The Providence Bruins will try to avert their first empty three-game weekend of the 2011-12 campaign in Part I of a 10-game season series with the Connecticut Whale at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday afternoon.
The Whale were idle on Saturday and were thus inevitably bound to lose their one-point edge for first place of the Northeast Division with Bridgeport facing Springfield. (The Falcons prevailed, 4-1, to usurp the division lead.)
After a 5-1-2 start, the Whale have seen things grow more congested, as evidenced by the Pangaea-like compression in their division as well as their own recent results on the ice. Connecticut is 3-3-1 in its last seven outings, with all three wins coming in overtime or a shootout and all three regulation losses at the hands of the St. John’s IceCaps.
Rookie Carl Hagelin is riding a six-game production streak and has inserted a goal in each of his last four outings. Overall, he is tied for the Whale team lead with John Mitchell for the team lead with an identical output of seven goals and 12 assists.
Winger Aaron Voros, who since 2004 has appeared in 251 AHL and 162 NHL games, joined Connecticut this past Tuesday on a professional tryout. He has yet to suit up for extramural action this season.
Since coming down from the parent New York Rangers, blueliner Tim Erixon has put in six appearances and charged up a 1-4-5 scoring log. Erixon enters Sunday’s contest on a three-game point streak, including most recently two helpers in a 3-2 overtime win over Bridgeport on Friday.
Overall, Connecticut has been involved in more shootouts than any other AHL team, upholding a 3-2 record in that scenario.
The Whale are led in the one-on-one department by Mitchell, who is 2-for-5 in his shootout attempts, Brendan Bell (2-for-3) and Mats Zuccarello (a perfect 2-for-2, and he was 2-for-6 throughout last year). For the P-Bruins, Jamie Arniel is 2-for-3 while Zach Hamill, Carter Camper and Josh Hennessy have each converted one shootout try.
The Whale will help to both usher in and end the P-Bruins’ longest hiatus from home ice (12 days) to date this season. After Sunday’s bout, Providence will hit the road for a Thanksgiving Eve visit to Hershey followed by a two-night stay in Norfolk. From there, the Bruins will return home a week from Friday, Dec. 2, to confront Connecticut at The Dunk yet again.