The Providence Bruins (7-4-0-2) play the first of two games this weekend, both at home at The Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. Tonight, they face the Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals (7-5-0-3), for the first time this season. On Sunday afternoon, they will play the division rival Portland Pirates (4-5-0-1), affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Providence looks to continue their current three game winning streak. After two tough losses to the Manchester Monarchs (who are now pretty much all the Los Angeles Kings) two weekends ago, the P-Bruins rebounded last weekend with three wins in three days, going 3-0-0 on the weekend while outscoring their opponents 19-7.
As Providence looks for their fourth win a row, Norfolk hopes to avoid their fourth loss in a row.
Last weekends scoring outburst was led by Ryan Spooner's return from the NHL. He had seven assists and energized his linemates Craig Cunningham, who had four goals and an assist last weekend, and Matt Fraser, who had five goals and an assist.
The offense spread to the entire lineup, catapulting players like Carter Camper who were having extremely slow starts to the season, to six points in three games.
The duo of Alexander Khokhlachev and Jared Knight who have spent much of the season playing on the same line, also had offensive breakthroughs: Koko had three goals and two assists while Knight had one goal and three assists. Read this AHL feature on Koko playing pro hockey far from his home in Russia.
The defense contributed as much offensively as it has all season as well. Joe Morrow posted four assists, Kevan Miller had two assists, Mike Moore had an assist (his first point of the season), and Tommy Cross had his first goal of the season.
Moore also had two game misconducts for third-man in penalties on Saturday and Sunday. Mike Moore is actually a really interesting dude, and I recommend you read a bit more about him in Mark Divver's Providence Journal article on Moore and his natural leadership abilities. Interesting tidbits from that article: on the current P-Bruins roster, 13 come from college hockey, while 12 come from junior hockey or Europe.
Tonight: Providence Bruins vs Norfolk Admirals, 7pm
While Providence looks to build upon a three game winning streak, the Admirals will be looking to break their own three game losing streak. Norfolk has gotten the fantastic goaltending this season that Providence was used to getting from Svedberg last season. Providence can't expect to keep scoring five, six, or eight goals a game, but they have vastly improved after a sloppy, slow start. Tonight will be a good test for both teams, who are one point apart in the Eastern Conference standings.
- Providence is back in playoff position, currently residing in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, and second place in the division (behind the effing Monarchs). Norfolk is one spot ahead in the East, currently in sixth place in the conference and fourth place in their own division.
- Providence is 3-2-0-1 at home this season; Norfolk is 5-2-0-2 on the road.
- Both teams are undefeated if they have a lead after the first period. Norfolk is undefeated with a lead after two periods (4-0-0-0) and Providence is nearly as good (6-0-0-1).
- Norfolk has an even goal differential (34 goals for and again). After last weekend's goal explosion, Providence is now +5 (49 GF, 44 GA).
- Leading scorers for Providence:
1. Spooner (2 - 12 = 14)
2. Fraser (11 - 2 = 13)
3. Koko (4 - 6 = 10)
4. Camper (2 - 8 = 10)
5. Morrow (2 - 8 = 10)
Koko is the leading rookie scorer, and Morrow leads defense in scoring.
- Leading scorers for Norfolk:
1. Alex Grant (5 - 2 = 7)
2. Max Sauve (4 - 3 = 7)
3. Steven Whitney (4 - 2 = 6)
4. Max Friberg (1 - 5 = 6)
5. Kevin Gagne (1 - 5 = 6)
- Matt Fraser's 11 goals are tied for third most in the league.
- Fraser is also among league leaders in shots per game with 50 shots on net through 13 games, which is tied for fourth most in the league.
- Joe Morrow is tied for nine in the AHL in points by a defenseman (10).
- David Warsofsky is tied for first in the league in +/- at a +9.
- Norfolk's Alex Grant is tied for most power play goals by a defenseman with four. Grant also has the third most shots by a defenseman with 41.
- Norfolk's Zach Stortini leads the league in major penalties (nine in 15 games) and penalty minutes (75 in 15 games). (Mike Moore is Providence's leader in PIM with 38 in 13 games).
- Goaltender John Gibson of Norfolk has the best goals against average in the league (1.80 in 12 games played).
- Gibson has the best save percentage in the league as well: .943%.
- Gibson has made the third most saves in the league with 330, behind Martin Jones (380) and Eddie Pasquale (378). He is also third in minutes played (664:56), behind both Jones and Pasquale again. Gibson is also only one of two goalies with multiple shutouts.
- Power Play: Providence is ranked fifth in the AHL with a 24.6% success rate on the power play (14-for-57). Norfolk is 23rd with 15.5% (11-for-71).
- Norfolk defenseman Alex Grant and Providence forward Matt Fraser each have four power play goals this season. Ryan Spooner has six power play assists.
- Penalty Kill: This will be an important factor once again. Last Sunday was only the third game this entire season that Providence didn't allow a power play goal against. They are still dead last in the league in PK (70.5%), and the Admirals are second best in the league (89.9%). Norfolk's PK on the road is even better at 90.0%.
Two particular Admirals are making their first returns to Providence. Maxime Sauve, who was drafted by Boston in the second round in 2008 and spent three full seasons with Providence, was dealt to Chicago Blackhawks/Rockford Ice Hogs in exchange for Rob Flick at the trade deadline last season. Garnet Exelby, who was with Providence all of last season, is also making his return.
Sauve is tied for the scoring lead in Norfolk with seven points along with defenseman Alex Grant.
I assume Exelby leads the team in being useless.
The healthy scratches for Providence tonight, according to Mark Divver, are Tyler Randell, Flick, Seth Griffith, and defenseman Ben Youds. On defense, Zach Trotman remains injured with his hand in a cast. Chris Casto will play tonight after being scratched last Sunday. He took a nasty hit to the head on Saturday versus the Worcester Sharks, but he finished the game. The hit was delivered by noted piece of garbage Matt Pelech, who received a two game suspension for the hit.
Bobby Robins, who missed last Sunday's game due to the birth of his daughter Liberty, will return as well. Anthony Camara, who left the game Sunday after a hard collision into the net, is expected to play.
- Fraser - Spooner - Cunningham
- Camara - Koko - Knight
The defensemen dressing tonight should be Tommy Cross, David Warsofsky, Kevan Miller, Mike Moore, Joe Morrow, and Casto.
In net, Niklas Svedberg will get his first start since last Friday. His last few games have been very shaky; he left in five goals last Friday, but it was lost in the fact that Providence scored eight goals themselves in the victory. Svedberg finished the third period of Sunday's game after Malcolm Subban was ejected for
being too awesome a "secondary altercation" in the form of a goalie fight with opposing goaltender Scott Stajcer of the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Coach Butch Cassidy has stated in the past that Svedberg is their starting goaltender and they intend to stick with him, and tonight will be a good test to see if he is anywhere near getting back on track. He will face either Frederik Andersen, who was recently returned to Norfolk after a call-up to Anaheim, or John Gibson, a rookie goaltender with outstanding statistics.
Where to Watch
- Fun Fact: Providence is currently second in the entire AHL in average attendance per game with 7,522 in six home games this season.