P-BRUINS LOOK TO SECURE PLAYOFF SPOT
Providence Hosts Portland Tonight with Hopes to Extend Season
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (40-27-2-6, 88 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) host the Portland Pirates (36-30-3-6, 81 PTS, 3rd Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in the teams' final Rhode Island regular season meeting in 2008-09. The P-Bruins are 4-4-0-0 against the Pirates on the year, including 2-2-0-0 at The Dunk. The clubs' final match-up is scheduled for next Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Providence enters tonight's game with an opportunity to clinch its 11th straight playoff berth and 15th in 17 seasons. There are three situations in which the P-Bruins can secure one of the Atlantic's four postseason spots tonight but the most direct - win over the Pirates - will do the job. The other scenarios involve the outcomes of additional games this evening. A regulation win over Portland will also guarantee that Providence finishes no lower than second in the Atlantic, earning the club home-ice advantage in the opening Atlantic Division Semifinals round. The Hartford Wolf Pack are 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 six points and the P-Bruins also possess a game-in-hand.
The P-Bruins have had trouble of late locking up a playoff spot after three straight losses (0-2-0-1) heading into this evening's game. Last night, Providence was shutout for the eighth time on the year, 6-0 by Hartford. Despite the loss, the P-Bruins still edged the Wolf Pack 4-3-0-1 in the regular season series. Providence's struggles a night ago came primarily on the power play, failing to score on 10 man-advantages while also allowing three short-handed goals. Tuukka Rask's nine-game unbeaten-in-regulation streak (6-0-3) came to an end with the loss.
The Pirates, fresh off a 3-1 road win over the Lowell Devils last night and winners of four of their last five games, sit seven points back of the P-Bruins in the Atlantic but, more notably, in the middle of a division log-jam. Portand is in a points-tie with the Worcester Sharks and both teams are only one point ahead of the fifth-place Manchester Monarchs. Fittingly, the Sharks and Monarchs square off tonight in New Hampshire. Lowell, still very much alive in the playoff hunt at 75 points with five games to play, hosts the Springfield Falcons this evening.
On the year, Providence is led offensively by the league's Eddie Shore Award winner, Johnny Boychuk, and his 63 points. Rookie Mikko Lehtonen paces the team with 25 goals and Martin St. Pierre is first with 48 assists. Between the pipes, Rask is 31-20-4 with a 2.52 goals-against-average. On the other side, Jhonas Enroth shows a 24-22-5 record and 2.72 GAA for Portland. Mark Mancari matches Boychuk with 63 points to lead his squad, including 27 goals, which is one ahead of each Nathan Gerbe and Mathieu Darche. Freshman Tim Kennedy, first among AHL rookies with 60 points, has a team-high 43 helpers.
Providence ranks in the lower-half of the league on both the power play (22nd, 15.5%) and the penalty kill (18th, 82.3%). Portland is only a shade better with the man-advantage (18th, 16.3%), though its short-handed play ranks among the upper echelon of the AHL (8th, 84.6%).
In the season-series, Portland has out-scored Providence 29-26. Brad Marchand (2g, 8a) and Darche (6g, 4a) are tied for the series-high with 10 points apiece. Felix Schutz (3g, 5a) and Kennedy (g, 7a) each have eight points for Portland and Lehtonen has tallied five goals for Providence. In the crease, Rask is 3-3-0 with a 3.82 GAA while seeing the bulk of the action for the P-Bruins. Enroth, meanwhile, is 3-2-2 in seven games with a 2.94 GAA.
Tonight is a New England Ambulance Keychain giveaway to the first 3,000 fans in attendance as Providence Bruins Promotional Nights continue. The regular season home schedule wraps up Sunday with Providence hosting Manchester 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.