With all his travels through the Maritimes, Toronto, Peoria and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, defenseman Andy Wozniewski
hadn't really had much of a chance to play in or investigate Providence.
But the new Bruins defenseman is making up for lost time.
"It's a great American Hockey League city. It's got to be in the top three," he raved. "There're great restaurants. There's a lot to do. The travel is light. Our longest trip is two hours."
As much as Wozniewski has taken to Providence, he's been an even better match for the Bruins.
Six years into his pro career, Wozniewski, 29, has slipped into an offensive role like anyone else might pull on a new suit. In his first eight games with the Bruins, he posted 5 goals and 9 assists. The 14 points are seven shy of the total he came up with in 74 games combined with Peoria and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season. The 5 goals are two short of his AHL career high, produced in 33 games with the Marlies in 2007-08.
"I think it's a few things," Wozniewski said. "I came into this year in really good shape. I felt like I had a good NHL training camp. That carried right into Providence. The coaches have put me in a position to succeed, being on the power play, on the first unit. Things have been going my way."
That only highlights how close Wozniewski came to maybe taking a different direction as a free agent in the offseason. In what he described as a "strange" summer, potential options and teams' interest in him changed almost on a daily basis. When he sat down to put all the pieces together, the puzzle that formed looked like the Bruins.
"It wasn't an easy decision. Let's put it that way," Wozniewski said. "It looked like the team was going in the right direction. Ever since training camp, I've had a good feel by the entire organization. Prior years, I've been in a situation where you almost don't even speak to a coach through the entire preseason. This is a lot different."
Starting over, again
-- As far as starting from scratch again goes, Lowell Devils goalie Mike McKenna
is doing a pretty good job.
Maybe that's because he's become so used to it.
The up-and-down netminder recorded two shutouts in his first five games, a span even he admitted he'd be spending in the ECHL if not for an injury to Devils goalie Jeff Frazee
"It's not bad for a guy who thought he was going to be in Trenton two weeks ago," said McKenna, 26. "I don't know if I've ever started off quite like this. I hope that somebody is taking notice. I'm doing the best I can."
McKenna has learned that guarantees very little. He thought he should have at least earned a few more chips on his table after finally reaching the NHL last season, playing 15 games in Tampa Bay. That was the end reward for a zigzag that had swung him through four AHL teams since turning pro in 2005-06.
But he attracted nothing except blank stares on the open market last summer, and went to New Jersey's camp to fight for a spot in the organization.
"Maybe they just didn't think I was capable," McKenna said of getting bypassed. "If anything, it's put a chip on my shoulder for this season, so far."
With veteran Gerald Coleman
also fighting for time in the system with Trenton of the ECHL and Frazee returning to action, McKenna realizes that his prove-it-to-me period with the Devils could end at any time.
"I've always worried about it because I've been in such limbo all the time," he said. "When you come from nothing, I don't think you expect to receive anything. I've never gone into something lightly. I've had to battle for everything I've had in this league."
Pain's his game
-- Springfield goalie Devan Dubnyk
isn't much into the whole concept of icing down after games. Something about wrapping mini-icebergs against his skin leaves him feeling, well, a little cold.
"I came into this year in really good shape. I felt like I had a good NHL training camp. That carried right into Providence. The coaches have put me in a position to succeed, being on the power play, on the first unit. Things have been going my way."
-- Andy Wozniewski
"It's just uncomfortable," he said. "It's not a fun thing to do."
Dubnyk may soon have to warm up to that idea out of necessity.
Dubnyk, 23, is back at his combination iron man/piñata act. He is third in the AHL in minutes played (468) and leads with 274 saves. Against Worcester on Oct. 24, he made an AHL season-high 46 saves but took the loss as the Falcons dropped a 1-0 decision in overtime.
That's something of a painful déjà vu after Dubnyk paced the AHL in minutes (3,635) and shots faced (1,910) last season.
"You just kind of go and play. If the shots come, they come," Dubnyk said. "It's what we train for, right? That's why we do all the work in the summer. I signed up to be a goalie. I'm happy to be a goalie. It's my job to stop pucks. I don't want to complain about my only job."
Around the AHL
-- The AHL's top four offenses at the end of last week resided in the Atlantic Division: Lowell (3.56 goals per game), Worcester (3.50), Providence (3.50) and Hartford (3.44). ... Chicago defenseman Arturs Kulda
set a franchise record with a plus-6 rating on vs. Abbotsford on Oct. 24. ... Hamilton's eight-game points streak to start the season is a franchise record. ... The Oct. 24 contest between Syracuse and Rochester was quite a night for enforcers. The Crunch's Jon Mirasty
broke a 71-game pointless streak with an assist; the Amerks' Jimmy Bonneau
potted his first goal since the 2007-08 season. ... Rochester's OT victory in that game snapped a 12-game losing streak to Syracuse in its War Memorial. ... The Amerks' current seven-game winning streak that is the club's longest since reeling off seven straight victories from Oct. 29 to Nov. 18, 2006. ... Before last weekend, the last time Grand Rapids scored four power-play goals in a game was March 14, 2006. The Griffins hit that total twice against Abbotsford, on Oct. 23 and 25. The first contest was played in front of a home capacity crowd of 10,834, Grand Rapids' 14th consecutive home opener sellout. ... Hamilton's Mathieu Darche
recorded his 200th career AHL goal in the Bulldogs' 4-1 win against Manitoba on Oct. 20. ... Manchester has gone its last eight games without allowing a first-period goal. ... The Adirondack Phantoms have moved their Dec. 4 home game against the Norfolk Admirals from the Glens Falls Civic Center to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The Phantoms were located in Philadelphia until this season. ... Six of Adirondack's first eight games were decided by one goal.