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Coach sits 3 P-Bruins to shake up the team

2.14.2001 00:05
Peter Ferraro, Andre Savage and Marquis Mathieu were healthy scratches for last night's game.
Journal Sports Writer

PROVIDENCE -- In the wake of last Sunday's ugly 7-4 loss to lowly Albany, P-Bruins coach Bill Armstrong promised there would a major shakeup for last night's home game against the Mighty Ducks of Cincinnati.

And Armstrong was true to his word. He delivered a bombshell that he hoped would turn things around for his slumping club that entered last night's game with a four-game losing streak. Although he refused to divulge their names earlier in the day, it soon became obvious what he had decided to do. Armstrong benched three of the team's most popular players for what he considered poor play in the Albany game -- Peter Ferraro, Andre Savage and Marquis Mathieu.

All Armstrong would say on the matter after yesterday morning's skate is that he had addressed the matter with his team and would have no further comment on his actions.

"It is a family matter, I've addressed it and I'm not going to say anything more about it. I think every coach has to make these types of decisions when it comes to players not playing up to what the coach expects of them. I'm not blaming these guys for that loss but all I ask is for effort."

However, it wasn't too hard to figure out who wasn't playing. Ferraro, Savage and Mathieu did not skate with the team. They had their own private practice yesterday morning at the Civic Center. It was the same thing when the team practiced Monday -- a separate session for the three benched players.

Savage and Mathieu stayed in the trainer's room and weren't available to give their response. But Ferraro sat in front of his locker and let his feelings be known.

"To not be playing is pretty disturbing for all three of us," Ferraro said. "All of us have contributed to this team over the years and you're not going to be able to play great all the time. All three of us are competitors. We battle and we play hard. Now we have to stay together and get through this."

Each player had a meeting with Armstrong, said Ferraro. "No question we were being singled out. All of us were told that we had to turn our game around. There was no response from any of us."

According to Ferraro the benched trio has received a lot of support from teammates.

"The support the team has showed us has been great over the last few days. The quality of the people in this locker room is something else. We are surrounded by good people.," said Ferraro. "Bottom line is I want what is best for this team. If this is what it takes for the team to get back on track, then it is a good thing."

Asked if Armstrong, by singling out three top players on the squad, was sending a message to the rest of the club that it could happen to anyone, Ferraro replied; "That's possible. I don't know what his thinking was but I would rather take the brunt of this than have anyone else have to go through it. Twenty-five guys are happy with each other but not happy with the way the team is playing. We have to get back to what worked for us early in the season and that is playing in-your-face-hockey. Right now we're staying back and thinking too much and reacting too late."

"I'm not looking for anything negative to come out of this. I just want this team to get untracked because these guys deserve to be a first-place club," Ferraro said.

Providence captain defenseman Brandon Smith, who has played with Ferraro, Mathieu and Savage since the P-Bruins won the Calder Cup two years ago, said Armstrong's decision to bench the threesome was a way of trying to do something to get the team going.

"You don't like to see this happen to these guys and I don't know if it will change anything that drastically," reacted Smith. "But we're all pros and things like this happen. You don't like to see it, but you continue to work hard every night."

Winger Jeremy Brown said he knows how Ferraro, Mathieu and Savage feel. "It happened to me earlier in the season. I had to sit out after what was considered a bad game and it hurts," Brown said. "In this case I didn't notice how these guys were playing Sunday but maybe it is a message to everyone else. I don't think our system of playing has changed. We just haven't been executing in our own end or able to put the puck in the net."

Prior to last night's game, the P-Bruins were 5-11-2 since the start of the new year.

2001 The Providence Journal Company

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