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October 11. 2012 8:45PM

Monarchs eager to get the regular season started

The NHL may be locked out, but pro hockey is alive and well in the AHL.

The Manchester Monarchs open the season tonight in Providence at 7:05 and then play at Albany Saturday night at 5:05. After a 3-0 preseason, the players are ready to hit the ice for real.

“We're all to the point where we want to get this thing going now. It's an exciting opening weekend schedule we have,” said Monarchs defenseman Thomas Hickey. “We have to take care of business first in Providence and then get on the road (to Albany).”

The Monarchs will be facing a Bruins team with a revamped lineup that should have fans of the parent club in Boston intrigued.

At the top of the list for newcomers is Chris Bourque, the son of legendary Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Ray. Bourque led the AHL in scoring last year with 93 points on 27 goals and a league-high 66 assists with Hershey.

Bourque is a legitimate playmaker and should get a good shot with Boston when the NHL resumes play.

Another player moving over from the Hershey Bears to the Providence version is Christian Hanson, son of infamous “Slap Shot” star Dave Hanson. But the offspring of the famous on-screen goon is a talented playmaker who has been hampered by injuries but will have a chance to flourish in Providence.

Returning Bruins players to watch include forwards Carter Camper, Jordan Caron and Craig Cunningham, and defensemen Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky.

Camper led Providence in scoring last season with 18-30-48 while Caron would be in Boston if not for the lockout. Caron scored 7-8-15 in 48 games with Boston last season. Cunningham (20-16-36) will look to take the next step toward a regular shift in the NHL.

Bartkowski improved his play in his own end significantly last season and Warsofsky moves the puck well from the point and racked up 24 assists last year.

In goal, the P-Bruins have Michael Hutchinson as the No. 1 man now. This will be Hutchinson's third pro season and his first as the clear-cut top netminder.

With a new system installed by the Kings and it being the season opener, the Monarchs will be looking internally rather than at the opposition to start the season.

“We'll be focused on ourselves,” Hickey said. “With some film to work on with what we've done in the exhibition games it will be really useful.”

The Monarchs open the home slate next Friday when Providence visits.

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