The Providence Bruins (1-2-0-1, 3 PTS, T-5th Atlantic) host the Hartford Wolf Pack (2-1-0-1, 5 PTS, 2nd Atlantic) Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in the first of 10 regular season matchups between the teams this season. The game, however, marks the final match-up between Providence and Hartford before the Wolf Pack transition to the new Connecticut Whale on November 27. The P-Bruins and Whale will face-off for the first time on December 3.
Providence enters play today looking for a .500 weekend after falling 2-1 in a shootout to Springfield on Friday and dropping a 5-2 decision at Manchester Saturday night. Hartford, meanwhile, has points in two straight games following a 3-2 shootout defeat Friday at Albany and a 2-1 edging of Bridgeport on the road on Saturday.
In Saturday night’s action, the P-Bruins fell behind 2-0 to the Monarchs after allowing goals in the final minute of each of the first two periods, including a penalty shot score by rookie Brandon Kozun. Providence rallied to tie the game in the third frame behind goals from Jamie Arniel and Jordan Smotherman just 2:44 apart, but Jordan Knackstedt took an untimely unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the 12:20 mark of the third that led to a David Meckler power play goal. Manchester didn’t look back from there. The Monarchs scored twice more in the final five minutes, courtesy of Kozun’s second strike of the game and a Dwight King empty-netter. Jeff Zatkoff earned the win with 28 saves while Nolan Schaefer suffered the loss, despite turning away 34 shots.
In Bridgeport, Hartford rookie Mats Zuccarello proved to be the difference-maker after scoring a goal with just 4:52 remaining in regulation to snap a 1-1 tie and give the Wolf Pack the win. Hartford never trailed in the game, taking a 1-0 led on a Jeremy Williams goal early in the second period before Sound Tigers rookie Rhett Rakhshani, also Joe Colborne’s teammate at the University of Denver, netted his first professional goal to tie the game. Chad Johnson captured the win with 21 saves, opposite Mikko Koskinen’s 25 saves in the loss.
Sunday, the P-Bruins will get their first look at a re-loaded Wolf Pack club that features former New York Rangers defenseman Wade Redden, Buffalo Sabres forward Tim Kennedy and Williams, formerly of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Redden is spending time in the AHL for the first time in a career that spans 13 National Hockey League seasons and nearly 1,100 regular season and playoff games. The blue-liner is off to a hot start, leading the Wolf Pack with five points, including a goal and four assists. Kennedy, meanwhile, was bought out by the Sabres after being awarded arbitration — marking the first time that has happened in NHL history — then signed a deal with New York and was assigned to the Wolf Pack on October 13. It’s Kennedy’s first appearance in the AHL since being named to the league’s All-Rookie Team in 2008-09 as a member of the Portland Pirates. As for Williams, the eighth-year pro has scored 30 or more goals in each of the last two seasons, netting 32 in 2009-10 with Grand Rapids and 32 in 2008-09 while splitting time between the Toronto’s of the NHL and AHL.
Going into this afternoon’s action, the P-Bruins are led offensively by rookies Max Sauve and Steve Kampfer, each with four points. Sauve paces the club with three goals and Kampfer holds the same number of assists. In net, Michael Hutchinson has Providence’s only win, though Schaefer shows team-bests in both goals-against-average (2.42) and save percentage (.909). On the other side, Redden’s five points are a team-best for Hartford, while his four assists ties Kris Newbury for the Wolf Pack lead. Williams, Zuccarello and first-year winger Kelsey Tessier each have two goals to share first on the squad. Between the pipes, Johnson is 2-1-0-1 in his four outings with a 2.22 GAA and .913 save percentage.
On special teams, Providence has struggled early in the year, sitting tied for 22nd in the AHL with the man-advantage at 12.5% and 27th on the penalty kill at 70%. Hartford, however, ranks in the middle-third of the league in both categories, including 12th on the power play at 21.1% and tied for 17th when short-handed at 83.3%.
The action begins at 4:05 p.m.