Warning: this preview turns into an Iginla rant for a short while. I’m only a little bit sorry about that.
The Providence Bruins will look to get 2 points closer to clinching a playoff spot tonight as they take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barres, PA. It will be the 2nd and time these two defensively-solid teams faceoff this regular season, although there is a good possibility they will see each other in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Providence is currently 5 points from clinching a spot in the playoffs as the season is in its final weeks. Tonight will be game 66 in a 76-game season for the P-Bruins, who are, as of right now, the only team in the AHL to hit the 40-win milestone. Despite that, they sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and 4th in the AHL with 85 points. They are comfortably atop the division, however, with a 10-point cushion on 2nd place Portland. Their current record is 40-20-0-5.
The Penguins are 35-28-2-1, which is 3rd in their division (the East division), and 7th in the Eastern Conference. In 66 games, they have 73 points – only 2 ahead of the Hershey Bears, a divisional rival nipping at their heels.
The Penguins are a defensively solid team with a little trouble scoring goals. They have an even goal differential with 155 goals scored and 155 goals given up. They have one of the best penalty kills in the league, and give up the fewest goals per game, but also score the fewest goals per game as well. Here are how the teams match-up:
- Last 10: Providence is 8-2-0-0; WBS is 6-4-0-0
- Goal differential: Providence is +22; WBS is 0
- At home, WBS is 17-13-2-1; Away, Providence is 17-11-0-2
- Against the East division, Providence is 2-0-1; Against the Atlantic division, WBS is 2-0-1
- PP: Providence is 7th (18.9%); WBS is 25th (14.2%)
- PK: WBS is 2nd (86.9%); Providence is 7th (84.9%)
- Goals Per Game: Providence is 15th with 2.88; WBS is 28th with 2.35
- Goals Against Per Game: Providence is 3rd with 2.54; WBS is 1st with 2.35
- Shots Per Game: Providence is 1st with 33.91; WBS is 18th with 29.83
- Shots Against Per Game: Providence is 7th with 28.71; WBS is 2nd with 26.00
In the only previous game between the two teams this season, Providence shutout the Penguins and won by a score of 2-0. Michael Hutchinson got the shutout in net, turning aside 20 shots. Jeff Zatkoff, one of the top goaltenders in the AHL who is currently unavailable for WBS, got the loss that night despite his splendid numbers on the season.
Ironically, Zatkoff and Hutchinson will both sit out tonight, as Hutchinson is still sidelined with an injury in which Adam Morrison is on recall for. Morrison will be on the bench to back-up Nicklas Svedberg tonight. Of the two P-Bruins that scored against the Penguins in the previous game this season, which was earlier this month, only one will appear tonight - Craig Cunningham, who was credited with the game-winning goal, will play while Graham Mink, who scored the games 2nd goal, will not play tonight. Both players scored last game as well (a 3-2 win on Wednesday over Portland). It is unclear why Mink is not playing.
Unfortunately the P-Bruins will be without two other top scorers: Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug. Spooner is a last minute scratch with an upper body injury. Krug is still on recall in Boston, along with Matt Bartkowski, who didn’t get traded. What a mess. Well, at least Alex Khokhlachev will play tonight. Hopefully he will get his first professional point.
Here’s another interesting fact: Mark Divver also commented that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli would like to see if he could get Svedberg in to play a game or two for the Boston Bruins before the season ends. Don’t know how that will be possible with the busy schedule of the AHL and the playoffs but with the way they are treating the team like expendable pieces to sit around and stew while trades don’t happen and jerks choose WBS’s parent team in Pittsburgh to screw the Bruins organization over, I’m sure they will find a way.
No, I’m not mad about that at all. Go Bruins! (Sorry that wasn’t a very good preview…I totally had one ready, but then it all fell apart. Kind of like that Iginla trade.)
In summary, all you need to know going in to tonight you now know. Cunningham: hot hot hot. Also, Chad Kolarik, who played for the Connecticut Whale earlier this season, is a WBS Penguin now, so look out for him. Recently signed University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Chris Casto (ELC for Boston, ATO for Providence) will not play tonight, although he is expected to join Providence.
Brad Thiessen will probably get the start in net for the Penguins. Their other top scorers aside from Kolarik include Trevor Smith, Riley Kolzapfel, Paul Thompson, Beau Bennett, Brian Gibbons, and defensemen Dylan Reese and Brian Dumoulin.
As usual, special teams will be the difference – but especially in this case. With Spooner and Krug out, and Chris Bourque still injured, along with the Penguins great penalty kill, Providence could struggle to get the power play goals that usually give them the jump in their game or insurance goals they need to win games. Hopefully our other top scorers will come through – Carter Camper, Jamie Tardif, and Justin Florek, Kyle MacKinnon, and Max Sauve. Also, I’m looking at you David Warsofsky.