MANCHESTER — It's a busy Atlantic Division weekend for the Manchester Monarchs.
First-place Manchester (11-3-3, 25 points) will host Worcester tonight at 7 at Verizon Wireless Arena and Providence Saturday at 7 p.m. before heading to Worcester for a 3 p.m. matinee Sunday.
"We seem to see the same teams a lot. Worcester is a physical team and Providence has a lot of firepower, so we have to make sure we're ready to go," said Monarchs forward Brandon Kozun. "Division games are worth a little more than just a random team."
The Sharks enter the weekend in last place in the Atlantic at 5-7-1 for 11 points, but Worcester has gone 2-0-1 over its last three games.
"Worcester is always a tough opponent. They play a rugged style of hockey and it's going to be important for us to really focus on our execution against those guys," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "There are not many secrets between the two organizations. We're going to focus on trying to minimize any breakdowns."
The second-place Bruins (7-5-3, 17 points) will come to town Saturday looking to reverse the season trend. Manchester is 4-0 against the P-Bruins this season.
"(We play) very similar styles, very aggressive," Morris said. "We've had close games and both teams like to skate and you've got to be up for them because they defend by closing off your ice quickly."
Providence is led offensively by one of the Bruins' top prospects, center Ryan Spooner. He scored his first two NHL points (both on assists) earlier this month during a two-game call-up to Boston.
The P-Bruins have several other talented forwards such as Matt Fraser (11 goals, two assists) and his set-up man, Carter Camper (two goals, 11 assists).
"It's going to be imperative that we manage the puck well against those guys because if you're careless they can play a quick transition game and you don't want to get into a track meet," Morris said.
The Monarchs are playing with a roster depleted by call-ups to Los Angeles. The entire top line of Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson, as well as goalie Martin Jones are all in L.A.
Rookie netminder J.F. Berube (2-2-0, 2.75 goals against average) is shouldering the load with Jones out west.