Providence Hosts Bridgeport To Kick Off Two-Game Weekend
Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins (7-6-1-1, 16 PTS, 5th Atlantic) host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (6-10-0-0, 12 PTS, 6th Atlantic) this evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center for the teams' second of 10 regular season meetings in 2010-11. The clubs last matched up on Nov. 5, a 6-1 P-Bruins win in Rhode Island.
Providence's win over Bridgeport to begin the month kicked off a stretch of five wins in six games to follow up a 2-5-1-1 October. The P-Bruins' success has also led to a turnaround at home, where the club began the year 0-4-0-1 but has since taken two of three. Last weekend, Providence won two of three overall, most recently rebounding from two one-goal deficits to edge the Abbotsford Heat 5-4 in a shootout on Sunday. The team's captain, Jeremy Reich, stood out as he scored two third period goals in the final four minutes of regulation to tie the Heat and give the P-Bruins the lead before Abbotsford forced the extra session. Reich's second goal with just 1:24 remaining marked the 100th of his 11-year professional career. Michael Hutchinson earned the win, his second in as many days, and the rookie is unbeaten in his last five appearances at 3-0-0 dating back to Oct. 31.
The club is led offensively by second-year forward Jamie Arniel, who has a total of 12 points, including four goals and four assists over his last six games. Three of Arniel's points, a goal and two assists, came on Nov. 5 against Bridgeport. Arniel and Jordan Knackstedt share the Providence lead in goals with seven apiece, while Zach Hamill's four-game, eight-assist point-streak has catapulted him to the team-lead in assists with 10. In net, Hutchinson is 4-2-0 with a 3.24 goals-against-average and .896 save percentage, while his counterpart Nolan Schaefer is 3-4-1 with a 3.06 GAA and .902 save percentage.
The P-Bruins have also enjoyed success on special teams of late, going 5-for-16 (31.3%) on the power play since Nov. 7 and killing their last 12 penalties when short-handed. On the season, Providence ranks 23rd in the AHL with the man-advantage at 15.3% in a league-low 59 attempts, while the P-Bruins are 27th on the penalty kill at 77.0%.
On the other side, it's been a busy week in Bridgeport after Monday's promotion of head coach and Rhode Island native Jack Capuano to bench boss of the New York Islanders following the dismissal of former P-Bruins coach Scott Gordon. The Sound Tigers are now led by former assistant coach Pat Bingham, who lost 4-3 in his debut at Springfield on Tuesday. Bridgeport is now 1-4-0-0 in its last five contests. On the year, the Sound Tigers are just 1-8-0-0 away from home.
The moves have not been limited to the coaches as several players were also on the move for Bridgeport during the week. On Thursday, veteran forward Jon Sim returned to Bridgeport from New York, where he has appeared in 15 games for the Islanders. The 33-year-old has suited up for only four AHL games this year, netting five goals. Meanwhile, this morning, Jesse Joensuu was recalled to the Island after scoring 11 points (4g, 7a) in 16 games for Bridgeport. The Sound Tigers have also added three ECHL players, including defenseman Wes O'Neill from Kalamazoo and forwards Olivier Labelle and Chris Blight, both from Reading. All three have previous AHL experience, including a brief stint in Providence in 2009-10 for Labelle.
Aside from the departed Joensuu, Bridgeport is led by forwards Rob Hisey and rookie Rhett Rakhshani, each with 11 points, while Rob Figren and Sim each lead the way with five goals, already a career-high for Figren. Hisey is first on the club with eight assists. Between the pipes, Kevin Poulin (3-2-0, 2.61 GAA), Mikko Koskinen (2-5-0, 3.10 GAA) and Nathan Lawson (1-3-0, 5.88 GAA) have all enjoyed significant playing time. Koskinen has been in net for each of the last two games.
On special teams, Bridgeport ranks 18th in the league on the power play at 15.3% and 20th on the penalty kill at 81.0%.
After a rare Saturday off, the P-Bruins are back in action on Sunday at 3 p.m. as they travel to New Hampshire to face the Manchester Monarchs. Providence plays once more on the road in Bridgeport on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. before returning home to The Dunk on Friday, Nov. 26 for Kids Hat Night against the Worcester Sharks at 7:05 p.m. The hats are free to the first 1,000 fans age 12 and under. 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.
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