BATTLE OF ATLANTIC’S TOP TWO TEAMS TONIGHT
Providence Hosts Portland in Fifth of 10 Regular Season Meetings
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (23-16-2-1, 49 PTS, 1st Atlantic) host the Portland Pirates (21-15-1-2, 45 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in a match-up of the top teams in the Atlantic Division. The P-Bruins and Pirates have each won two of the clubs' first four meetings with Portland leading 12-11 in scoring.
Providence enters tonight's game following back-to-back losses to the Lowell Devils in a home-and-home series. The Devils bested the P-Bruins 5-2 at The Dunk last Sunday before then edging Providence 3-2 at the Tsongas Arena on Wednesday. The most recent loss marked the end of Tuukka Rask's four-game unbeaten in regulation streak (3-1-0), though the second-year goalie comes in with five straight wins on home-ice dating back to mid-December.
The P-Bruins have also been playing with a constantly changing lineup as there have been 16 roster moves since Monday. In that time, Byron Bitz, Martin St. Pierre and Vladimir Sobotka have all been called up to and remained with the Boston Bruins. Martins Karsums, among others, have been recalled to Boston and since returned to Rhode Island. And, this morning, Boston reassigned backstop Kevin Regan to the ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators. Kevin Nastiuk will serve as Providence's back-up goalie. The P-Bruins have also today signed forward Aaron Clark to a Professional Tryout Agreement. The second-year pro with 31 points (9g, 22a) is an All-Star this season for the Wheeling Nailers. He has additionally suited up in four games for the Binghamton Senators.
Portland has only one win in its last four games and has struggled outside of Maine at 6-8-1-2, including seven straight losses entering play tonight. Providence, meanwhile, ranks tied for first in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose at 16 home wins. The Pirates last played on Sunday, falling 4-1 to the Springfield Falcons. Portland carries in a productive offense, ranking sixth in the league at 3.15 goals-per-game. PlanetUSA All-Star starter Nathan Gerbe has eight points (3g, 5a) in six games since returning to Portland from the Buffalo Sabres. Gerbe ranks second among all AHL rookies with 32 points, including 17 goals which also sits second. Tim Kennedy leads all first-year players with 23 assists.
Providence continues to be led offensively by PlanetUSA All-Star Karsums' 39 points. He leads the P-Bruins with 16 goals while Canadian All-Star St. Pierre is first with 28 assists. Fellow Canadian All-Star Johnny Boychuk has 26 helpers, first among active P-Bruins and second among all AHL defensemen. In net, Rask is 17-14-0 with a 2.44 goals-against-average and .919 save percentage.
The Pirates are paced by Mark Mancari's 37 points. Gerbe's 17 goals leads the team, as do Kennedy's 23 assists. Between the pipes, rookie Jhonas Enroth is 14-8-2 with a 2.58 GAA and .916 save percentage.
On special teams, Providence ranks seventh in the AHL on both the power play (20.0%) and the penalty kill (84.8%). The P-Bruins' 43 man-advantage goals are the third-most in the league, tied with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Portland is 20th with the extra skater at 15.4% but 10th when short-handed at 84.4%.
Tonight is Dunkin' Donuts Mug Night with travel mugs free to the first 5,000 fans in attendance. Saturday, the P-Bruins travel to face the Hartford Wolf Pack at 8 p.m. Providence then wraps its four-game week on Sunday, hosting the Rochester Americans for Lukoil Thunderstick Night. Thundersticks are free to the first 1,500 fans.
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.