In the second weekend of the regular season, the Providence Bruins will take on the Manchester Monarchs in tonight's home opener and travel to Lewiston, Maine to take on the Portland Pirates tomorrow night.
All three teams account for the playoff appearances from the Atlantic Division last year, when Providence finished first overall in the division, conference, and league (50-21-0-5, 105 points). Portland finished second in the Atlantic and sixth in the conference with a 41-30-3-2 record (87 points). They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Syracuse Crunch, who went on to the Calder Cup Final. Manchester finished third in the Atlantic and seventh in the East (37-32-3-4, 81 points) and lost in the first round to the Springfield Falcons.
As divisional opponents, Providence faces Manchester and Portland an exhausting 12 times each this season.
Manchester Monarchs (1-0-0-1) @ Providence Bruins (1-1-0-0), Friday 7pm
Last season, Providence came out on top against Manchester in the 12 meetings. (Jordan Caron had a hat trick in their first game in Manchester last October. It was awesome.) Providence won 8 times, including once in a shootout, and lost 4.
Manchester lost a lot of great players when the lockout ended (miss you Slava Voynov). This year, I don't know how they look because I haven't watched them yet. I assume they're gonna be pretty good with Tyler Toffoli starting the season in the AHL again. Martin Jones has started both their games thus far this season, giving up two goals in each game - one shootout win and one shootout loss.
The Monarchs are coming off of a shootout win over Portland on Wednesday, while Providence is coming off of that abysmal 5-1 loss to St. John's last Saturday. Only two games into the season, it's hard to get anything meaningful out of team points and leaders, but let's look at that anyway.
Manchester's top scorers in this young season are rookie defenseman Derek Forbort, Toffoli, and Linden Vey (all with one goal and one assist for two points). Forbort was the Los Angeles King's first pick in the 2010 entry draft, 15th overall. He spent the last three years at the University of North Dakota.
Manchester's Jordan Weal has a goal for the Monarchs, and Andrew Campbell, Brandon Kozun, and Tanner Pearson each have one assist. Old Providence friend Andrew Bodnarchuk is a minus-two with six penalty minutes.
Providence is led in points by Nick Johnson with three (two goals and one assist), followed by Matt Fraser (one goal, one assist), Alexander Khokhlachev (two assists), and Ryan Spooner (two assists). Justin Florek and Tyler Randell each have one assist and Jared Knight and Joe Morrow each have one goal.
Knight's goal is the only power play goal for Providence thus far this season. Providence is one-for-six on the power play after two games and Manchester is zero-for-seven.
Tonight's projected line-up is expected to be the same as Sunday, meaning healthy scratches in Ben Youds and Seth Griffith (why? I want to see him play) with Kevan Miller (head, which I'm gonna go ahead and assume means concussion given the way he was hit) and Matt Lindblad (groin injury) also sitting out. Niklas Svedberg the great will be starting in net.
Providence Bruins @ Portland Pirates (0-0-0-1), Saturday 7pm
Portland is playing in a new arena in a new city this year; Lewiston, Maine, which is outside of Portland. They have played only one game this season, the 3-2 shootout loss to Manchester. The game against Providence tomorrow night will be their second of the season.
Portland's goaltenders are Mark Visentin and Mike Lee, both with the team last year. The leading Pirates scorer from last season, Andy Miele, is also returning, along with the unfortunately named Chris Brown (third leading scorer). I can't pretend to know anything more about this team right now, because seriously, they've played one game, and their affiliate is the Phoenix Coyotes. (Also, take back Chad Johnson you bastards.)
I'll be live-tweeting tonight's game from Providence.
P.S. great news, Bobby Robins finally started skating again for the first time since injuring his knee during the Boston pre-season!