P-Bruins in fight to finish
The Manchester Monarchs close the regular season tonight at Providence at 7:05 in what could be a playoff preview.
The Monarchs (48-19-8 for 104 points) have sewn up the best record in the Eastern Conference and will be the No. 1 seed.
The Bruins, meanwhile, are 39-24-11 for 89 points and could finish anywhere as high as fifth place or as low and ninth and out of the playoffs altogether. As of this morning, Providence is in seventh place, Norfolk eighth. The first round of the playoffs pits the No. 1 seed against the No. 8 seed, No. 2 against No. 7, No. 3 against No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5.
"They'll be scrapping for every point and there is a likelihood we could be facing them," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "We've got to view this as them being the team we get matched up against."
Providence has had several players called up to Boston recently, including Justin Florek, Alex Khokhlachev, Craig Cunningham and Matt Lindblad.
"They experienced some call-ups to the Bruins, but we know they're close enough that they could add a few faces (coming back down) and improve their roster," Morris said.
As for Manchester's own roster, a former Bruin's status is in doubt. Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk has an injury and might not be ready to play.
Bodnarchuk served his suspension for his game misconduct in Saturday's game against Portland, a game he would have missed anyway due to the injury.
"I'm not sure where things are at with him. He's a big concern as to whether he's going to be ready to go. He's already served his one-game suspension," Morris said. "We'd like him to play, but we'll have to see how much progress he's made over the last few days."
Manchester will have captain Andrew Campbell back after his stint in Los Angeles. NHL veteran Colin Fraser could also be back in the lineup. On the subtractions side of the roster, Linden Vey was called up to L.A. and Brian O'Neill is out six to eight weeks with a leg injury.
The Monarchs' front office is currently sorting out the playoff game dates with the potential opponents. Due to conflicts with other events scheduled at those other rinks, the Monarchs may not have true home ice advantage.
Scheduling issues could lead to scenarios where Manchester is away for the first two games of the best-of-five first round and home for the final three games,or even vice versa.
"We don't really have any advantage of home ice because of building availabilities," Morris said. "No matter who it is we've got to make sure we're ready to play whether home or on the road."
In either case, the Monarchs will begin the playoffs by the end of next week, at the latest.