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P-Bruins Notebook: Five added to opening-night roster

By BOB DICK
Journal Sports Writer

PROVIDENCE -- More reinforcements for the Providence Bruins arrived from Boston late yesterday. Rejoining the P-Bruins were forwards Andre Savage and Eric Nickulas and defenseman Elias Abrahamsson. Newcomers to Providence are forwards Joe Hulbig, who skated for Providence College, and Sean Pronger .

All five will fly with the team when its leaves today for St. John's, Newfoundland, where Providence opens defense of its AHL Calder Cup title Friday night against the St. John's Maple Leafs.

Savage was a rookie standout last year, scoring 27 goals during the regular season. Nickulas tallied 31 goals in the regular season for Providence and added 8 more in the playoffs. Hulbig was a 22-goal scorer for Hamilton last year and then scored four in 11 postseason games.

Forwards Antii Laaksonen and Marquis Mathieu are also expected to eventually be returned to Providence. However, Laaksonen is hampered by an ankle sprain, while Mathieu hasn't started skating yet. He's recovering from hip surgery in June.

Ferraro frustrated

Clearly, forward Peter Ferraro is disappointed he doesn't fit into any of Boston's immediate plans. Last year's MVP of the Calder Cup playoffs for Providence was one of three players Boston left exposed in last June's expansion draft. He was taken by the Atlanta Thrashers. But then Boston worked out a deal so Atlanta wouldn't take goaltender Rob Tallas, and Ferraro was traded back to Boston for Providence's AHL MVP, Randy Robitaille.

Then, this past Monday, Ferraro was made available by Boston for the waiver draft. No one selected him and he was sent down to Providence on Monday night along with goaltender Kay Whitmore and forwards Aaron Downey, Joel Prpic and Jay Henderson. Of that group, only Downey missed yesterday's P-Bruins practice at PC's Schneider Arena.

``It has been a roller-coaster ride for myself over the last six months,'' said Ferraro who potted 9 goals and collected 12 assists in the Calder Cup playoffs. ``But it is something you have to overcome. The season here is starting and I have to put everything else behind me.''

Providence coach Peter Laviolette and Ferraro had a conversation on the ice at the end of yesterday's practice. ``He wanted to know how I thought things went in camp. I told him I thought I did my job and felt comfortable there. It's just a situation where they're giving other players a look,'' Ferraro said.

``I've always believed that if Ferraro played 80 games in this league, he would be a 50-goal scorer,'' Laviolette said. ``He is a tremendous player at this level and I expect him to be on a pace for 50 goals. Then again, if he's scoring at that rate, he won't last a full season here.''

Whitmore opens in goal

The veteran Whitmore will open in goal for Providence against the Maple Leafs, said Laviolette. Whitmore, 32, is starting his 13th professional season. Last year he split the season with Hartford and the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL. Whitmore saw little action while in the Boston camp.

``I played only a game and a half, but I've been around a long time. It doesn't take a long time to get going,'' Whitmore said. ``It was actually a blessing to have a lot of practices before I got to play. My game is fairly technical. I don't like to go down a lot, so I worked on my angles. All the practices actually helped. I felt good in the games and I played pretty well.''

Laviolette isn't sure who will be in the Providence nets in Game Two Saturday night at St. John's. Newcomer Martin Gingras is Providence's other goaltender.

New attitude for Aitken

Boston's top pick in the 1996 NHL draft, defenseman Johnathan Aitken, is back for his second stint with the P-Bruins. To some, the 21-year-old Aitken has been a huge disappointment since the day he was drafted.

For most of last year, Aitken was a work in progress but did show marked improvement in the playoffs, especially in the Calder Cup finals against Rochester.

``This year we expect to see that type of play night in and night out,'' Laviolette said. ``He has to be a consistent force along the blue line for us. I think he grew up as a player and as a person last year.''

A year ago, when Aitken was sent down by Boston, he admitted he didn't display a good attitude. This year, he says ``What's done is done. I can't sit back and whine about things. I tell myself that I'm here again and I have to make the most it and work hard. I have to play good defensive hockey and be physical game in and game out.''

Several new faces

Other new faces for Providence include defensemen Mark Krys, Eric Brule, Vratislav Cech, Shane Belter, Jeff Wells and Denis Timofeev, along with forwards Tim Lovell, Eric Manlow and Kevin Kaminski . . . P-Bruin assistant coach Bill Armstrong reports he and Boston finally worked out a new one-year contract.

Copyright 1999 The Providence Journal Company

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