Friday, November 18, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Springfield Falcons

Opening draw
The Providence Bruins will host the Springfield Falcons for the first time as non-divisional rivals Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Despite presently sitting in fifth place of the Northeast Division, the 8-7-0 Falcons reside in the AHL’s most gridlocked sector. A vast convergence of favorable circumstances on Friday could have them in a virtual knot for first place with the Albany Devils, holding the upper hand by virtue of a game in hand, no less.

Both teams are vying to build upon a recent 3-2 victory over the regional rival Worcester Sharks. The P-Bruins attained that upshot at the DCU Center on Sunday on the strength of Carter Camper’s go-ahead goal before the Falcons triumphed by the same score in overtime at the MassMutual Center on Wednesday.

Notable names
Martin St. Pierre, prolific playmaker and the P-Bruins top scorer from 2008-09, is plainly his usual self, sitting atop the Springfield scoring chart with a 5-11-16 transcript. He is in a five-way tie for ninth on the AHL’s point-getting leaderboard.

Only Nick Drazenovic has more assists on the team with 12, including one in each of his last five outings.

First-year pro and Boston College alumnus Cam Atkinson has inserted four of his five goals on the power play. Only Texas’ Matt Fraser has collected more man-advantage markers.

Veteran goaltender Manny Legace, who joined the Falcons as a rookie in their first year of existence and stayed for three-plus seasons, is back in Springfield on a professional tryout. He has started four games in total, including each of the last two and notched his first win of the season with Wednesday’s overtime decision over the Sharks.

Legace has faced a penalty shot in each of his last two outings, denying Bridgeport’s Tyler McNeely last Saturday and Worcester’s Mike Connolly on Wednesday. The later save occurred at 0:52 of overtime, exactly 90 seconds of playing time before Alexandre Giroux inserted the walkoff strike on a power play.

Upon joining Springfield on Oct. 20, Legace was reunited with another original Falcon in assistant coach Nolan Pratt. Both played a role in Springfield’s playoff victories over the P-Bruins in 1996 and 1997.

The Falcons, who are 3-0 in the bite-sized bonus round, are one of only four teams who have yet to be involved in a shootout this season.

Both Providence and Springfield have losing records (1-3-0 and 2-3-0, respectively) when outshooting their opponent, but are above .500 (7-5-1 and 6-4-0) when outshot.