Tonight, the Providence Bruins (20-16-0-3) hosts the Portland Pirates (24-15-1-1) at the Dunkin Donuts center for the 6th of 10 meetings this season. Providence has won 3 of the previous games this season and lost 2, including 1 shootout loss.
Portland leads the Atlantic division at 50 points, and is 3rd in the Eastern conference. Providence sits in 3rd place in the Atlantic and 6th in the Eastern conference. Both teams are coming off of losses at the hands of 2nd place Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs handed Portland a 5-2 loss in Manchester last Sunday and shutout the P-Bruins 3-0 in Wednesday night. In the last 10 games, Providence has gone 4-5-0-1 and Portland 6-4-0-0, although Portland has lost 2 games in a row coming into tonight. Providence’s home record this season is 11-7-0-3; on the road, the Pirates are 11-9-1-1. Versus Atlantic division rivals, Providence is 10-10-0-3 and Portland is 12-10-1-0.
The 1st goal could be more important for Providence than Portland; the P-Bruins win 70% of the games in which they score the 1st goal (13-5-0-2) while Portland wins less than 50% of the games they score 1st (11-7-1-0). When leading after 1 period, the Bruins have only lost twice, and won the other 10 times; Portland is 5-4-0-0 when leading after 1. The P-Bruins also have a goal differential of +6 in the 1st period this year, topping the Pirates -12.
In the 2nd period, Providence has a -6 goal ratio, to Portland’s +13. When leading after 2 periods, Providence is 12-0-0-1 and Portland 13-2-1-0. In the 3rd, the Bruins have a -14 goal differential on the year and the Pirates only -4. The total goal differential on the season for Providence is -12, while Portland is an even 0.
When tied after 1, Providence has a losing record of 6-8-0-2 and Portland a winning one at 12-5-1-0. Tied after 2 periods, Providence is 7-5-0-2, and Portland is 8-4-0-0.
When trailing after 1 period, Providence is 4-6-0-0 and 1-11-0-0 when trailing after 2. The Pirates are above .500 when trailing after 1 (7-6-0-1) and are 3-9-0-1 when trailing after 2.
An interesting stat to look at as always for Providence is shots. They continue to lead the league in average shots per game (34.74). They also give up the 9th fewest shots per game (28.71). Portland is almost even in the amount of shots for and against per game (32.51 shots per game, 4th best in the league; 32.27 shots against per game, 3rd worst in the league). But when Providence outshoots their opponent, they still have a losing record: 8-12-0-3. When the opponent out-shoots Providence, the P-Bruins have a winning record of 10-3-0-0.
Providence still has a poor power play, 25th in the league at 14.4%. Portland’s power play (16.3%, 14th in league) and penalty kill (83.7%, 15th) are both league average. Providence’s penalty kill is 18th at 81.8%.
What will be problematic for Portland is the absence of their top players permanently to the Phoenix Coyotes after the lockout ended. They continue to have players called up, further depleting the team that previously held a comfortable lead in 1st place in the Atlantic division but is now being closed in upon by Manchester. Yesterday, the Coyotes called up the Pirates top scoring defenseman David Rundbland along with starting goaltender Chad Johnson. Johnson was 1-1 against Providence this season, although Mark Visentin is also a strong backup with a record of 1-2 this year against Providence.
Meanwhile, Niklas Svedberg is recovered from the flu and will start tonight in net for Providence. He is 2-1-0-1 against Portland this season. Keep an eye on Ryan Spooner, who has been named one of the top 3 stars in 4 out of the 5 previous meetings between the two teams this season and is tied for Providence lead in points. He has scored 4 goals against the Pirates this year. For the Pirates, rookie Darian Dziurzynski had 2 goals against Providence the last time the two teams played. Also look for Bobby Robins and Joel Rechlicz to drop the gloves, as they have twice before this season. They might not be the only ones – on the January 4th Bruins win in Providence against Portland, Torey Krug dropped the gloves along with Garnet Exelby. Earlier in the season, Alden Hirschfeld (who may or may not be a healthy scratch tonight) also squared off with a Portland Pirate.
The game is at 7pm tonight. Go P-Bruins!