Roster Shuffles, but Providence Bruins Remain Strong

Well, the Providence Bruins finally lost a game in regulation, a 4-2 decision on Saturday against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The good news is the loss was sandwiched between wins. The P-Bruins continued their remarkable mid-season turnaround and sit in third in the Atlantic Division with just the one regulation loss in their last 14 games. The Baby B’s have a good chance to keep the momentum with three home games over the weekend.

Reliable Kuhlman Earns Promotion

There might be a little adversity in Providence this weekend. Paul Carey and Ryan Fitzgerald are two key forwards dealing with an injury, and a David Pastrnak fall in Boston opened the door for Karson Kuhlman to get the call to the show.

Change has been constant in Providence this year, with 37 position players putting on the spoked-P this season. Kuhlman’s versatility will be missed. He’s been a steady player offensively, with 12 goals and 13 assists in 50 games, but it’s his calming influence in all zones that likely earned him the call-up. It’s a promotion that that didn’t take long for Kuhlman, who signed with the organization after leading the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to a national championship. 

Karson Kuhlman Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Bruins
Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs forward Karson Kuhlman  (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Kuhlman is a plus-22 on the season. Regardless of how some feel about the stat, it’s hard to ignore when the next closest player on the roster is Connor Clifton at plus-11. It’s more impressive considering Providence has a middle of the pack offense (tied for 16th in goals for) and 25 percent of their scoring comes on the power play. When Kuhlman’s on the ice at even strength, good things are usually happening.

The loss of Kuhlman will be mitigated some by recent additions up front. Ryan Donato may not replace Kuhlman’s two-way game on the wing, but with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jordan Szwarz in the same lineup, the P-Bruins have strength down the middle. Forsbacka Karlsson is dealing with an upper body injury right now, but his return will help stabilize the forward group.

As Providence continues to chase down and pass teams in the Atlantic Division, the team will be boosted by some NHL experience this weekend. Steven Kampfer is still on the roster after making his Providence debut against the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday.

Additions Bring NHL Experience to Providence Roster

Kampfer brings 191 games of NHL experience. He’s not coasting through his conditioning assignment either. Kampfer laid a big hit on Syracuse’s Taylor Raddysh as he was cutting to the middle of the ice. The hit wasn’t called for a penalty but he drew the attention of some Crunch players. He’s also fairly rested this season, appearing in just 25 games in Boston. If he brings his best every night while in Providence, the Baby B’s have a high-end AHL defenseman on their hands.

With injuries up front heading into the weekend, the P-Bruins brought in another veteran rather than sift through their ECHL options. Lee Stempniak, a name that’s hovered around the organization since training camp, officially signed a PTO with Providence on Friday.

Stempniak Karlsson - Bruins
Lee Stempniak and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Boston Bruins, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 36-year-old Stempniak has played 909 games in the NHL and remarkably only 27 in the AHL. He was with Boston during training camp, and the recent move seems similar to the Jan Kovar situation from earlier this season. The NHL club needs depth at forward, and it’s possible they want to see what Stempniak has before making other moves. While it would be nice for Providence to have a player with that kind of experience for a playoff run, that won’t likely be the case.

The timing of the Stempniak trial couldn’t be better for Providence. While it’s not a full panic mode situation, the forward group was starting to look a little thin. As nice as the recent run has been, they need to keep winning. While the P-Bruins sit three points behind second place Bridgeport, they’re also two points away from falling to fifth and out of a playoff spot. Three home games over the weekend is a great opportunity to get separation.