The Providence Bruins (1-1-0-0, 2 PTS, T-3rd Atlantic) host the Springfield Falcons (1-2-0-0, 2 PTS, 7th Atlantic) Friday evening at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the teams’ third of 10 regular-season meetings in 2010-11. In the clubs’ first two match-ups, each team has won once on the road. The P-Bruins and Falcons will face-off again at the MassMutual Center on Dec. 11.
The P-Bruins dropped their home-opener last Friday, falling 5-1 to the Falcons after surrendering two power play goals, two short-handed tallies and a strike on a delayed penalty. With goalie Nolan Schaefer still overseas with the Boston Bruins, Matt Dalton was given the start, but the second-year pro stopped just 12-of-16 shots before being relieved by Michael Hutchinson. The rookie netminder faced only one shot in his first professional appearance, allowing a goal late in the third frame.
Saturday, however, may have provided Providence fans with a more realistic look at what the club is capable of this season, jumping out to a 5-1 lead on the road before eventually logging a 6-5 win at Springfield. A dozen different players registered points in front of Hutchinson, who earned the win with 31 saves in his first career start following last year’s 32-win season for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. It was the first-year players who led the charge as first star Max Sauve recorded his first career hat trick and defenseman Steve Kampfer matched the skilled forward with three points of his own, including a goal and two assists.
Providence had a rare Sunday off last weekend, while Springfield wrapped up its first three-in-three with a 4-1 home loss to the first-year Charlotte Checkers.
Both clubs saw player movement during the week as Providence welcomed Schaefer and defenseman Matt Bartkowski back from Europe. Schaefer, a Providence College graduate, makes his return to the AHL after spending the 2009-10 campaign with CSKA Moscow, where he went 6-10-1 with a 2.66 goals-against-average in 22 games. In 2008-09, the eighth-year pro produced a 26-17-5 record and 2.52 GAA for the Houston Aeros. Bartkowski, though, enters his first pro season after two successful years with the Ohio State Buckeyes. The blue-liner, acquired by Boston in the deal that brought Dennis Seidenberg from the Florida Panthers last March, scored 38 points in 80 games for OSU.
Springfield welcomed a goaltender into the fold during the week as well with the addition of David LeNeveu, sent down from the Columbus Blue Jackets after the team’s trip to Sweden. Also an eighth-year net-minder, LeNeveu spent last season in Austria with Salzburg following a 20-19-6 campaign with the now-defunct Iowa Chops. Providence fans will likely recognize the goalie from his time in Hartford in 2007-08.
Looking at the leaders, the P-Bruins are paced by both Sauve and Kampfer, each with three points. Sauve’s hat trick on Saturday gives him Providence’s goals lead with three, also tied for first in the league, while Kampfer and Lane MacDermid have each tallied two assists. In net, Hutchinson is 1-0-0 in his two games, showing a 4.50 GAA and .838 save percentage.
On the other side, Tom Sestito has a Falcons-high and AHL-best five points. Michael Blunden, with four points, has scored three goals for Springfield, while first-year defenseman David Savard has dished out four helpers. Between the pipes, Dan Taylor is 1-2-0 with a 2.83 GAA and .913 save percentage.
On special teams, Providence, at 0-for-6, is one of eight clubs that has yet to score a power play goal and also sits just 28th on the penalty kill at 66.7 percent (6-of-9). Springfield, meanwhile, is tied for 11th with the man-advantage at 20 percent (3-for-15) and holds a share of 13th-place when short-handed at 86.7 percent (13-of-15).
On Saturday, the P-Bruins travel to New Hampshire to face the Manchester Monarchs at 7 p.m. The weekend wraps up on Sunday as Providence hosts the Hartford Wolf Pack at 4:05 p.m.