P-Bruins ready to roll with young talent

840305.jpg

P-Bruins ready to roll with young talent

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.

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while doing some early Christmas shopping ahead of the late rush. 

*Mike Zeisberger sits down with a quartet of NHL governors and discusses a number of hot topics including the Vegas franchise and scoring around the league. 

*Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been removed from the NHL Board of Governor’s Executive Committee amid rumors that the Canes might be a prime candidate for relocation. 

*Pierre McGuire weighs in on Connor McDavid’s war of words on the ice and Carey Price losing his mind in the crease against the New Jersey Devils. To that end, Wayne Gretzky liked seeing McDavid get a little combative at such a young age. 

*The New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five year contract extension, and some are skeptical it will turn out well for the Isles.

*David Pastrnak is a premier scoring threat in the league, and Scott Cullen has some details behind that. I will say this: his stock falling in the draft had less to do with his size or heaviness, and more to do with him being concussed for a long stretch of time during the year leading up to the draft. 

*The Florida Panthers are really struggling to stay positive with a 1-5-0 record since the ownership group and management decided to fire Gerard Gallant. 

*For something completely different: Baywatch stars then and now.