Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Worcester Sharks

Opening draw
The Worcester Sharks will be one of the last four AHL teams to finally commence their 2011-12 schedule on the third day of the season when they drop in at the Dunkin Donuts Center at 4:05 Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, in the wake of Friday night’s 4-1 loss to the St. John’s IceCaps, the host Providence Bruins are trying to avert their first 0-2-0 start since the 1995-96 season.

Worcester returns 12 members of its 2010-11 roster, including four forwards, seven defensemen and goaltender Tyson Sexsmith. Blueliner Mike Moore is the only active Shark to have played for the team more than two seasons, having joined the team out of Princeton University late in the 2007-08 campaign and played 192 AHL games since.

In turn, Moore is Worcester’s only holdover from its encounter with the P-Bruins in the second round of the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs. Conversely, Providence still has Jamie Arniel, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Zach Hamill and Kirk MacDonald. All five players were classified as rookies that season.

Both the Bruins and Sharks are coming off non-playoff runs in 2011 and each striving to emulate their respective parent clubs, who both went to NHL conference finals last spring.

Notable names
Veteran pivot Ben Guite is primed to begin his stint with Worcester, his seventh AHL team and fourth New England-based club in an 11-year career.

In two seasons as a P-Bruin (2004-06), Guite saw action in 150 regular-season and 23 playoff games, charging up an aggregate 35 goals and 50 assists. His 22 goals and 31 assists from the 2005-06 campaign―when he claimed the MVP and Hendricks Fan Appreciation Award—remain a career-high for him.

More recently, Guite has played for four different organizations in as many seasons, including the young 2011-12 campaign with the Sharks. His most productive year since leaving Providence was last year with the Springfield Falcons, for whom he chipped in 17 goals and 30 helpers.

All six of Worcester’s top scorers from last year have gone elsewhere for this season. That leaves third-year professional and Boston College alumnus Benn Ferriero to step it up. Ferriero tied fellow returnee Brandon Mashinter for seventh on the Sharks’ scoring chart with 33 points, despite missing 37 games due to promotion to San Jose.

P-Bruins goaltender Michael Hutchinson went 1-1-2 in five appearances against the Sharks as a rookie last season. Late-season acquisition Anton Khudobin posted a 2-1-0 transcript in three bouts with Worcester.

Sexsmith, the presumptive frontrunner to replace Alex Stalock as Worcester’s starter, has faced the P-Bruins once in 19 total AHL outings. He was ultimately forked out of that Feb. 7, 2010 clash in favor of Stalock at 7:01 of the third period upon authorizing five goals on 35 shots en route to a 6-2 loss at The Dunk.

Through their first five years of coexistence, the P-Bruins have charged up a 31-18-5 all-time regular-season record against the Sharks. Although, Worcester has closed the gap within the past two seasons after Providence jumped out to an initial 22-8-2 advantage over the first three years.