Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, in a recent interview with the Providence Journal, confirmed that rookie forwards Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner will both be unavailable this weekend. Knight continues to heal from a hamstring injury while Spooner is sitting as a precaution after sustaining an unspecified upper-body ailment that was traced back to last weekend’s game in Albany.
One mild silver lining is that both forwards will implicitly have a chance to return after missing only two games as opposed to the standard three-in-three slate. The Worcester Sharks stop by the Dunkin Donuts Center on Friday and the P-Bruins visit the Connecticut Whale on Saturday before the AHL takes a three-day, league-wide holiday respite.
To date, the visitor has prevailed in each of the first four Bruins-Sharks bouts, including three encounters in Providence. Besides attempting to reverse that trend on Friday, the P-Bruins will be safeguarding a one-point lead for second in the Atlantic Division, although they have a game in hand on Worcester.
In Spooner’s absence, the Sharks ought to be a telling measuring pole as to where the Bruins’ depth stands this weekend. Through four meetings, Spooner leads all individual participants in the season series with four points―one goal and three assists.
Jamie Tardif is a close second with three points at Worcester’s expense, while two of defenseman Matt Bartkowski’s five points in December have been spread over two encounters with the Sharks. On the other side of the puck, Worcester’s Yanni Gourde is on a three-game production streak against Providence.
Like the Bruins, the Whale will be missing at least one leaned-on freshman forward in Saturday’s meeting. Touted New York Rangers’ prospect J.T. Miller is on leave from Connecticut, hoping to skate with Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Championships, and is currently finishing his tryout in Finland.
The southern New England state capital rivals have split their first two of six matches so far, each claiming a regulation decision on home ice. Providence goaltenders Niklas Svedberg and Michael Hutchinson had their first of two shared shifts (the other being on Nov. 18) in the club’s last visit to the XL Center in a 6-3 lashing on Oct. 27.
Hutchinson got the start and the hook that night and eventually took the statistical blame for the loss after allowing four goals on 13 shots in 31 minutes and 30 seconds of play.
If recent trends in the rotation are any indication, Hutchinson will have a radiant invitation for redemption come Saturday. He has received the nod for each of the last two games and the last three Saturdays while Svedberg has started every Friday game since Nov. 9.
Down in Double-A, the South Carolina Stingrays are wrapping up their pre-Christmas itinerary with a two-night stay in Cincinnati. Friday and Saturday will be the last two installments of a three-game season series with the Cyclones, all meetings on the road.
The Rays previously dropped a 3-2 decision to the Cyclones on Nov. 13 in the final installment of a four-game, four-city road trip to the Midwest. Tommy Cross and Alden Hirschfeld, who have both since been summoned to Providence, pitched in a point apiece in the losing effort.
South Carolina is seeking to renew a winning habit after back-to-back regulation tries dropped it to 0-1-2 in its last three outings, which were preceded by six consecutive victories. Not so dissimilarly, the P-Bruins hope to readily rebound after Sunday’s 4-0 loss to St. John's halted a five-game winning streak and eight-game unbeaten run.