P-Bruins Gameday — Kicking off a chocolate-covered weekend

PROVIDENCE — Zane McIntyre vs. Pheonix Copley is expected to be the goalie matchup tonight at 7 when the Providence Bruins host the Hershey Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

After a day off on Saturday, the teams will play again on Sunday at 1 p.m., also at The Dunk.

The P-Bruins — in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with a 7-4-2-0 record and .615 win percentage — will be looking to get back on track after dropping three games in a row, the last two in overtime.

As of late Friday morning, the injury-ravaged parent club, playing next in San Jose on Saturday night, had made no additional callups from the P-Bruins. Obviously, that could change before the puck is dropped in Providence tonight.

Hershey — sixth in the Atlantic with a 7-7-0-2 record and .500 win percentage — is getting its game in gear after a slow start that was directly related to injuries to goalies Copley and Vitek Vanecek, both of whom are back in the lineup now.

The Bears are coming off a 3-2 win at home against Syracuse on Wednesday. They are led by one of the top lines in the AHL — Chris Bourque, Travis Boyd and Wayne Simpson.

Bourque, who leads the AHL in scoring with 7-16-23 in 16 games, had two goals against Syracuse, both on setups from Simpson, who had a career AHL year with the P-Bruins last season before landing an NHL deal with Washington during the summer.

While Bourque and Simpson are familiar faces here, Boyd maybe flies under the radar a bit, though not in the eyes of P-Bruins coach Jay Leach.

“That Boyd is a nice player. He’s got some serious skill,” Leach said this morning.

Handling Boyd’s line will be a test for Providence’s defense, which as usual will feature three rookies tonight.

For Leach and all his coaching counterparts around the league, mistakes by young defensemen as they adjust to the pro game are par for the course.

“I’m a huge believer that it takes defensemen a long time to really mature. You’re just going to have to live with it. We had four icings in the third period (on Sunday) and they were all rookie D-men not being able to execute a pass. The only way to get over that, in my opinion, is just playing, getting more comfortable,” he said.

“When you have the puck on your stick and you’re the last guy back and it’s 3-2, you don’t want to give it up because you know it’s coming right back down your throat. So there’s more pressure and therefore you don’t execute.

“Consistently being in those situations eventually will lead to better execution. It takes a while, unless you’re something special, like Charlie McAvoy. And you still see mistakes with Charlie McAvoy, just not as many.”

Here are Providence’s lines:

Porter-Czarnik-Payerl

Fitzgerald-JFK-Senyshyn

Blidh-Cave-Acolatse

Gabrielle-Hennessy-Hickman

Providence’s defense pairs:

Johansson-Cross

Lauzon-Grzelcyk

Breen-Clifton

Binnington will be the backup goalie.

Scratches: Zboril (upper body), Hargrove

 

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