PLAYOFF HOPEFULS CLASH TONIGHT
Providence Hosts Manchester in Potential Playoff Match-Up
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (39-25-2-5, 85 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) host the Manchester Monarchs (34-29-0-8, 76 PTS, 3rd Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in the teams' seventh of eight regular season meetings in 2008-09. The P-Bruins are 1-2-1-2 against the Monarchs on the year, including 1-1-0-0 at The Dunk. The only remaining game in the season-set will be the last of the regular season in Rhode Island on April 5.
Providence topped the Hartford Wolf Pack 5-3 last Sunday to pull within one point of first place in the Atlantic and the club is now just one win shy of its eighth 40-win campaign in 17 seasons. First-year head coach Rob Murray served an assistant's role as the P-Bruins reached 40 wins in each of the last four seasons, including 55 victories in 2007-08 en route to a regular season title under Scott Gordon. Providence's recent run of success at home bodes well for the squad as the P-Bruins are 5-0-0-2 in their last seven contests in the Ocean State and they boast a division-best 24 wins.
Manchester is one of four teams separated by only six points between third and sixth in the Atlantic. The top four clubs, currently occupied by Hartford, Providence, Manchester and the Portland Pirates, respectively, qualify for the playoffs. The Worcester Sharks sit percentage points back of Portland while the Lowell Devils are three points behind the fourth-place Pirates. The Monarchs have posted points in three straight games (1-0-0-2) and they are 16-7-0-3 over their last 26 games to put themselves in a position to move on to the league's second season. If the regular season ended today, which of course it does not with each team showing nine games remaining, Providence and Manchester would square off in the opening round of the playoffs.
Special teams has been a big difference through six games in the season-series as the P-Bruins have converted on just three of 29 power plays (10.3%) while the Monarchs are 10-for-30 (33.3%) with the man-advantage. Overall on the season, Providence ranks tied for 16th (16.6%) with the extra skater and 20th (82.1%) when short-handed. On the other, Manchester is 13th (17.4%) with the power play and sixth (84.8%) on the penalty kill.
Offensively, Monarchs forward Trevor Lewis leads all scorers in the series with four goals, seven assists and 11 points. Teammate Marty Murray is second with eight points (2g, 6a) while P-Bruins rookie Brad Marchand comes in third with seven points (g, 6a). Between the pipes, Providence's Tuukka Rask is 1-3-1 with a 2.55 goals-against-average. Manchester's Jonathan Bernier is 2-0-0 with a 2.36 GAA and .931 save percentage in his three outings.
Rask is 30-19-3 with four shutouts and a 2.51 GAA in his sophomore season while the rookie Bernier is 20-20-4 with four blankings of his own and a 2.42 GAA. Martin St. Pierre paces Providence with 61 points, including 47 assists. Freshman Mikko Lehtonen is first on the team with 25 goals, tied for tops among all AHL first-year players. For Manchester, Murray leads his club with 49 points and 35 helpers. Lewis and Matt Moulson share a team-high 16 goals apiece.
Tonight is Adam McQuaid Bobblehead Night as Providence Bruins Promotional Nights continue. On Saturday, the P-Bruins return to the road to battle Hartford in Connecticut at 7 p.m. The weekend wraps up Sunday when Providence hosts Worcester at 4:05 p.m. for a Team Poster giveaway.
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.