P-BRUINS CAN CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT WITH WIN
Providence Hosts Hartford as Top Team Atlantic Squads Face-Off
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (40-26-2-6, 88 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) host the Hartford Wolf Pack (43-26-3-3, 92 PTS, 1st Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in the teams' final regular season meeting in 2008-09. The P-Bruins are 4-2-0-1 against the Wolf Pack on the year, including a perfect 3-0-0-0 at The Dunk.
Providence enters tonight's game with an opportunity to clinch its 11th straight playoff berth and 15th in 17 seasons. There are four situations in which the P-Bruins can secure one of the Atlantic's four postseason spots but the most direct - win over the Wolf Pack - will do the job. The other scenarios involve the outcomes of additional games this evening. Hartford is the only team in the division to already clinch a spot though the Wolf Pack still have work to do before they can lock up the Atlantic's top spot. Providence trails Hartford by only four points and the P-Bruins also possess a game-in-hand.
The Wolf Pack have been hot of late with three straight wins, most recently defeating the Portland Pirates 5-3 on Wednesday. Since February 20, Hartford shows a 16-3-1-0 record, though one of the regulation losses came at the expense of Providence, 5-3 on March 22. The P-Bruins have points in two straight games (0-1-0-1) but the club is 6-2-0-2 in its last 10 contests and has a division-high 25 wins on home-ice. Hartford, to its credit, has been the best team in the Atlantic on the road with 19 victories.
Off the ice, it has been quite a week for Providence All-Star defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Over the last three days, Boychuk has been named a co-winner of the league's CCM/AHL Player of the Month for March with 13 points points (5g, 8a) and a plus-12 rating, a First Team All-Star and, today, the fifth-year pro was named the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL's outstanding defenseman for the 2008-09 season, as voted by AHL coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league's 29 cities. Boychuk paces all AHL defensemen in several offensive categories, including points (63), goals (20), assists (43), power play goals (10), shots (273) and game-winning-goals (5). His 63 points in 73 games also rank first on the P-Bruins and his plus-21 rating is second behind defensive partner Jeff Penner's plus-25 mark. In addition, Boychuk has 14 multiple-point games and 34 power play points (10g, 24a), the latter good for first on the team. The P-Bruins' only previous Eddie Shore Award winner was Jeff Serowik during the 1994-95 campaign.
Though Boychuk leads Providence in points, rookie Mikko Lehtonen paces the team in goals with 25 and All-Star Martin St. Pierre is first with 48 assists. In net, Tuukka Rask has a 31-19-4 record with four shutouts and a 2.47 goals-against-average. Hartford has two goaltenders who have seen considerable time between the pipes: Miika Wiikman (21-18-3, 2 SO, 2.73 GAA) and rookie Matt Zaba (22-9-0, SO, 2.31 GAA, .921 SV%). Offensively, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau ranks first on the Wolf Pack and fourth in the league with 78 points, including a team-best 49 helpers. Artem Anisimov is first on the club and tied for fourth in the AHL with 33 goals. Anisimov is also in the league's top-five in scoring with 75 points.
In the season-series, St. Pierre leads all scorers with nine points and seven assists. Anisimov has a series-high four goals. In the crease, Rask is 3-2-1 with a 2.29 GAA and a .927 save percentage in his six games. Wiikman is 2-2-0 with a 2.54 GAA while Zaba is 1-1-0 with a 3.36 GAA as each has appeared in four games.
On special teams, Providence ranks in the back-half of the league on both the power play (20th, 15.9%) and the penalty kill (19th, 82.1%). Hartford sits in the middle-third of the AHL in both categories, 10th with the man-advantage at 18.1% and 17th when short-handed at 82.5%.
Tonight is a U.S. Army T-Shirt Night giveaway as Providence Bruins Promotional Nights continue. Providence welcomes Portland into town on Saturday for Keychain Night at 7:05 p.m. The regular season home schedule wraps up Sunday with Providence hosting the Manchester Monarchs for a Family Game at 4:05 p.m. 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.