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P-Bruins Notebook: Boynton provides bright spot in dark times

PROVIDENCE -- If there has been any bright spot lately for the struggling Providence Bruins it has been the improved play of rookie defenseman Nick Boynton, who recently scored his first AHL goal in a win over Quebec.

Although Boynton, along with the rest of the club, didn't exactly excel in a four-goal loss to Lowell on Sunday night, Providence coach Peter Laviolette said he had been playing much better in his nine previous games.

``Maybe it's a confidence factor, I don't know. But I have seen improvement. His mistake level has dropped off and I think a lot of that is due to learning the system after a period of time,'' Laviolette said. ``He was pinching [moving deep into the offensive zone] a lot when he first got here, which were costly mistakes. He was getting caught but those kinds of things have lessened a lot. No question, he has the talent to do well.''

Boynton, who turns 21 next month, has been under a lot of pressure to succeed after being Boston's first pick in the 1999 NHL Draft in June. He starred with the Ottawa 67s and led that junior team to the 1999 Memorial Cup Championship and was named MVP of the tournament.

However, Boynton has learned the hard way that playing junior hockey is no where as difficult as playing in the AHL.

``I never thought it would be easy here. But I got here late because I had been hurt [shoulder injury] in training camp and when I got here I was trying to do too much,'' Boynton said. ``Lately, though, I've been feeling comfortable on the ice and playing a lot better. At the start I was just making too many stupid decisions. I know I can play in this league.''

Boynton, who has one goal and five assists in 24 games, admitted feeling the early pressure to do well and show Boston it had made the right decision in drafting him. ``I was struggling so bad early that I got down on myself really hard,'' he said. ``I had never had that problem before. I have to thank the coaches because I was playing awful and they kept me in there. Things are now looking up.''

Ferarro reinjures ankle

The news isn't good, either, for Providence winger Peter Ferraro. He reinjured his sprained right ankle in the second period Sunday night and sat out the third period. He eventually left the locker room wearing a walking cast. After a visiting a doctor yesterday, it was determined that Ferraro will be lost for a month. Before returning Sunday, he had missed seven games since spraining the ankle Dec. 3. against Worcester. Ferraro has 14 assists and nine goals.

It's time to get tough

Peter Ferraro's twin brother, Chris, says all the P-Bruins can do now is work through the tough times. Cameron Mann and Jeff Zehr are lost to the team until sometime late in the January. Marquis Mathieu, who made his season debut Sunday after hip surgery last June, is still slowed and no where near displaying the capabilities he showed last year.   Sean Pronger is recovering from a concussion and Eric Nickulas is bothered by a rib cage pull. Pronger and Nickulas are said to be close to returning.

``We'll work on things in practice. We have three games left this week, and, hopefully, we can patch things up,'' said Chris Ferraro. ``We haven't been healthy and haven't had a free -flowing team for a while. It's going to be scary when we get everyone back and on the same page with lines established. But, for now, we simply have to deal with the situation.''

Grahame works on cracks

P-Bruins goaltender John Grahame put in a hard practice yesterday at Providence College's Schneider Arena. Grahame agreed with Laviolette that he played a poor game Sunday against Lowell, getting beat five times with at least three of the goals considered soft.

Grahame saw his goals-against average rise to 2.97 from 2.81. His save percentage is only .905. Grahame's record with Providence since being sent down from Boston is 6-5-2.

``We didn't get the big save in that game,'' Laviolette said. ``I expect better from Johnny Grahame.''

Grahame says he's trying to do too much. ``On the odd man breaks, I'm not really doing my job. I'm trying to cover for everyone. I have to concentrate more on what I need to do and if there's a back-door goal, so be it,'' he said. ``A lot of pressure is on the goalie especially in tough times like these where we're struggling. I look at it where I have to play better.''

Wells's streak continues

Defenseman Jeff Wells, who leads the team in shots with 91, will play in his 231st consecutive game tonight when the P-Bruins host Hartford at the Civic Center. Wells's streak began March 21, 1997, with the Cincinnati Cyclones in the IHL. Wells experienced a few moments of uncertainty about his streak continuing when he took a stinging slap shot off his right instep late in the first period Sunday night. He had to be helped off the ice but returned to the action in the second period and took a regular shift after that.

1999 The Providence Journal Company

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