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December 01. 2011 11:06PM

Monarchs' set features visit from Baby B's


Manchester Monarchs players Dwight King, left, and Linden Vey, pour out soup during dinner service for seniors at New Horizons for New Hampshire. Monarchs fans will also be assisting New Horizons on Sunday by bringing boxes of stuffing to the game. The stuffing will be donated to New Horizons’ Holiday Baskets program. The baskets will be made up of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, bread and vegetables, and will be delivered to low-income families in New Hampshire on Saturday, Dec. 17. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

It’s a busy weekend for the Manchester Monarchs, who will visit defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton tonight and then host Providence on Saturday (7 p.m.) and Worcester on Sunday (3 p.m.).

Manchester has improved to 12-9-1 for second place in the Atlantic Division thanks to a six-game winning streak. Tonight’s meeting with the Senators will be the first since Binghamton came back from a 3-1 series hole in the first round of the playoffs to eliminate the Monarchs in seven games back in April.

“It’s a big weekend for us,” said Monarchs forward David Meckler. “We’ve had some success over the past six games and we want to keep momentum going forward and Binghamton is going to be a good test. We definitely owe them after the playoffs.”

The Senators don’t look much like the team that won it all last season. Binghamton is 7-12-2 for 16 points, placing them 29th out of the 30 teams in the AHL. Many of their players, including former University of New Hampshire standout Bobby Butler, are with the parent club in Ottawa now.

“There’s a lot of familiar names and faces that we saw in the playoffs. But I’ve also watched the Ottawa Senators and many of those guys are in the NHL now,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “I think we have a good understanding of the way they play and what brought them success in the past.”

As for Saturday’s visit from the “Baby Bruins,” Providence has been on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Monarchs, losing six in a row. In another flip-flop of fortunes between the teams, Providence has been losing tight, one-goal games while Manchester has found ways to win them.

“Our margin for error is very small. We haven’t been winning these games by very large margins. To our credit, we’ve been able to weather the storm and find ways to win these tight games,” Morris said. “When you’re staying focused for extended periods of time you tend to be more prepared and more resilient because you don’t panic in those situations.”

Several key Providence players have been called up to Boston, but the P-Bruins still have some future big-leaguers worth keeping an eye on when they hit the ice at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Rookie defenseman David Warsofsky is opening some eyes with his play. Through 20 games, he has a goal and nine assists. Warsofsky plays a clean game (just four penalty minutes) and likes to shoot the puck from the point.

With rumors continuing to pop up from time to time that goalie Tuukka Rask is trade bait out of Boston, the goaltender position remains one to watch in Providence. Anton Khudobin is 25 years old and has toiled in the AHL for six seasons. His window is closing rapidly.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Michael Hutchinson has been on the rise and is better positioned to take the backup role in Boston should Rask leave town.

The busy weekend concludes with a visit from Worcester (6-6-5), a team the Monarchs have faced several times in the past few weeks, often with brutal results in physical, fight-laden games.

The three-game weekend kicks off a stretch of nine games in 18 days for Manchester.

“This is very important. When you get games three in three (nights) and keep doing that, momentum is key and you just want to feel good coming to the rink,” Meckler said. “We want to get off to a good start and ride that wave we’re on and start rolling and push right through this month.”


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