PLAYOFFS BEGIN TONIGHT AT THE DUNK
Providence Hosts Portland for Game 1 of Atlantic Division Semifinals
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (43-29-2-6, 94 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) host the Portland Pirates (39-31-3-7, 88 PTS, 3rd Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center for Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals series. This series marks the fifth all-time playoff match-up between the two clubs. Providence is 1-3 in four prior series versus Portland, last facing off in the 2008 Division Finals, where the P-Bruins grabbed a 2-0 series lead before falling in four straight. Overall, the Pirates have won the last three series against the P-Bruins, including last season, the 2006 Division Semifinals and the 2004 Division Qualifying Series.
The P-Bruins finished the regular season with a 5-5-0-0 record against the Pirates while Portland compiled a 5-2-0-3 mark. Five of the 10 games were decided by one goal, three by two goals and two by three goals. The series features four of the league's top seven rookie scorers during the regular season, including Pirates Tim Kennedy (67 points and 49 assists) and AHL Rookie of the Year Nathan Gerbe (56 points and 30 goals), along with P-Bruins Brad Marchand (59 points and 41 assists) and Mikko Lehtonen (53 points and 28 goals). Marchand was an offensive force during the year against Portland, registering a series-high 14 points and 10 assists. On the other side, Pirates goals-leader Mathieu Darche netted nine of his 31 goals against Providence. Darche totaled 13 points in the season-series. The veteran forward has been a significant playoff performer in the past, recording 25 points (10g, 15a) in 37 career AHL playoff games in addition to winning a Calder Cup championship with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004.
Providence was led offensively during the regular season by All-Star Martin St. Pierre, who paced his club with 66 points and 51 assists. Fellow All-Star and Eddie Shore Award winner Johnny Boychuk finished with 65 points to lead all AHL defensemen, also ranking first among blue-liners in goals (20) and assists (45). Lehtonen, back from his first career National Hockey League recall, led the P-Bruins with 28 goals. Between the pipes, sophomore goalie Tuukka Rask ranked tied for second in the AHL with 33 wins (33-20-4 in 57 games overall) and he added four shutouts and a 2.50 goals-against-average. In seven meeting with the Pirates, Rask went 4-3-0 with a 3.45 GAA.
On the other side, Portland was led by All-Star Mark Mancari's 67 points. Darche finished first in goals (31) while Kennedy led the way in assists (49). Rookie netminder Jhonas Enroth appeared in 58 games, going 26-23-6 with three blankings and a 2.75 GAA. During the year, Enroth finished 4-2-3 with a 3.04 GAA in nine games against Providence.
On the transaction wire, Lehtonen and Vladmir Sobotka are both back in Providence from their stints with the Boston Bruins while the Buffalo Sabres have assigned defenseman Chris Butler to Portland. Butler appeared in 47 games for the Sabres this year and 27 for the Pirates.
The P-Bruins finished the regular season ranking 22nd on both the power play (15.3%) and the penalty kill (81.8%) while the Pirates were 14th on the man-advantage (17.0%) and eighth when short-handed (84.5%). Portland was 10-for-53 (18.9%) with the extra-skater against Providence to the P-Bruins' 6-for-46 (13.0%) showing.
Providence is in the playoffs for the 15th time in 17 seasons with an all-time 14-13 series record and one Calder Cup championship in 1999. Portland, meanwhile, won a championship in its first year in 1994 and has been to the postseason now 12 times in 16 seasons, sporting a 12-10 series record.
Tickets are on sale now for the 2008-09 Calder Cup Playoffs for Game 2 of the best-of-seven Atlantic Division Semifinals series against Portland. Game 2 will be played at The Dunk on Friday at 7:05 p.m. To purchase tickets or for more information, call the P-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.