but that wasn’t his first appearance, either.

Bylsma, who very politely declined to talk about the current lockout, was a member of the ECHL’s Greensboro Monarchs during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons.

“When asked if he had a fond memory of playing in Wheeling, he replied, “I got my first, and only, 10-minute misconduct penalty here. I remember it very clearly.”

Bylsma watched the action from a press box located on the mezzanine level of the arena. He was accompanied by ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna, and Penguins’ assistant coach Todd Reirden and video coordinator Andy Saucier.

During his post-game press conference, Wheeling head coach Clark Donatelli was asked by a member of the local media if he had any pressure on him to win with Bylsma in the building.

His response, “No. Not at all. He was coming down between periods and after the game giving us advice, letting us know what was going on. Absolutely love to have him here ‘Its another pair of eyes … a good pair of eyes up there in the stands. We’ll take all the help that we can get.”

As for the game itself, Wheeling jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on lamp-lighters by Cody Wild and Peter Merth.

However, the Walleye battled back and eventually tied the game before the first period ended. Neither team would tickle the twine in the middle period, the final stanza, or the 5-minute overtime session.

Heck, nobody scored until Chris Barton’s shot in the third round of the shootout trickled through the legs of Toledo netminder Kent Simpson.

Not much time to celebrate though as the Nailers immediately boarded a charter coach and bussed to Evansville, Ind., for a game with the IceMen. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two squads. Then it’s to Cincinnati for a Saturday night affair with the Cyclones.

“That’s the mental part of this game. The bus trips,” Donatelli noted. “It was important for us to get these two points tonight before we take to the road for two games. Good way to start the weekend.”

Patrick Killeen stopped for 19 of 21 shots, including all five in the shootout.

“He’s playing really well,” Donatelli said.

The victory was the Nailers third straight after they started the season on a 4-game losing skid. They return home next Wednesday against Reading.

North can be reached at