DIVISION LEADERS MATCH UP AT THE DUNK
Providence Hosts Manitoba in First Meeting Since 2003 Playoffs
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (27-19-2-1, 57 PTS, 1st Atlantic) host the Manitoba Moose (34-14-0-3, 71 PTS, 1st North) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in the teams' first of four regular season meetings in 2008-09. The P-Bruins and Moose last matched-up during the 2003 Calder Cup Playoffs when Manitoba ousted Providence from the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in four games.
Both clubs enter play tonight with slim one-point leads in their respective divisions, the P-Bruins ahead of the Worcester Sharks and the Moose clinging to an advantage over the Grand Rapids Griffins. Providence has won its last two games with victories over the Lowell Devils and Worcester, out-scoring the teams by a 7-2 margin. Rookie Mikko Lehtonen has three goals in the two wins while his line, also featuring Peter Schaefer and Zach Hamill, has combined for eight points (3g, 5a). Since last Sunday's triumph, the P-Bruins have seen some movement between the pipes. Second-year Bruin Tuukka Rask is back from the Boston Bruins after recording his first career National Hockey League shutout with a 1-0 blanking of the New York Rangers last Saturday afternoon at the TD Banknorth Garden. Rask replaces rookie Kevin Regan, who was reassigned to the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. Regan went 2-1-0 with a 1.68 goals-against-average for Providence last weekend and he is 8-5-1 in 17 games on the year. The ECHL stint is his second after spending time with the Gwinnett Gladiators in January, where he went 1-1-0.
Manitoba ranks first in the AHL with 71 points and 34 wins. The Moose also have the best road record in the league at 16-4-0-1, including eight straight wins to date, which will counter the P-Bruins' 17-8-0-0 Rhode Island mark. Manitoba has been on a roll of late at 12-2-0-1 in its last 15 games overall. Tonight begins a 10-game road stretch for the Moose, including a return to The Dunk on February 15. The Moose are led by a talented line of former Bruin Jason Krog, Jason Jaffray and Michel Ouellet. Krog is sixth in the AHL with 50 points, including 17 goals and a team-high 33 assists. Goals-leader Michael Grabner and his 19 scores are away from the team - he was reassigned by the parent Vancouver Canucks last Friday to the Australian National Team. Manitoba also features the AHL's top goaltender, Marblehead, Massachusetts, native Cory Schneider. The second-year pro is 18-3-3 and paces the league with a 1.66 GAA and .935 save percentage.
Rask, meanwhile, brings a 19-15-0 record back to Providence, along with a 2.46 GAA and .918 save percentage. The P-Bruins are led offensively by Martin St. Pierre's 42 points, including 30 assists. Martins Karsums, first with 17 goals, is also away from his squad, currently playing for the Latvian National Team.
On special teams, Providence continues to rank in the top 10 in the AHL on both the power play (5th, 19.3%) and the penalty kill (8th, 84.3%). Manitoba has struggled with the man-advantage, ranking 22nd at 15.6%, but the Moose are second in the league at killing penalties, doing so 86.7% of the time.
Tonight is Rhode Island Reds T-Shirt Night as Providence Bruins Promotional Nights continue. After a rare Saturday off, Providence welcomes Worcester back into town on Sunday for a 4:05 p.m. puck drop on Amica Lip Balm Night.
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.