Tonight is a very big game for the Providence Bruins as the regular season ending nears. Providence is currently in the 8th place in the Eastern Conference with 75 points in 64 games. Tonight, they host the team chasing them for the final playoff spot in the Hershey Bears, who are in 9th place with 70 points and 62 games played.
After the Bears, there is a significant drop off in points in the 10th place team (the Worcester Sharks), so the playoff race essentially comes down to the top nine teams in the East. In fact, the teams in seeds six through eight each have 76 points, so a win for Providence could put them in sixth place if Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (who they face next Wednesday) loses.
It will be a tough game as games with the Hershey Bears usually are, especially a team desperate to make get into the final playoff spot with the few games they have in hand.
Game Preview: Hershey @ Providence, 7pm EST
This is the second and final meeting between the two Ursine teams this season. The previous game was in Hershey on Sunday, December 1, 2013. Providence won in the shootout, 3-2. Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khokhlachev missed the first two shots for Providence, but Seth Griffith, Anthony Camara, and David Warsofsky scored in the shootout, with Warsofsky's goal clinching the win. Niklas Svedberg stopped three of four shooters - Ryan Stoa was the only Bears player to beat him in the shootout.
Svedberg made 26 saves on 28 shots in the game. He faced David Leggio, who made 42 saves on 44 shots. On the power play, Providence went 0-for-3 while Hershey was 1-for-1.
|Division||4th (East)||3rd (Atlantic)|
|Leading After 1||15-5-0-1||17-3-0-2|
|Tied After 1||13-6-3-3||10-5-2-4|
|Trailing After 1||4-12-1-0||6-14-0-1|
|Leading After 2||20-1-2-2||22-1-2-4|
|Tied After 2||7-4-1-1||9-4-0-1|
|Trailing After 2||4-18-1-1||2-17-0-2|
In the P-Bruins win back in December, Khokhlachev and Craig Cunningham scored in regulation for Providence. Koko currently leads Providence in scoring by a large margin. He is in the top 20 in AHL scoring and third overall among rookie point scorers.
Keep an eye out on Seth Griffith and Koko - both rookies are on fire lately. Especially Koko. Ryan Spooner has also picked up his game recently with five points in three games last weekend.
Lineup & Injuries
Providence lines: Florek-Spooner-Cunningham Knight-Koko-Griffith Camara-Lindblad-Robins Collins-Flick-Randell— Mark Divver (@MarkDivver) March 21, 2014
The injured reserve continues to carry significant weight for Providence, although some key players may return this weekend.
The injury list: Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow are out with knee injuries; Alexander Fallstrom and Andrew Cherniwchan are out with shoulder injuries; Nick Johnson is out with a concussion; David Warsofsky is out with a hand injury. (Information mainly gathered from here.)
Johnson may actually return this weekend, although according to Mark Divver, not likely tonight. He hasn't played since February 5th. Joe Morrow is also possible for this weekend. He hasn't played since February 4th.
Niklas Svedberg will get the start tonight for Providence.
If you can't make it to Providence to watch, check it out on AHL Live if you can (to kill time before the late Boston game!)
For an idea of how important tonight's game is, here are a look at the Eastern standings...Keep in mind: top three seeds are division leaders and more importantly, the AHL regular season is shorter than the NHL season; they play 76 games instead of 82, which means Providence has exactly 11 games left including tonight!
|4||St. John's IceCaps||62||38||20||1||3||80|