Providence Hosts Hershey for First Time Since 2006-07 Season

Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (19-14-1-1, 40 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) host the Hershey Bears (24-8-0-1, 49 PTS, 1st East) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center for Providence's first game of 2009. The P-Bruins and Bears are matching up for the first of two meetings on the year with the next scheduled for March 1 at the Giant Center in Pennsylvania.

Providence hasn't faced Hershey since the 2006-07 campaign and holds a 23-16-5 mark all-time against one of the league's most storied franchises. The Bears are in their 71st season in the AHL, having amassed nearly 2,500 wins in more than 5,100 regular season games. Most impressive, Hershey has advanced to 20 Calder Cup Finals, winning nine championships, most recently over the Milwaukee Admirals in 2005-06 under current Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. His club lost in the Calder Cup Final the following season to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The P-Bruins enter tonight's contest following two straight road losses to close out the 2008 portion of the season and on the heels of a 4-2 defeat to the Manchester Monarchs on Wednesday. Providence has been outscored 12-3 in the losses, which comes after outscoring its opponents 6-2 in the two prior games, both wins.

The Bears, meanwhile, rank first in the AHL and have been almost as good on the road (10-5-0-1) as at home (14-3-0-0). They have won two games in a row of late, last shutting out the Springfield Falcons on Wednesday to begin a five-game road swing. Hershey is missing some of its offensive firepower with forwards Alexandre Giroux (18 goals, 30 points) and Chris Borque (20 assists, 28 points) both on recall to Washington. Missing from the crease is Daren Machesney (10-4-0, 2.79 GAA), who is currently with Team Canada. Still, despite the subtractions, the Bears are not short on weapons. Former P-Bruins center and the league's leading scorer Keith Aucoin has 41 points and an AHL-high 30 assists while rookie Oskar Osala has registered 17 goals, tied for first among first-year players. Fellow rookie Mathieu Perreault has 25 points of his own, including 20 helpers. In net, first-year goalie Simeon Varlamov has impressed to the tune of a 12-3-0 mark in 15 games, along with two shutouts and a 2.14 GAA, good for third in the league.

Providence counters in net with Tuukka Rask, who is 14-12-0 in his sophomore season with three shutouts and a 2.53 GAA. Offensively, Martins Karsums leads the team with 32 points (13g, 19a) in the absence of Martin St. Pierre (35 points), currently on recall to the Boston Bruins. Johnny Boychuk is close behind with 30 points, good for second among AHL defensemen.

On special teams, Providence continues to rank in the top 10 on both the power play (8th, 19.1%) and the penalty kill (7th, 85.0%) while Hershey sits in the middle of the league in both categories. The Bears are 15th with the man-advantage, converting 16.6% of the time, while killing 82.7% of their penalties, good for 17th place. Of note, the P-Bruins' power play is particularly strong at home at 23.4% while the Bears struggle on the road in that area at 11.7%.

Providence continues its busy week with a road game tomorrow night against Springfield at 7 p.m. at the MassMutual Center before returning home to host the Houston Aeros Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. for a Family Game. Fans can purchase one ticket, hot dog and soda for one low price.

To purchase tickets or for more information, call the Providence Bruins ticket office at (401) 273-5000 or log on to the team website at providencebruins.com. Tickets may be purchased in person by visiting the Dunkin' Donuts Center Box Office or all TicketMaster outlets.