The St. John's IceCaps officially exit the American Hockey League's all-star break when they take on the Bruins tonight in Providence, R.I., although truth be told, four days off between games - the IceCaps last played Sunday at Mile One Centre - is nothing too much out of the ordinary for St. John's.
The IceCaps' return to action will come against a familiar opponent. Tonight's game (8:35 p.m. Newfoundland time) will be their eighth and final regular-season match-up against Providence and the fifth time they'll have met the P-Bruins in their last 10 games; the teams squared off in Providence Jan 24 and 26, with the IceCaps winning both games. They then split a pair of contests Feb. 4 and 5 at Mile One, with the IceCaps' victory coming in a shootout.
Even with two months left in the AHL 2013-14 regular schedule, there's much on the line tonight in this four-pointer. St. John's and Providence each have 59 points (the IceCaps have two games in hand) and are in the midst of a playoff-position logjam in the AHL's Eastern Conference, where the seven teams occupying positions No. 3 (Binghamton Senators, 62 points) to No. 9 (Albany Devils, 57) are separated by just five points.
The top eight teams in the 15-team conference advance to the post-season.
Both the Bruins and IceCaps have seen some notable roster changes since they last met 10 days ago. The Winnipeg Jets sent defenceman Zach Redmond and centre Eric O'Dell to St. John's, at least for the all-star break, while Providence got David Warsofsky, their highest-scoring rearguard, back from the parent team in Boston.
As well, the P-Bruins saw the departure of centre Carter Camper (8-23-31), traded in a deal between Boston and the Columbus Blue Jackets. In return, Providence received veteran defenceman Blake Parlett, who had been with Columbus's affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.
Parlett will help fill the void created by the loss of blueliner Joe Morrow, who will be out at least a month after suffering a knee injury in St. John's last week.
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Radio CJYQ 930AM (This is Newfoundland Labrador) and online at stjohnsicecaps.com and through Steele Communication websites. Brian Rogers' pre-game show will begin at approximately 8 p.m. NT.
The IceCaps have a rare Saturday off, then continue what will be a six-game road trip on Sunday (4:30 p.m.) in Manchester against the Eastern Conference-leading Monarchs. In the Atlantic Division, the Monarchs hold a 10-point lead on the second-place IceCaps and P-Bruins, but have played three more games than St. John's.