Providence Bruins forward Ryan Fitzgerald was in the midst of his best year as a professional. The Malden Catholic and Boston College product had 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) and earned a spot on the AHL All-Star team as Providence’s lone representative.
Things took a wrong turn on Jan. 5 in Springfield — home of this year’s AHL All-Star Classic — as Fitzgerald suffered a bad break both figuratively and literally.
An arm injury derailed Fitzgerald’s fantastic season, forcing him to skip the All-Star festivities and possibly even a recall opportunity during the recent string of Boston callups. Fitzgerald missed the ensuing 11 games before returning to the P-Bruins lineup on Feb. 8 against Bridgeport but proceeded to miss Providence’s next two contests over that weekend.
Fitzgerald has finally found his way back into the Baby B’s lineup on an everyday basis. The 24-year-old has seemingly found his playmaking touch once again after notching a pair of assists this past weekend for his first points since Dec. 22.
“It’s getting there. It’s definitely tough getting back and tough sitting out,” Fitzgerald said about his hand. “But it’s good to be back and it’s slowly getting there.”
Fitzgerald flashed more of a scoring touch a year ago, finishing tied for second (along with Jordan Szwarz) among team leaders in with 21 goals during his first full season with Providence. The eldest of former NHLer Tom Fitzgerald’s four sons has been more of a playmaker this season. Fitzgerald leads all P-Bruins in assists with 21, and already surpassed his 16 helpers from his rookie season.
He may not be finding the back of the net like he did when he led BC in goals during his sophomore or junior seasons. But Fitzgerald’s offensive production isn’t lacking by any means. In fact, he still has a solid chance at blowing past last season point total (37), although he will have played in, at most, two fewer games than last year.
“I was playing with guys who were able to make plays and were good at finishing,” Fitzgerald said of his early season success. “I was just trying to get those guys the puck and watch them do the rest.
“[My arm] is getting better each day,” Fitzgerald continued on how to find his scoring touch again, “and, for me, I have to get back to my game.”
Providence sits one point ahead of the Leigh Valley Phantoms for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Baby B’s will have their hands full with just 23 games left as guys like Karson Kuhlman and Trent Frederic remain in Boston for the time being. Having Fitzgerald back can only help in the short term as the team hopes to get some of their top weapons back from Boston when its injured players, namely David Pastrnak, return to the lineup.
“We just have to stick with what got us here at this point in the standings,” Fitzgerald said about the stretch run. “We just have to keep chipping away and not lose focus.”
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