Tonight at 7:05 PM, 11,000 fans will gather at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island to watch the Bruins take on the Monarchs. It's not quite NHL hockey, but it's currently the top level of happening hockey in North America, so it will have to do.
The lineups for tonight's game, per Mark Divver of the Providence Journal, are as follows:
Jordan Caron - Carter Camper - Chris Bourque
Maxime Sauve - Ryan Spooner - Jamie Tardiff
Craig Cunningham - Christian Hanson - Jared Knight
Lane MacDermid - Trent Whitfield - Bobby Robins
On defense, we'll see Garnet Exelby, Colby Cohen, Torey Krug, Dave Warsofsky, Matt Bartkowski, and Kevan Miller. Michael Hutchinson will get the start in goal, with Niklas Svedberg backing him up. For those keeping score, that's an all-NCAA defense corps, minus Exelby. Half the defensemen starting tonight are from Hockey East.
The scratches for tonight are Zach Trotman, Justin Florek, Ryan Button, and Kyle MacKinnon.
Up front, I'd predicted Caron-Camper-Cunningham, Bourque-Spooner-Sauve, Florek-MacKinnon-Knight, and MacDermid-Whitfield-Robins. Seven out of 12 isn't too bad, I guess. The top two lines for tonight should match up well against Manchester's top lines. They're a good mix of veteran presence and first-second year talent; look for Chris Bourque to make a pretty immediate impact alongside Caron and Camper. Bourque was known for his scoring ability in Hershey, Camper for his playmaking abilities; with Caron's NHL experience, they should make a quick splash.
The second line could be a bit of an enigma. Sauve has skill, but it's been difficult to quantify that skill, considering how much time he's lost to injury. Tardiff had a strong showing after coming over to Providence from Grand Rapids last year; his veteran guidance just might be the glue that holds that otherwise very inexperienced line together.
The third and fourth lines are prototypical; a hard-nosed grinder line and a fourth line that's more apt to fight than score. Cunningham and Knight are similarly-sized players with similar playing styles - both inclined to crash the net and throw their bodies around with reckless abandon. Hanson at center on that line to defend them if necessary seems perfect. A fourth line of MacDermid-Whitfield-Robins will be great fun to watch. MacDermid's fight card from the last few seasons is lengthy, as is Robins'; both also have a decent ability to get pucks to the net. Combine that with Whitfield's grit and playmaking ability - if he can stay healthy - and that line should make things interesting.
Look for special teams to be vastly improved from last year. The addition of Chris Bourque - who was part of the league's best power play with the Bears last year - should give a boost to the power play ranked 30th through the whole season.
On the Manchester side of things, there will be a lot of familiar faces in the purple and gold tonight - first and foremost being old friend Andrew Bodnarchuk. Acquired by the Kings this summer, Bodnarchuk previously played four seasons for the P-Bruins; last year, he and Kirk MacDonald were the only two P-Bruins remaining from the last time the P-Bruins made the playoffs (2009). Now, there are none. The roster is completely fresh.
Bodnarchuk will be joined on the blueline by Stanley Cup Champion Slava Voynov, in addition to old foes Jake Muzzin, Thomas Hickey, Andrew Campbell, and David Kolomatis.
Up at forward for the Monarchs, their checking line will look familiar to long time P-Bruins fans as well - captain Marc-Andre Cliche will center David Meckler and Rich Clune. Andrei Loktionov and Jordan Nolan, fresh off their own Stanley Cup experiences, will join newcomers like the highly-touted rookie Tanner Pearson, as well as Tyler Toffoli and Nikolay Prokhorkin.
In goal, the P-Bruins will face Martin Jones. He played eight of the 10 games against Providence in last year's season series; through eight games, he allowed 14 total goals, which makes for a 1.75 GAA and a 0.947 sv%. He may end up being the key factor in tonight's game.
So if you're going to the game, have fun. Eat some chicken fingers. Go to Trinity across the street if you have time, and during the game be prepared for two non-NHL noises: thundersticks and high-pitched screaming kids. Oh also, look for a Spongebob Squarepants cameo at one of the first stoppages after the ten minute mark in the third period. Seriously. It should be a hard-fought game, as matchups between these two teams often are.