Any time off at this point of the season is considered valuable, but the last two days were especially important to the Pirates as the schedule won’t get any easier from now until the end of the season.
After spending a day away from the rink on the Thursday, the Pirates returned to prepare for their stretch drive that will see them play seven games in nine days before embarking on the playoffs.
“Obviously, when you play seven games in nine days to finish the season the rest opportunities are really important,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen.
Only twice during the season did the Pirates come close to this type of scheduling nightmare, playing six games in nine days.
This stretch also couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Pirates as they’re currently missing several key players, who were either on recalled by Buffalo Sabres (Jhonas Enroth, Mark Mancari, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Matt Ellis) or are dealing with injuries (Tim Conboy, Max Legault, Travis Turnbull, Drew Schiestel).
After Wednesday’s loss to Bridgeport, Dineen said that his focus the last two days were going to be on finding some help of a depleted roster, namely on defense where Portland dressed five defensemen in two games and looked weary late in the second period and the majority of the third period, leading to the game-tying and go ahead goals by the Sound Tigers.
Well, help is on the way with a pair of defensemen expected to join the Pirates before Saturday’s
contest against the Manchester Monarchs.
University of Maine defenseman Jeff Dimmen arrived late to practice because poor travel conditions due to a winter storm after being signed to an ATO on Thursday by the Pirates.
Dimmen played four seasons at Maine where he recorded 27 goals, 40 assists for 67 points in 135 games. At 6-0, 195-pounds, Dimmen served as the assistant captain each of the past two years for the Black Bears.
“This is a lot faster than the college game,” he said. “It was nice to get my feet wet today.”
The Colorado Springs, Colorado native is looking at this opportunity continue his playing career by either earning an entry-level contract with the Sabres or auditioning with one of the other 29 NHL franchises.
“Portland needed some help being own a couple of bodies and I wasn’t too far up the road so this is a chance for me to help them out and I can help build the resume.”
Joining Dimmen will be defenseman Corey Fienhage, who also signed an ATO with the Pirates.
Fienhage, a 2008 third round draft pick (#81 overall) of the Buffalo Sabres, just completed his lone season with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL where he scored four goals, 10 assists for 14 points in 70 games. At 6-3, 215-pound, the native of Apple Valley, MN native played two seasons with the University of North Dakota where he scored three points in 39 games.
Dineen indicated that he has other moves in the works, but wouldn’t discuss them any further.