PROVIDENCE While the Boston Bruins should have begun their season on Thursday night along with three other games across the league, the Providence Bruins will kick their 21st AHL season off at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Friday night. The Manchester Monarchs will take on the P-Bruins within the friendly confines of their Rhode Island backyard, and local hockey fans will get their first glimpse of favored son Chris Bourque in a Bs sweater.
It will also feature much better AHL competition with proven NHL commodities like Jeff Skinner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Cory Hodgson mixed in with the normal AHL hodgepodge of veterans and rookies. But despite the rise in talent level across the league due to the lockout, Providence still expects to claw back into the postseason after missing out last year.
Our expectations are high in terms of winning. This season were very young, but were anticipating greater success with wins and losses to start things off this season. Were expecting those young players to build on some of the success that they had last year, said Providence coach Bruce Cassidy. Until the puck drops youre never quite sure where you stand, but thats our expectation level. Getting back into the playoffs is our goal, and once youre in then you can from there.
Cassidy pointed to Bourque as one difference-making player thats going to liven up their power play, and infuse plenty of offense into an attack that was lacking far too often over the last few years.
Bourque is a guy that knows how to run a power play, said Cassidy. Weve added some very good power play personnel, and lets see what weve got to open the year.
Life is moving along for the Bruins coaching staff, front office, and the Providence roster of players after they made their final cuts on Thursday a group of roster moves that included shipping former Boston College defenseman Tommy Cross to the ECHLs South Carolina StingRays. Providence will instead up their AHL season with familiar faces like Bourque, Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Torey Krug, Jordan Caron and Matt Bartkowski ready to fill in the gap left by the locked out NHL players.
Thats too much to ask of them, obviously, but its the role being thrust upon them over the next few months while the NHL and NHLPA attempt to bridge the billion dollar gap in CBA negotiations. The P-Bruins should, at the very least, be a more enjoyable product to watch on the ice with more highly skilled players, and the playoffs are within their reach after they were reduced to a barren hockey wasteland last winter.
Weve got some young guys and some veterans. I think weve got more talent than we did last year, said Caron. Weve got some size. Were looking forward to having a good season, making the playoffs and having a good run.
Its been five months since I last played in a game, so itll be a bit different. But Im excited to get it started and have a good season.
The P-Bruins start their excellent AHL odyssey Friday night as the only show in town until the NHL gets its affairs in order and begins their regular season at a point unknown on the hockey calendar.