WHEELING - Peter Mannino knows what the perception was when he was suspended by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 20, shortly after being assigned to Wheeling. And, he says, that perception was way off base.
Back in a Nailers uniform after two months off following that suspension, the soon-to-be 30-year-old goaltender from Farmington Hills, Mich., said all he wanted was a chance, be it in the Pittsburgh organization or elsewhere.
''It had nothing to do with coming down to Wheeling. It's a great place and a great league,'' Mannino said following Wednesday's practice at WesBanco Arena.
Back in a Nailers uniform after two months off following a suspension, Peter Mannino says all he wants is a chance.
''It had to do with management and decisions they made and acquisitions (presumably fellow goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers) that they made, I thought changed from what they said my opportunity would be in the summer time.
''It's great management and a great staff up in Wilkes-Barre, but I just asked them for a chance somewhere else.
"I really wasn't initially given that opportunity and that's what made my decision."
It was a decision Mannino realizes had an adverse effect on the Nailers, who had to scramble for help in net and ended up using three different goaltenders during a difficult stretch in the season that happened to coincide with starter Mike Condon being recalled to Hamilton.
''The unfair thing is the reprecussions work their way down,'' Mannino said. ''I feel really bad because that's two months that I could have been playing and been a part of this in Wheeling.
''I had an injury going into camp but I was healthy by Game 1 and was ready to go ... ready to get into the opportunity I had talked with management about.
''With the injury up top (to Tomas Vokoun) it was a very ideal situation.''
As it turns out though, it was ideal for everyone but Mannino, who found himself the odd man out as Wilkes-Barre elected to go with a tandem of Deslauriers, who originally signed a PTO but earned a contract, and promising rookie Eric Hartzell, who spent five games with the Nailers earlier in the season.
''But for some reason times had changed - the whole organization from top-to-bottom changed. There's no question about that,'' Mannino said. ''You have Jeff Zatkoff going up and not seasoned, I guess you could say, but he played he way into (the backup role in Pittsburgh) and that was fine.
''It was just a matter of if you're going to go in that direction, can I go in another direction? I was kind of denied and it was frustrating.''
A series of meetings and conversations seem to have reconciled the situation a bit, though Mannino admits he is still waiting for it to shake out. Until then, the man with six NHL appearances - 1-1 record - and 80 victories at the AHL level, will do whatever it takes to help Wheeling make a deep postseason run.
''I just want things to get figured out and in the meantime if I can get in there and play - it's whatever (Coach Clark Donatelli) wants - I can get some wins,'' Mannino said. ''All along I called Clarkie and said I'm excited to come back and whatever you need me to do -I realize it's a weird situation - but I like to play and win games when I do.
''It's a game, right? You play to win. In practice you can't do that.''