DIVISION-RIVALS SQUARE OFF AT THE DUNK
Providence and Portland Match-Up for Eighth Time of the Season
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (35-24-2-4, 76 PTS, T-1st Atlantic) host the Portland Pirates (30-25-3-6, 69 PTS, 4th Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in the teams' eighth of 10 regular season meetings in 2008-09. The P-Bruins are 3-4-0-0 against the Pirates this year, including 1-2-0-0 in Rhode Island.
Providence is home tonight for the first time since February 22, going 2-3-0-3 over its last eight contests on the road. The P-Bruins wrapped up the eight-game swing with a 2-1 win at the Rochester Americans last Sunday. The game marked Providence's final tilt with a Western Conference foe and its second-to-last contest against a team outside the cramped Atlantic Division. In addition to games, the road trip featured a flurry of roster moves as Providence returns to The Dunk with some notable personnel changes. Widely known now, former Boston Bruins prospects Martins Karsums and Matt Lashoff were traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the National Hockey League trade deadline on March 4. Also in that time, the P-Bruins have welcomed back Vladimir Sobotka from Boston, sent Levi Nelson to the ECHL's Reading Royals, bid adieu to forward Colin Hemingway and introduced four new players. Now members of Providence's roster are center Dan Ryder, the younger brother of Boston's Michael Ryder, defensemen Matt Stephenson and Bryan Miller and right wing Jason Fredricks. Ryder, Stephenson and Miller are up from the ECHL while Fredricks is a four-year product from the Colgate University Raiders.
On the other side, Portland brings to town a lengthy 29-man roster, featuring seven players with at least 30 points. Mark Mancari paces the bunch with 54 points, including a team-high 23 goals. First-year standout Tim Kennedy, tied with Providence's Brad Marchand for the AHL rookie lead with 50 points, paces his squad with 36 assists. Mathieu Darche (19g, 30a), Nathan Gerbe (22g, 20a) and Marc Andre Gragnani (6g, 34a) are also members of the 40-point club. Despite the high-powered offense, the Pirates have struggled of late with two straight losses and only two wins in their last 10 games (2-5-2-1). Moreover, Portland has faltered on the road at 11-14-3-3 while Providence remains atop the Atlantic with 21 home wins.
The P-Bruins are led offensively by Martin St. Pierre and Johnny Boychuk, each with 54 points. St. Pierre is first on the team with 41 assists. Boychuk sits first in the league among defensemen in points, along with his 17 goals. Rookie Mikko Lehtonen leads the club and all AHL first-year players with 23 goals. His fellow freshman Marchand has totaled 16 goals and 34 assists in the maximum 65 games played.
In net, Providence's Tuukka Rask is tied for second in the league with 26 wins, contributing a 2.60 goals-against-average. For Portland, nine men have appeared in at least one game between the pipes. Rookie Jhonas Enroth has seen the bulk of that action with a record of 18-18-5 and a 2.69 GAA.
Head-to-head, Marchand leads all scorers in the series with 10 points, including a high of eight assists. Lehtonen and Darche each pace the goal-scorers with four apiece. Rask has a 2-3-0 mark through five starts with a 4.04 GAA to Enroth's 3-1-2 record and 2.76 GAA.
On special teams, Providence ranks 14th on the power play at 17.0% and 20th on the penalty kill at 82.0%. Portland is 26th with the man-advantage, converting 14.3% of the time, while killing 84.3% of its penalties, good for ninth overall.
Tonight is a St. Patrick's Hat giveaway as Providence Bruins Promotional Nights continue. The P-Bruins travel to Massachusetts on Saturday to face the Springfield Falcons at 7 p.m. at the MassMutual Center. Providence wraps up the weekend with a Family Game on Sunday, hosting the Lowell Devils at 4:05 p.m. Fans can purchase one ticket, one hot dog and one 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.