Boston Bruins: Previewing Providence and the AHL's Atlantic Division

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Boston Bruins: Previewing Providence and the AHL's Atlantic Division
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Max Sauve could have had a 20-goal season if he were able to play the full year with Providence in 2011-12. He and his fellow returning P-Bruins will have a clean sheet beginning next month.

The Providence Bruins’ road to redemption, i.e. a return to the playoffs after a four-year absence, is unprecedentedly dense with divisional dates. Precisely half (38) of the 76 games on their 2012-13 season schedule will feature an adversary from the AHL Atlantic.

Translation: Providence’s promising preseason lineup will only be as good as it drives through the likes of St. John’s, Portland and especially Manchester and Worcester. If enough key cogs arrive performance-wise on game night, a division title and automatic home ice for the first round are wholly attainable.

Yet, as second-year head coach Bruce Cassidy ought to know, inconsistency amidst a hefty slate of virtual four-point tilts can quickly bust a tire or two.

Based on a Friday press release naming 34 training camp participants, the P-Bruins will return 18 participants from the 2011-12 season and add another 16 aspirants for the next two weeks.

Although they were not initially listed when the parent Boston Bruins announced their AHL assignments ahead of the NHL lockout, newly acquired forward Chris Bourque and returning enforcer Lane MacDermid both project to take part.

This should mean having the 2010 Calder Cup playoff MVP and top AHL regular-season point-getter from last year in Providence for 2012-13. Bourque, along with third-year Bruin Jordan Caron and rising prospects Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner figure to be the go-to offensive pilots.

Seasoned captain Trent Whitfield and newcomer Christian Hanson will join Bourque, Caron and Jamie Tardif as the learned trendsetters on offense. Youngsters Carter Camper, Craig Cunningham, Kyle MacKinnon and Max Sauve will simply be tasked with staying healthy and staying the course in their development.

The P-Bruins defensive corps will feature five returning regulars along with NHL/AHL veteran Garnet Exelby and two fresh-out-of-college rookies in Torey Krug and Tommy Cross. Exelby, Matt Bartkowski and Colby Cohen will stand as the elder statesmen while sophomore Kevan Miller seeks to follow up on an uncanny plus-20 campaign.

The other four blueliners coming in for camp this Friday are long shots and are more realistic candidates for the ECHL, at best. But some will likely see slivers of AHL action over the course of the season in accordance with the inevitable revolving door, especially if the lockout ends in time to salvage an NHL campaign.

Third-year pro Michael Hutchinson is the front-runner candidate for the starting job in net, though Niklas Svedberg need not waste any time acclimating to North America and preparing for his share of the workload.

With a little less than three weeks left until the teams in question begin to set themselves apart on the ice, the opposing outlooks are still relatively similar. Here is a capsule of the P-Bruins' four Atlantic Division cohabitants based on their presumptive NHL lockout lineups.

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