PROVIDENCE, RI — When the AHL season came to a close last year, the Providence Bruins found themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. A team of young, developing prospects came up short of postseason aspirations.
A year later, the same young core, accompanied by an influx of veterans, is still maturing, with their sites set on the NHL, but also ready to compete and produce in the American League.
Having completed training camp, and four exhibition games, the Providence Bruins are set to open their regular season Friday at the Dunkin Donuts Center against the Manchester Monarchs. With many new faces, and some old, the 2012-13 version of the P-Bruins is beginning to take shape, with the cast of characters figuring out their roles.
"I expect good things," said Providence captain Trent Whitfield. Last week, after playing in his first exhibition game against Bridgeport, Whitfield said the team was still getting its timing down. Now, having gone through considerable preparation, the 13-year veteran sees a much more cohesive Providence unit.
"We’ve had great practices all week," he said. "I thought we played well in all the exhibition games."
With players like Jordan Caron, Torey Krug, Lane MacDermid, and a host of other young names with NHL experience, Providence is a team filled with skill. According to Providence Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, and Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney, developing and winning will come hand-in-hand.
"You always want to both, it just hasn’t happened for us recently," Cassidy said. "But [Don Sweeney] said it; you never lose site of development.
"We’re here to produce players in the pipeline for the Boston Bruins, and you just want to do it in a winning environment."
Providence juggled different lineups and combinations during its four-game exhibition schedule, using a variety of looks to figure out might work. While chemistry is still being built, niches are being found. Newcomer Christian Hanson proudly told BostonBruins.com he’s ready to bring a physical presence to the Dunk. So did NHL journeyman Garnet Exelby. And when Cassidy addressed the media after the team’s final preseason, he dispelled any quarterback controversy pertaining to his squad’s special teams unit.
"I expect Chris Bourque to be very good on [the power play], and I’ll start right there," Cassidy said. "I’m joking, but I’m serious; he’s a guy who knows how to run a power play."
Bourque, another new face in Providence, has shown the ability to fill a box score in the AHL during his up-and-down professional career. Whitfield said offense is something his team has lacked in its past couple of seasons. In Bourque, help may be on the way.
"The power play looks good," Bourque said. "Hopefully we can translate that from practice into the game.
"I [just want to] go out there every night and play hard, and try and contribute offensively when given the chance."
With that skill up front, Providence will certainly boast many players for opposing defenses to target. But with bigger guys like Hanson and Exelby, the path may be cleared for the P-Bruins skill players to work their magic.
"I think it wasn’t that long ago that I was a young, snot-nosed kid so to speak," Exelby joked with BostonBruins.com. "I had some great mentors along that way.
"Anything I can do to help, and get their back; if they’re getting roughed up a little too much out there, obviously, I like to get involved with that stuff myself, so I’ll do whatever I can to help the team and help the young guys move along."