It’s amazing what a week can do for the spirit of the Portland Pirates.
Last week, the Pirates were mired their longest losing streak of the season after dropping six of seven games and were heading into the weekend on road with a 1-5-0-1 record. They were a team that was desperately shorthanded resulting in veteran Marc-Andre Gragnani moving up to forward.
Again, it’s amazing what a week can do for the Pirates’ spirit.
After sweeping the weekend to move into first-place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, the Pirates were ecstatic in the results, but more so the effort that got them to the results.
“It’s always a fine line between winning and losing,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “More than anything just the tone of the games were a little different. We pushed back when teams came at us.”
“There’s a feeling that you’re in the game. We competed hard, even though we were on the road, we could tell the tone. We were in every single shift and there were really no passengers. That was really the difference in my eyes.”
One of the big differences in the lineup was how the Pirates received contributions from unlikely sources such as Jacob Lagace and Maxime Legault.
Legault, who was rewarded for his play with an AHL contract from the Pirates, instantly paid back the team by scoring three goals over the weekend. The St. Agathe, QC native has really stepped up his game in the month of December, posting five points in six games and that has prompted Dineen to take notice of the former Buffalo Sabres draft pick.
“Max played some really strong hockey for us this weekend,” he said. “He was very physically involved and what I liked about it… He wasn’t just leaning toward the offense; he was still playing his strong aggressive game.”
The Pirates now head into their final three games before the Christmas break with two of the games against the Manchester Monarchs who is tied for the division lead in points and will have an early gift from the Sabres in the lineup as rookie Luke Adam is making his way back to Portland.
With Sabres are finally healthy up front with the return of forwards Drew Stafford, Tim Connolly and Rob Niedermayer to the lineup. A move needed to be made which prompted the sending of Adam back to Portland.
It also creates a situation that Dineen hasn’t found himself in a whole lot this season by having excess bodies on the roster. He could decide to keep Justin Bowers and Igor Gongalsky around in case the Sabres come calling or release them back to their respective teams in the ECHL.
In either case, Dineen wasn’t definitive in what the end result would be.
“As far as transactions go I wouldn’t make any more comments until something happens in Buffalo,” he said. “I’ve talked to their coaches in the ECHL. Once there are transactions out of Buffalo I would let them know what my plans are moving forward, and right now, I don’t know what my plans are.”
Getting Adam back will hopefully add another offensive punch to a lineup that had fizzled in December.
In 17 games with the Pirates, he recorded 11 goals, seven assists for 18 points and was a plus-10 at the time of his recall to Buffalo. The St. John’s, NFLD native scored his first NHL goal back on Dec. 7 in Boston.
Forward Mark Parrish took another step in path to recovery as he skated for the first time since suffering a hip injury against Springfield back on Nov. 26. Parrish did some light skating after practice without any gear and there is still no timetable for his return to the lineup.
As was previously announced early this year, Mark Jeanneret will be filling in for his father and long-time Buffalo Sabres play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret when the Sabres make their Western Canada swing to Edmonton and Calgary on Dec 27th and 28th.
In Jeanneret’s absence, the Pirates will be picking up the opponents radio feed for games on Dec. 26 (Worcester), Dec. 27 (Providence) and Dec. 28 (Connecticut), which can be heard live on News Talk 95.5 WLOB and on-line at portlandpirates.com
Joining Brian Demoree in-studio on Dec. 26 against Worcester and Dec. 28 against the Connecticut Whale will be Maine Hockey Journal’s Pirates beat writer Chris Roy for pregame and intermission analysis.