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
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
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
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
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
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