American Hockey League

Sunday notebook: Brown filling an key role with Bruins

Patrick Williams, Features Writer

Wherever Patrick Brown goes, he leaves an impression.

Undrafted coming out of Boston College, the dependable two-way forward went on to spend five seasons in the Carolina Hurricanes organization, serving as both a standout performer at the AHL level and a reliable NHL call-up option. His time in the Carolina system wrapped up with him captaining the Charlotte Checkers to a Calder Cup championship in 2019.

Then he went to the Vegas Golden Knights as a free agent and became the Henderson Silver Knights’ first captain. As it turned out, that captaincy ended early only because Brown stuck with the Golden Knights for much of that 2020-21 season, even going on to skate in 12 playoff contests.

From there, he played 105 games in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

When Brown, 31, entered free agency last summer, the Boston Bruins acted immediately, landing Brown with a two-year contract. At the time, the retirements of franchise stalwarts Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were imminent, and management needed someone who could compete for a bottom-six NHL role, embrace it, and be an easy fit. They also needed someone who could head to Providence, produce offensively there, and be a leader.

They have gotten all of that and more from Brown. With Boston, he has played 11 games, averaging 8:50 of ice time and contributing to the penalty kill. And in Providence, he takes on an offensive role, with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 19 games, most recently netting the game-winning goal in last night’s 4-1 win at Hartford. Brown is a reliable presence who can take different roles at the NHL and AHL levels, go where he is needed, lead, and provide consistency.

What is that night-to-night, toggle-on, toggle-off transition like on the NHL-AHL shuttle between Boston and Providence? Well, if you are trying to bring the same elements each night regardless of the league, team, location, or role, it goes much more smoothly.

“How do I say this?” Brown began. “It’s not hard at all. You get to play hockey for a living. Maybe the pre-scout’s different. You’ve got to get the power-play stuff down. Maybe I’m getting more penalty-kill minutes when I’m in Providence, too. But you’ve just got to stay in the present.

“With Boston, I’ve been really just trying to embrace that role and help create an identity for the fourth line, which is really important for teams down the stretch, especially in the playoffs. With Providence, it’s trying to do it the right way every single night so that they (younger players) can see that even guys who are fourth-line NHL-type players can still play the right way even in a more offensive role in the American League.”

That means essentially playing the same way whether it’s Boston or Providence.

“Heavy, hard playoff hockey,” Brown said in summing up that approach. “Doing it right. Trying to limit the amount of mistakes and make it really hard on [opposing] defensemen, trying to create hard O-zone shifts. Not every shift can be a scoring shift, so if you can leave the game in a better spot for the next line coming out – whether it’s winning a D-zone draw, getting into the other end of the ice and getting a shot on net, leaving the next line with an O-zone draw or something like that – that’s a positive for the team.”

Brown made his debut for a .500 Providence team on Dec. 1, and the Bruins are 15-2-2-0 with him in the lineup.

“Adding Patrick Brown has been probably one of the biggest differences, I’d say,” P-Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “How he plays, who he is, the things he says, the presence around him. He’s a fantastic player who I think still has a lot of upside in the NHL.

“But while we have him in the American League, we’re going to enjoy him and lean on him for a lot of things. He’s been exceptional for us.”

The Syracuse Crunch swept a home-and-home weekend series with the Rochester Americans thanks to a pair of overtime victories. Waltteri Merelä and Cole Koepke were the OT heroes as Syracuse erased 2-0 deficits both Friday and Saturday to take consecutive 3-2 decisions and move into sole possession of first place in the North Division.

The AHL All-Star break had come at a good time for the Crunch, who had a regulation loss and an overtime defeat in a pair of games with Belleville last weekend. And coming back from it with two games against an intense rival like the Amerks was an antidote to any sort of post-break slip. In his first season behind the Syracuse bench, Joel Bouchard has quickly grasped the intensity of one of the AHL’s most enduring rivalries.

“We’re excited as an organization to play them all the time because, hey, this is what it’s all about,” said Bouchard, whose Crunch are 5-0-1-1 against the Americans this season with five meetings still to come. “You’re not going to get to the next level without facing opposition.”

The Syracuse roster skews young, but Bouchard is happy with his club’s growth through the first half and beyond of this season.

“Their number-one quality is that they’re great people, great guys,” Bouchard said. “That’s first. They’re guys that are really open-minded, really have an approach to being the best version of themselves. They’re good to work with because our leadership has been so solid here, and the young guys are just embracing every challenge and every new thing we throw at them.”

Joining the Colorado Avalanche just before the start of the season was a big break for Ivan Prosvetov after four seasons with the Arizona Coyotes organization, spent mostly in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners.

Prosvetov, 24, made 11 appearances with the Avalanche as back-up to Alexandar Georgiev, but was waived last weekend with the Avs opting to recall prospect Justus Annunen. Assigned to the Colorado Eagles, Prosvetov was called on to start a crucial two-game home series with the Abbotsford Canucks.

A run of eight wins in 10 games before the All-Star break had put the Eagles two points behind the high-powered Canucks in the Pacific Division entering the weekend. Prosvetov came through on Friday, stopping 26 of 27 shots and being named the game’s first star in a 3-1 Colorado victory.

It was his first game action since Jan. 6, but suiting up in front of a vocal Blue Arena crowd will get anyone into a rhythm quickly.

“I knew right away that it’s a great building,” Prosvetov said in a post-game on-ice interview with the Eagles’ Katie Florio. “You [fans] made it hard on me when I was on the other side, so I know how it is for other goalies.”

Head coach Aaron Schneekloth went right back to Prosvetov last night, and he stood tall again with 38 saves as Colorado edged the Canucks, 3-2, to pass both Abbotsford and Calgary to take control of third place in the Pacific.

Someone forgot to tell San Diego Gulls head coach Matt McIlvane that their season was supposed to be a write-off after an early 13-game losing streak.

But since then, the Gulls have gone 16-8-4-0 and have closed to within five points of a playoff position in the Pacific Division. Their latest wins came in Calgary this weekend, knocking off the Wranglers 5-0 on Friday afternoon and 7-4 last night.

On Nov. 25, San Diego ended their slide with a 3-1 win over Chicago. Tomas Suchanek made his AHL debut in net that night and has gone on to be one of the AHL’s best stories this season. Undrafted coming out of the Western Hockey League, the 20-year-old signed a one-year AHL deal with the Gulls last summer and began the campaign with their ECHL affiliate in Tulsa. It was a move of little risk for the Anaheim organization, especially with someone who had been a WHL Second Team All-Star and who had helped lead Czechia to a silver medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Even so, though, Suchanek has exceeded any reasonable expectations and has taken over much of the workload in San Diego. After the weekend sweep in Calgary, during which he stopped 83 of 87 shots, Suchanek is 11-2-2 with a 2.25 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and two shutouts.

Nov. 25 was also the season debut of Gulls captain Chase De Leo after he had sustained a knee injury in training camp with Anaheim. De Leo, long one of the AHL’s most dependable offensive producers, has collected 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in his first 25 games of action this season.

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