In a perfect world, the Providence Bruins will have center Wacey Rabbit back in their lineup to play between Kirk MacDonald and Jeremy Reich during Sunday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals with Hershey.
That trio is the P-Bruins’ best chance at slowing down the Bears’ super-productive top line with Alexandre Giroux and Graham Mink flanking center Keith Aucoin. But should Rabbit, who has been out since the second period of Game 1 of this series, not be able to go, the task of centering Providence’s checking line might again fall to rookie Jamie Arniel.
With Rabbit unavailable for Game 3 Friday, Arniel centered Reich and MacDonald and saw a bulk of playing time against the Aucoin line. The P-Bruins’ trio did an admirable job for about 1 1/2 periods before the Bears started their comeback from 3-0 and 4-2 deficits to win 6-4 and go up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Arniel finished the night minus-1, while Reich and MacDonald were minus-2. Giroux scored two even-strength goals.
“I think Coach (Rob) Murray thinks I can play that position, and I think I’ve been doing all right so far,” Arniel, who only joined the P-Bruins May 5, told TheBruinsBlog.net. “It’s definitely a tough task to do, so early in my career to play against one of the best lines in the league, but I’m just trying to work as hard as I can defensively and do whatever I can to stop them.”
Flanked by a pair of veterans and possessing solid two-way skills, Arniel is equipped to go head to head with the best line in the AHL. The battles with the Aucoin line are just the latest step in Arniel’s adjustment to the pro game.
“As it goes on, I think every day it’s getting a little bit easier for me,” he said. “I think the first couple weeks were a little tough getting into the lineup. I didn’t have my legs but they’re slowly getting back and hopefully I can be in top shape the rest of the way.”
Murray said that he might consider other options to counter the Aucoin line if Rabbit can’t play in Game 4. But Arniel could still be in the mix.
“I really wasn’t looking for him to settle into a defensive centerman role, not this early. And I don’t think that that’s his calling. I think he’ll be a good reliable guy,” said the bench boss.
Game 4 starts 7:05 p.m. Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Be sure to log on to TheBruinsBlog.net for a live blog and complete postgame coverage.