Finally, Monarchs are home
The road has been kind to the Manchester Monarchs, but now it's time to come home.
The Monarchs (3-0-1) have one more road game tonight at Hartford at 7 before the home opener at Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Providence Bruins. Manchester will then host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday at 3 p.m.
"It'll be nice. Our building is a fun atmosphere to play in and everyone feels real comfortable there," said Monarchs forward Brandon Kozun. "We've managed to do well on the road so far, which is huge. We know we'll be ready to go once we get back to the Verizon."
The five games on the road to start the season did wonders for team bonding, but skating at home will still be welcomed by the team.
"It's going to be great. It's been a long time coming and I think the boys are anxious to get back there," said goalie Martin Jones. "Sometimes playing on the road early in the season is not the worst thing. You get everybody on the bus together and those are good team-building things."
The Bruins (2-1-1) will come to town looking for revenge after the Monarchs overcame a 2-0 deficit and went on to win 3-2 in a shootout a week ago. With players like Jordan Caron, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug now up with the big club in Boston, Providence has a bit of a new look this season.
"They're a little different than they were last year. They had a few more guys that have progressed on to the Bruins lineup so they're breaking in some newer players," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "They still play a very aggressive game and they're a dangerous team if you give them too much time and space."
Much like the Monarchs, Providence has benefited from varied scoring in the lineup, led by Ryan Spooner with two goals and three assists for five points. Spooner had a strong camp with Boston and is one of the top contenders to move up should a need arise.
Dartmouth College product Nick Johnson (3-1-4) is next on the scoring sheet and then three rookies who bear watching. Centerman Alexander Khokhlavhev (0-3-3), left wing Jared Knight (2-0-2) and right wing Alexander Fallstrom (1-1-2) have all started the season on solid footing.
"They're a good team," Jones said. "We've got to worry on our game and focus on what we need to so, skate and stick to our systems. You make any mistakes against them and they can make you pay."
Providence also has two young goalies that Boston is watching closely. Niklas Svedberg is 2-0-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average. Rookie Malcom Subban is 0-1, giving up four goals in his pro debut.
Tuukka Rask's backup in Boston is Chad Johnson, a veteran journeyman who works well as a stop-gap measure while Svedberg and Subban develop. Svedberg shows promise while Subban will continue to learn the pro game as the season unfolds.
As for the Monarchs goaltending situation, Jones will likely get a night off during this three-game weekend to allow J.F. Berube to get his first start of the year.
"We'll probably have to get a start for Berube at some point and give him a shot and see how he handles things here," Morris said. "We'll have a few decisions to make and hopefully, we stay healthy so that chemistry continues to build."