Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Portland Pirates

Opening draw
A week to date, the Providence Bruins let the Portland Pirates pipe burst on the rest of the American Hockey League. Now this Saturday is their chance to quickly plug it back up with a return trip to the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Before clipping the visiting P-Bruins, 4-2, last week, the Pirates had not won consecutive games on the year. But that victory has since led to a three-game winning streak, prolonged with a 4-2 Tuesday triumph over Adirondack and a 3-2 shootout decision Friday night at the expense of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Providence, on the other hand, has followed a strict loss-win-loss pattern over its last nine outings dating back to Oct. 29 and continuing with Friday’s 7-2 submission to the Springfield Falcons. The Bruins have not formulated a win streak of any length since a four-game tear that coincidentally culminated in a 4-3 seesaw triumph at Portland on Oct. 23.

Notable names
Portland winger Jordan Szwarz, who was pointless in seven appearances prior to the P-Bruins’ last visit, has since notched a point in every installment of his team’s winning streak. An assist against Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sandwiched a goal against Adirondack that came on his only shot on net in any of the last three outings.

Goaltender Marc Cheverie, called up to fill in for an injured Justin Pogge, has made one appearance thus far for the Pirates. After consensus starter Curtis McElhinney authorized two unanswered Adirondack goals on seven shots in less than nine minutes, Cheverie stepped in and repelled all 17 Phantoms bids while his mates sculpted a four-goal rally.

Productive rookie Andy Miele has at least one assist in each of his last five games for a total of six helpers in that span.

P-Bruins forwards Carter Camper and Kirk MacDonald have notched at least one point in all three meetings with the Pirates so far this season. Camper has charged up a goal-assist value pack in both of his first two visits to the Cumberland County Civic Center and leads all participants in the season series with a 2-3-5 transcript.

The Pirates are currently second in attendance among New England AHL teams behind the P-Bruins, drawing an average of 5,588 spectators per night.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 19

1993: The P-Bruins draw a 4-4 knot in their first-ever confrontation with the Albany River Rats at the Providence Civic Center.

1994: The P-Bruins surmount a hot-handed Portland team, 7-4, at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

1999: John Grahame returns to the Spoked-Ps for the first time since backstopping the Calder Cup clinching game as Byron Dafoe’s holdout in Boston comes to a close. Regrettably for Grahame, the heroic goaltender’s return is spoiled by a 5-3 loss to the Louisville Panthers, decided by a go-ahead goal via former P-Bruin Chris Winnes.

2000: Eric Nickulas singlehandedly sculpts a 2-0 lead, enough for the P-Bruins to subsist through an eventual 4-1 home win over Portland, sweeping a slate of three games in as many nights.

2006: Fueled by Ben Walter’s two-goal, four-point night, the P-Bruins win a 6-3 seesaw battle with Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears at The Dunk. With the game tied, 3-3, entering the third period, goaltender Brian Finley stops each of Hershey’s final 13 shots while Walter and Jonathan Sigalet each record two points as part of a decisive three-goal outburst.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: Falcons 7, P-Bruins 2

Swift summation
The Springfield Falcons biffed the Providence Bruins into last month, overcooking prized goaltender Anton Khudobin for five goals-against en route to a 7-2 decision before an audience of 7,310 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Khudobin left at the 66-second mark of the third period with his worst single-night transcript since a 7-1 submission to Manchester five weeks prior, stopping only 23 shots out of 28 and combining a 7.30 goals-against average with a .821 save percentage.

Backup Michael Hutchinson repelled six out of eight shots-faced.

The Falcons’ power play lunged out to a 2-for-2 start within the opening frame, beginning at 4:53, when winger Nick Drazenovic lassoed and raked home a fugitive rebound from the slot.

Former P-Bruins playmaker Martin St. Pierre had the primary assist both times as Springfield raised its upper hand to 3-0 on two straight, sparsely distributed stabs at Khudobin. First, NHL veteran and recent Falcons’ signee Brett Lebda converted St. Pierre’s feed to polish off a fleeting odd-man rush with 13:28 gone.

Two minutes and 18 seconds later, with Providence’s own old guard representative, Chris Clark, caged for cross-checking, St. Pierre set up Cam Atkinson for their team’s second 5-on-4 conversion.

St. Pierre rounded out a playmaker hat trick and helped elevate the Falcons’ lead to 4-0 when he set up Alexandre Giroux for a third power-play tally at 15:12 of the second period.

The P-Bruins, who thrust 21 biscuits at Springfield stopper Manny Legace in the middle frame, finally retorted 72 seconds after Giroux’s goal. Zach Hamill strolled the puck onto Falcons’ property and dished things over to Lane MacDermid, who in turn set up Carter Camper for a top-shelf tally.

Only 20 seconds after the Falcons finished killing a carry-over penalty, Atkinson buried his second goal of the night on a centering feed by Andrew Joudrey. That was enough to cloud Atkinson’s guilt when he later sat in the box for delay of game and watched Jamie Tardif insert a Providence power-play strike with 10:15 to spare.

Ditto Springfield’s fourth and final man-up strike via Nick Holden with 84 seconds left and Aaron Bogosian’s goal that finalized the 7-2 upshot.

P-Bruins pluses
Through the home team’s second-period icebreaker, Camper and Hamill each lengthened their respective point-getting streaks to three games. MacDermid, meanwhile, tallied his first point of the month after a six-game drought that spanned the full length of two three-game weekends.

Camper, Hamill and MacDermid would be the lone Providence skaters with a positive rating on the night.

Bruins blights
The leaned-on line of Max Sauve, Josh Hennessy and Tardif spent substantial amounts of even-strength and power-play time swarming the Springfield zone during that rubber blizzard that was the middle frame. Yet for all of that, each constituent had only gotten around to registering one SOG apiece by the 40-minute mark.

The longer it goes on, the worse it looks on Jamie Arniel’s resume. Last year’s team-leading scorer had five shots on goal, the most since Oct. 23 against Albany, yet his scoring drought has lived on to the age of 11 games.

Craig Cunningham went the first 40-plus minutes without a shot on net and finished the night with a minus-2 rating, putting himself in company with Tyler Randell in that regard.

Falcons notes
Giroux, wearing his seventh AHL uniform in 11 professional seasons and now a veteran of 712 games in the league, claimed the secondary assist on his team’s second power play goal and had an intangible role in the first. In the fifth minute of action, his partial breakaway was foiled by Colby Cohen, whose action warranted a two-minute holding sentence, which only lasted 26 seconds before Drazenovic broke the ice.

Blueliner Cody Goloubef was credited with an assist on each of Springfield’s first two strikes. He then joined St. Pierre in the triple-helper club with the secondary assist on Holden’s brownie biscuit.

Dane Byers notched two assists of his own.

Legace amassed a season-high 34 saves in six AHL outings between Springfield and San Antonio.

Putting in his fifth appearance with the P-Bruins, Clark registered (five) shots on goal, the most he has had in a single game with Providence to date.

Stefan Chaput and Trent Whitfield continue to nurse their respective injuries. Forward Kyle MacKinnon and blueliner Ryan Button were the two healthy scratches for the Spoked-Ps.

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.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 18

1992: Goaltender John Blue stops 41 of 42 shots-faced to garner a 2-1 victory at New Haven. Meanwhile, Glen Murray and Chris Winnes tie an AHL record by scoring five seconds apart.

1994: The P-Bruins blow away a five-game losing streak, along with the visiting Fredericton Canadiens, in a 6-1 home victory.

2000: Initially trailing, 2-0, the P-Bruins pull even with the Portland Pirates, 3-3, at the second intermission before Eric Manlow, Eric Nickulas and Cameron Mann score in succession for a 6-3 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Both Manlow and Mann record a playmaker hat trick to go with their goals.

2006: Trailing 2-0, 4-1 and 5-4 in Worcester, the P-Bruins score two unanswered goals late in the third period to beat the Sharks, 6-5. David Krejci’s fourth point and second goal of the game constitutes the equalizer with 4:45 to spare and Kris Versteeg inserts the decider with 53 seconds remaining.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

P-Bruins Log: Old Nemesis Legace Back In His Old Springfield Nest

The Springfield Falcons have not won a playoff series since they dislodged the Providence Bruins, four games to one, in the 1997 New England Division finals. They have since undergone three NHL affiliation changes, eight coaching changes, an arena name change and 10 Calder Cup playoff no-shows, including the last eight years running.

But for what it’s worth―which could very well be little more than a walking, talking, breathing specimen of nostalgia―the Falcons have an integral part of their best years back in town: goaltender Manny Legace.

One of only 12 remaining Hartford Whalers’ draft picks still active in North America or Europe and a veteran of 367 NHL games, Legace is back in his first professional domain on a professional tryout.

Since coming on board Oct. 20, he has appeared in four of a possible 10 games. That would include each of the last two after an injury sidelined him for two weekends.

If he makes it three outings in a row with Friday’s visit to the Dunkin Donuts Center, Legace will likely evoke bitter memories for the more seasoned sects of the Providence faithful.

Of their three playoff series triumphs since their 1994 inception, the Falcons have claimed two at the P-Bruins’ expense, bumping them off in back-to-back years in the 1996 first round and 1997 second round.

Legace, who shared the workload with Scott Langkow during those two seasons and playoff runs, was in Springfield’s crease for both handshake games against Providence.

He entered the first round of the 1996 playoffs on the heels of claiming the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s top goalie and retaining the league’s best goals-against average. In Game 4 of the best-of-five opening series, he compressed his own open wound after letting the Bruins leap out to a 3-0 lead and watched his teammates delete that whole deficit in the middle frame.

From there, the Falcons forced overtime and skated off with the series when Jason Simon beat P-Bruins’ stopper Rob Tallas at 2:41 of the sudden-death session.

A year later, Legace and Co. took continuous fits against Providence, losing the 1996-97 regular season series, 3-7-2. But after both teams pulled off memorable comebacks in the best-of-five first round against their regional rivals―Providence rallying from a 2-0 series deficit to beat the top dog Worcester IceCats and the Falcons doing to same against Portland―Springfield breezed to victory in the best-of-seven conference semifinal meeting.

Legace whiffed on his attempt to close out a sweep of the P-Bruins in a fall-from-ahead, 2-1 decision in Game 4 at what was then dubbed the Providence Civic Center. But the following night, in front of his own rooters at “The Nest,” he backstopped a 3-1 victory.

From there, the Falcons fell short seven games against the eventual champion Hershey Bears. And they have gone 0-3 in the postseason ever since.

Legace’s log has been comparatively more glamorous, to say the least. By the turn of the century, he had landed a steady job with the Detroit Red Wings, partaking in their 2002 Stanley Cup championship. In four consecutive NHL seasons between 2003-04 and 2007-08, he consumed at least half of the workload with the Wings or St. Louis Blues.

But since 2008-09, which he split between the Blues and their Peoria-based farm club, Legace has gone the rise-and-fall route. Over the past two-plus seasons, he has donned the jersey of the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Wolves, Iserlohn (Germany) Roosters and, for one game this year, the San Antonio Rampage.

The 37-year-old Legace is one of five active AHL stoppers who have seen at least one full season solely in The Show, only to slip back into the continent’s second-best circuit. But none―including former Patrick Roy understudy David Aebischer (now with St. John’s) and Philadelphia playoff backstop Michael Leighton (Adirondack)―have been around as long and all have played at least 153 fewer NHL games.

A pair of former Providence goalies have penned similar diaries themselves and ostensibly skated through their closing curtains at the conclusion of 2010-11.

A now 36-year-old John Grahame, who springboarded a career of 224 NHL outings with the 1999 Calder Cup title, came back from a season in Russia spent the last two years with the Adirondack Phantoms and Lake Erie Monsters. Hannu Toivonen crammed 61 outings into three years between Boston and St. Louis, likewise went overseas to his native Finland in 2008-09, then played for Peoria and Rockford the last two seasons.

Neither has scraped any blue paint for extramural action this season. But for the indefinite moment, Legace still has a flame to stoke.

And for those who have immutably supported the Falcons for 18 seasons, dating back to the inception of the franchise and his own professional endeavors, he is around for a symmetric swan song, at the very least.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 17

1995: Mark Cornforth scores in overtime to beat the visiting Worcester IceCats, 3-2, winning the Providence debut of veteran Mitch Lamoureux.

1996: Goaltender Rob Tallas valiantly repels 53 shots from the Rochester Americans, who nonetheless whittle off a convincing 7-3 victory at the P-Bruins expense.

2000: Boston goaltending prospect Andrew Raycroft makes his Providence debut and backstops a 7-4 barn-burning victory over the visiting Saint John Flames. The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the P-Bruins.

2001: Trailing the host Chicago Wolves, 3-1, with less than three-and-a-half minutes to spare, the P-Bruins pull even on a power-play goal by Andy Hilbert and an extra-man strike via Chris Kelleher. They proceed to pilfer an overtime victory when Ivan Huml wins the opening draw and deposits an unassisted goal 13 seconds into the bonus round.

2007: The P-Bruins win their third straight home game and improve their overall record to 11-1-1 upon deleting 1-0 and 3-2 deficits to top the Norfolk Admirals, 4-3.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 16

2003: Future Boston blueliner Dennis Seidenberg sets up the only goal for the Philadelphia Phantoms, who squeak past the P-Bruins, 1-0, at the Spectrum.

2007: A 5-2 home win over Worcester is marred by goaltender Jordan Sigalet’s health scare in the crease. The third-year member of the Bruins organization collapses midway through the third period with an attack related to his multiple sclerosis. He would not see game action again until another date with the Sharks on Jan. 11 of the same season.

2008: Vladimir Sobotka, Martins Karsums and Johnny Boychuk each score a goal and at least one assist before Brad Marchand inserts the game-winner with 5:53 to go in a 4-3, seesaw win over the Norfolk Admirals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 15

1996: The expansion Philadelphia Phantoms win their first visit to the Civic Center, 4-1.

2001: The P-Bruins engage in their first game with one of the six former IHL franchises, tying the host Milwaukee Admirals, 1-1.

2002: Pat Leahy and Martin Samuelsson insert two goals apiece in regulation. After the visiting Portland Pirates delete a 4-1 and later a 5-4 deficit, Zdenek Kutlak finishes them off with a walkoff goal to give Providence a 6-5 overtime win.

2009: The Worcester Sharks draw a 3-3 knot with exactly 100 seconds to spare in regulation. But seven seconds off the subsequent face-off, Drew Larman inserts the eventual game-winner as the P-Bruins pilfer a 5-3 victory at DCU Center.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 14

1992: Tim Sweeney finishes a 12-game point-scoring streak in a 7-7 draw with the host Utica Devils.

2003: Trailing 3-1 at the halfway mark of the third period, the P-Bruins cut into the visiting Portland Pirates lead with 6:35 to spare on a goal by Matt Herr. Later on, within the final 92 seconds of regulation, Ivan Huml and Pat Leahy score unanswered to surmount the deficit and stamp a 4-3 victory at The Dunk. Future Providence captain Trent Whitfield accounts for the Pirates’ second goal.

2004: Andy Hilbert beats Steve Valiquette with 13:23 to spare in regulation, effectively beating the Hartford Wolf Pack, 1-0, at The Dunk.

2007: After waiting six weeks and 10 games for their home opener, the P-Bruins christen the newly-renovated Dunkin Donuts Center with a 3-2 shootout win over Portland. David Krejci assists on both regulation goals and is the only skater out of 10 to connect in the deciding one-on-one rounds. Tuukka Rask stops all five Pirates in the shootout to win his home debut in Providence.

2008: Defenseman Matt Lashoff scores a goal and three assists, Martin St. Pierre notches a playmaker hat trick and both Mikko Lehtonen and Matt Marquardt tune the mesh twice to pilot an 8-3 romp of the Worcester Sharks at The Dunk.

2010: Captain Jeremy Reich scores back-to-back goals, both assisted by Zach Hamill and David Ling, to usurp a 4-3 lead late in the third period. Although the Abbotsford Heat draw a 4-4 knot in the final minute, Yannick Riendeau and Jordan Knackstedt both convert in the shootout for a 5-4 win at The Dunk.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Worcester Sharks

Opening draw
In their first Sunday outing away from home, the Providence Bruins will help the Worcester Sharks curtain a six-game homestand at the DCU Center.

Worcester is currently fourth in the Atlantic Division in the way of points, but continues to hold a substantial number of games in hand on all of its rivals, including six on the P-Bruins. This despite what has been an altogether barren homestand that has seen them go 1-3-1 up to this point.

With the Sharks’ 2-1 loss to Manchester on Saturday and the Bruins’ simultaneous 4-2 falter in Portland, the Monarchs have moved into a virtual tie for second place with Providence. The Sharks, however, have only three points to make up and are the only team in the division other than St. John’s bearing a supra-.500 winning percentage.

All three of Worcester’s regulation losses have come within its active homestand. The P-Bruins were the first team to deny the Sharks any points when they deleted a 3-1 deficit in regulation and pulled through in a shootout during their last encounter at the Dunkin Donuts Center 23 nights ago.

Notable names
Sharks goaltender Tyson Sexsmith is second on the AHL’s leaderboard with a 1.80 goals-against average.

Despite his team’s having played a league-low 10 games, Curt Gogol has mustered a peerless bushel of 33 penalty minutes, including three major infractions. Two of his three fights have come against the P-Bruins (Lane MacDermid Oct. 9, Tyler Randell Oct. 21). Teammate Nathan Moon is No. 5 in that category with 26 minutes spent in the bin.

Matt Irwin is tied for the league lead among defensive scorers with four goals, a distinction shared with Portland’s Nathan Oystrick and Chicago’s Kevin Connauton. In addition, all four of Irwin’s strikes have come on the power play.

The Sharks continue to average a league-high in team penalty minutes with 21.6 per night.

Worcester ranks No. 3 in the league in terms of both shots-for (34.1) and shots-against (26.8) per game.

In four out of the Sharks’ first five years of existence, the P-Bruins have cultivated a winning record in the road portion of the season series, including a 3-2-1 finish at the DCU Center last year. They are presently riding a 2-0-0 winning streak in Worcester, having claimed 4-2 and 4-1 decisions in March 25 and April 2 of last season.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 13

1992: Andrew McKim’s hat trick and two assists highlight a 7-6 overtime win over Utica at the Civic Center.

1998: A 4-1 home win over Syracuse constitutes the P-Bruins’ sixth consecutive triumph and moves them into first place in their division for the first time since their inaugural season.

2009: Goaltender Dany Sabourin assists on Jeff LoVecchio’s shorthanded goal in regulation, then stops four of the Syracuse Crunch’s five attempts to help the P-Bruins to a 2-1 shootout win at the Onondaga War Memorial.

2010: Jamie Arniel pilots the offense with two assists en route to a 3-1 win at Manchester.