PLAYOFF ATMOSPHERE TONIGHT AT THE DUNK
Providence Hosts Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Chase for Postseason
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (31-30-3-1, 66 PTS, 6th Atlantic) host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (32-29-1-2, 67 PTS, 4th East) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center for the teams' second of two regular season meetings in 2009-10. The P-Bruins dropped their only previous meeting with the Penguins this season 5-1 on February 27 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The P-Bruins received their first break in quite some time this week after a difficult stretch of seven games in 10 days in two countries, two time zones and four states. Providence went .500 over that span at 3-3-0-1 and remains in the thick of the hunt for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Currently, the Atlantic's Bridgeport Sound Tigers hold that slot with 69 points, though Providence is only three points back of Bridgeport with a game in-hand. Also ahead of the P-Bruins, however, is tonight's opponent from Pennsylvania. The Penguins are two points out of a postseason spot with two games in-hand on the Tigers and one on the P-Bruins. Providence can do quite a bit to help their standing with tonight's potential four-point swing. Bridgeport is in action at the Norfolk Admirals. So, with a regulation win and a Bridgeport regulation loss, Providence would sit only one point from a playoff spot with 14 games remaining in the regular season.
The P-Bruins have been riddled by injuries and call-ups of late with Andrew Bodnarchuk, Drew Fata, Drew Larman, Mikko Lehtonen, Adam McQuaid and Andy Wozniewski all missing at least Providence's last two games and some ranging to as many as 13. Brad Marchand and Dany Sabourin have also been out due to time spent with the Boston Bruins, though Sabourin returned to Providence during the week. Jeff Penner, who did not miss any time with Providence, was called up to Boston during the week and made his National Hockey League debut on Tuesday at the Toronto Maple Leafs before returning Thursday night. Also back in Providence is 2008-09 P-Bruins forward Ned Lukacevic, who is having a career-year with the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers, posting 62 points (25g, 37a) in just 59 games. He was signed to a Professional Tryout Agreement on Thursday.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last played on Wednesday, a 4-3 shootout win at home over the Albany River Rats. The road has been the Penguins' Achilles heel, though, as the club is just 11-18-1-1 away from Casey Plaza. Overall, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 9-3-0-1 over its last 13 games.
Providence is led by Lehtonen's 22 goals and 47 points, while Wozniewski is first with 29 assists. In net, Sabourin regains the reigns with a 23-20-0 mark, three shutouts and a 2.63 goals-against-average. On the other side, Dustin Jeffrey paces Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 20 goals, 39 assists and 59 points. Between the pipes, John Curry is 22-17-1 with one whitewash and a 2.76 GAA. Penguins forward Chris Conner was the star of the only prior game between these two teams. The winger finished with three goals and an assist.
On special teams, Providence is 24th (15.2%) in the AHL on the power play and 25th (80.1%) on the penalty kill. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sits 19th (16.7%) in the league with the man-advantage and 14th (82.5%) when short-handed.
On Saturday, the P-Bruins travel to New York to take on the Adirondack Phantoms at 7 p.m. Then, Providence hosts the Binghamton Senators at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday for Amica Lip Balm Night. To purchase 2009-10 season tickets, Flex Tix or individual game tickets, please call the Providence Bruins ticket office at (401) 273-5000 or log on to the team website at www.providencebruins.com.