AHL Weekly Release: B’s head home atop Atlantic

Weekly Release #6
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Opening the season with 10 straight road games may have been a daunting challenge for the Providence Bruins, but the team finally hits the ice at home this week perched atop the Atlantic Division after a sizzling start.

The Bruins earned 17 of a possible 20 points (.850) to surge into first place in the Atlantic as they prepare for their home opener on Wednesday night against Portland. And if Providence is as successful at the renovated Dunkin’ Donuts Center as they have been in recent years, the B’s should be on their way to a 10th consecutive berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Since 2002-03, the Bruins own a .655 points percentage on home ice in the regular season (120w-58l-8t-7otl-7sol).

Led by fifth-year head coach Scott Gordon, Providence ranks first in the league this season in both shots on goal taken (36.3 per game) and shots allowed (21.3 per game), while ranking second in scoring (3.80 goals per game) and fifth in defense (2.40 goals against per game). Highly-touted rookie Tuukka Rask is 6-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average after starting seven of Providence’s first eight games this season. Rask, 20, was Toronto’s first-round pick (21st overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and was acquired by Boston in the deal that sent Andrew Raycroft to the Maple Leafs in 2006.

Rask is one of six Providence players who have already been recalled by the parent Boston Bruins this season. Rookie defenseman Matt Hunwick, who sports a plus-7 rating in nine AHL games, made his National Hockey League debut on Nov. 10 vs. Buffalo. Petteri Nokelainen had eight points in eight AHL games before his recall to Boston last week and is already halfway to his goal (6), assist (10) and point (16) outputs from 2006-07, when he played 60 games for Bridgeport. Jordan Sigalet, Brandon Bochenski and 2007 AHL All-Star Matt Lashoff have also gotten the call from Boston this year.

Pascal Pelletier, who leads the Bruins with nine assists and 12 points on the year, brings a five-game scoring streak into this week’s action, posting three goals and five assists in that span. Twenty-year-old rookie Vladimir Sobotka has a team-high five goals on the season, and second-year winger Martins Karsums has 10 points to go with his plus-10 rating, which is tops among all AHL forwards.

Jeff Hoggan, who won a Calder Cup as a rookie with Houston in 2003, has tallied eight points in seven games on the young season, while defenseman Sean Curry has seven points in nine games after the sixth-year pro set a career high with 13 points in 64 contests last season.

The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is undergoing a three-phase, $62-million renovation and upgrade that will include all new seats, sound system and video scoreboard, facility and concession upgrades, luxury suites and a redesigned lobby and concourse. The arena is remaining operational during renovations, which are expected to be completed for the 2008-09 season. Providence will play 15 of its next 17 games at home, including four in a 96-hour span this week.

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RYAN FLYIN’ FOR PHANTOMSRyan Potulny had a weekend to remember for the Philadelphia Phantoms, carrying the first-place club to three more victories.

With the Phantoms down 2-0 late in Friday’s game vs. Bridgeport, Potulny scored at 18:17 and 19:42 of the third period and again 2:11 into overtime to stun the Sound Tigers and give Philadelphia a 3-2 victory. On Saturday, Potulny scored 3:30 into the contest – his fourth goal in less than 7½ minutes – and the Phantoms held on to take a 2-0 win in Binghamton. It was more late heroics on Sunday, as Potulny set up the tying goal and then scored his third consecutive game-winner as Philadelphia rallied past Albany, 2-1.

Potulny, who had a hand in six of Philadelphia’s seven goals on the weekend, earned the Rbk/AHL Player of the Week award for his efforts.

MAC THE KNIFEClarke MacArthur made his NHL season debut a memorable one, scoring the overtime goal in Buffalo’s 2-1 victory over Boston on Nov. 7.

MacArthur, who was leading the AHL in scoring at the time of his recall from Rochester, had three goals and four assists in 19 games for the Sabres in 2006-07.

OH, BROTHER … Brothers John Vigilante of Milwaukee and Mike Vigilante of Manitoba had never faced off against each other at any level of competitive hockey – until this month.

The natives of Dearborn, Mich., were on opposite sides for the first time on Nov. 2, when younger sibling John picked up two assists but the elder Mike finished on the winning side as Manitoba earned a 6-3 win. John scored a goal in their second tête-à-tête on Nov. 10, but Mike’s Moose were victorious again, rallying for a 4-3 triumph.

ETC.Martin St. Pierre tallied two goals and three assists in Rockford’s 8-3 win over San Antonio on Nov. 11, and now has 119 points (34g, 85a) in his last 80 regular-season AHL games… More than six years after scoring three goals in an NHL game for Pittsburgh (Oct. 16, 2001 vs. Ottawa), Toby Petersen notched his first career AHL hat trick in Iowa’s 4-3 shootout win over Peoria on Nov. 6… Rookie Casey Borer scored his first two professional goals for Albany last week; they were the first goals by a River Rats defenseman all season… Charles Linglet has registered exactly one point in nine straight games for Peoria (1g, 8a)… Rookie Steve Downie has a point in all five of his games for Philadelphia (0g, 7a)… Defenseman Anton Stralman totaled two assists and a plus-6 rating in two weekend wins for Toronto… Former Penguins Jeff Deslauriers (41 saves), Jean-Francois Jacques (two goals) and Marc Pouliot (two assists) helped Springfield to a 4-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night… Chicago is 3-0-0-0 when trailing after two periods this season; the Wolves were the AHL’s only winless team (0-17-1-1) in such games a year ago… Saturday’s 4-1 win was Hartford’s 10th straight victory over Albany, a Wolf Pack record for consecutive wins over a single opponent… Houston, which had scored more than three goals in a game just once all season prior, tallied four goals in the third period of Saturday’s 5-1 win over Worcester… Manchester leads the league in power-play efficiency at 26.7 percent, but ranks 28th on the penalty kill at 72.7 percent… Binghamton, blanked three times last week, is the first AHL team to be shut out in three consecutive games since San Antonio in March 2006.