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P-Bruins, Lowell start out on a note of respect

4.21.2000 00:02:31
Journal Sports Writer

PROVIDENCE -- When Bruce Boudreau talks about the Providence Bruins, he makes it seem as if they are a modern-day version of the long-ago Montreal Canadiens, who picked off Stanley Cups as if they were grapes on a vine.

The Lowell Lock Monsters' coach, who brings his team to the Civic Center tonight (7 o'clock) for Game One of their American Hockey League Eastern Conference Calder Cup semifinals, says of the defending champs: ``They are the best attack team in the league, and they come at you for a full 60 minutes. Maybe the best thing for us is to be tied with them late in the game, then we might have a chance to win it at the end, because any lead on them is never safe. They keep coming back.''

Boudreau insists that Lowell's 4-3-1 advantage over Providence during the regular season is meaningless. ``The team we played then is not the team we'll be seeing in the playoffs,'' he said.

``I guess he'd like us to believe we're invincible,'' responded Providence coach Peter Laviolette when told of Boudreau's complimentary remarks.

Providence closed out the regular season by losing eight of its last nine games with a roster consisting of up to 12 players from the East Coast Hockey League. The P-Bruins were the eighth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

But when the NHL season ended and Boston failed to make the playoffs, 11 Bruins were sent back to Providence, turning the P-Bruins into instant contenders.

Even though Providence is considered the team to beat because of the reinforcements from Boston and the New York Islanders, Laviolette realizes his team is far from invincible.

Laviolette becomes upset when it is pointed out that he has a lot of Boston's players in the Providence locker room now.

``What Boston guys?'' he asked. ``These were all our own Providence players who had to go to Boston during the season as emergency callups because of injuries. They were all our guys to begin with.''

It hasn't hurt the development of those players to have spent time in the NHL fine-tuning their skills and getting ready for the AHL playoffs. Providence players who played for Boston this season totaled 228 games of NHL experience.

Providence had its offense in high gear in the first round of the playoffs, ousting Quebec in three straight and outscoring the Citadelles, 14-9. Antti Laaksonen had two game-winning goals in that series.

``We can't have any kind of lapses against this club,'' Boudreau said. ``And we have to stay out of the penalty box and not give them a man advantage.''

Laviolette, who watched Lowell complete a three-game sweep of the Saint John Flames, is concerned about how his team will handle Lowell's first-period pressure.

``They are terrific in the first period; they are all over teams. We have to make it a point to be at least even with them or ahead after one period,'' said the Providence coach.

Adds winger Peter Ferraro, ``Lowell definitely has a lot of depth. That's the biggest problem that we're going to face. They aren't just a team with one or two guys; they have a good variety of players, and they have great goaltending (Roberto Luongo and Travis Scott). They remind me a lot of our team.

``We have to set the tempo early and make them play our way. We can't fall into their game. They have given us trouble. Whenever we have played them, it has been tight checking, and they limit your opportunities. A lot of the goals we have scored have been garbage goals around the net. We haven't scored many pretty goals against them. We have to get ahead of them and stay ahead of them.''

Ferraro said the P-Bruins shouldn't rely on goaltender John Grahame to bail them out of trouble all the time.

``As a team, we can't leave Johnny stranded all night and have him make the saves that he's made in the past to keep us in games. We have to take responsibility as a team defensively and limit those chances,'' Ferraro said. ``There's only so much he can do in there alone. He can't be facing point-blank shots all the time.''

2000 The Providence Journal Company

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