Providence Bruins: Good News Followed by Bad for Fitzgerald

Ryan Fitzgerald was to be the lone AHL All-Star from Providence, but the P-Bruin forward suffered a setback that leaves his status for the game uncertain. Fitzgerald left Saturday’s loss to Springfield Thunderbirds after what appeared to be a collision away from the puck. The P-Bruins hope their All-Star returns before the Jan. 28 game as the team tries to climb back in the playoff standings.

Deserved Honor For Fitzgerald

The All-Star honor is deserved for Fitzgerald. While his numbers this season won’t blow anyone away, a 7-19-26 line in 36 games, he does lead the P-Bruins in scoring and his production is more impressive when you consider the roster turnover this season.

Fitzgerald hasn’t been as negatively impacted by the injuries and call-ups this season as some players on the P-Bruins, but any change in hockey isn’t easy. Fitzgerald has been fortunate to play with some skilled players. He’s spent the majority of his time with reliable two-way center Jordan Szwarz, who’s been a first line anchor for the team in the last two seasons.

The other winger on Fitzgerald’s line has changed over the course of the season but there’s no denying he’s played with talent. He’s had Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato on his line at times, but talent alone can’t replace the chemistry that can form on a consistent line.

Ryan Fitzgerald Cody Franson Bruins Blackhawks
Boston Bruins winger Ryan Fitzgerald.  (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

Battling through the lineup changes, Fitzgerald’s offensive game has improved in his second season with the P-Bruins. A fourth-round pick by Boston in 2013, he’s been on the puck more in the offensive zone and the game has seemed to slow down a little for him in year two. However, his 19 assists didn’t come cheap, as he’s racked up a few highlight-reel passes that led to goals this season.

While off to a great start, Fitzgerald isn’t in the same category as last season’s P-Bruins All-Star forward, Austin Czarnik. Watching Czarnik in the AHL last season was similar to watching a 20-year old junior player dominate the competition in his final season. It was clear he didn’t have much to prove in the minors, but there wasn’t a spot that suited his game in Boston.

Fitzgerald Developing and Improving in Providence

Fitzgerald may need more time to develop into a complete player and get stronger at the AHL level, but he’s been the most improved second-year forward in Providence this season. He’s followed closely by Zach Senyshyn but Senyshyn hasn’t yet put it together with the same consistency as Fitzgerald.

As for the bad news, Fitzgerald left last Saturday’s game against the Springfield Thunderbirds with an upper-body injury. Reports are often vague with AHL injuries, but early indications are the injury could keep him out of the lineup for a while.

“Week to week” means his All-Star game appearance could be in danger. For the P-Bruins, it means they will have to survive a tough, important stretch of the schedule without their leading scorer. The team is in the midst of three games in three days this weekend. It’s a tough blow for a team that had one three out of four heading into Saturday’s game with Springfield.

It’s unfortunate to see a young player like Fitzgerald, who had accelerated his development, be sidelined. Hopefully, week-to-week is closer to just one or two weeks for him. The last thing the P-Bruins or the organization want is a lengthy rehab that can slow down development. It seemed to take Jeremy Lauzon almost a year to get back on track after suffering a mid-season concussion in 2017-18. Lauzon, a completely different player this season, has rebounded by logging big minutes in Providence and playing a handful of games in Boston.

Fitzgerald will hopefully get the chance to play in the All-Star game, especially since the P-Bruins would love to have him back before Jan. 28. The team is in the middle of a busy, crucial stretch in the standings. For a team that really has to work to score goals, missing Fitzgerald’s skill in the lineup will be a challenge.