Right now, they’re like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Coming out of the holiday break, the Pirates looked team that was rejuvenated, going 3-0-1-1, earning eight of a possible 10 points, however, since then it’s been more like a bad dream, losing three consecutive games.
Portland has only one goal in their last 180 minutes of play and have been shut out on back-to-back occasions for the first time since 2004-’05 under a team affiliated by the Washington Capitals, coached by Tim Army.
That my friend’s is a new franchise record and not one the Pirates should be proud of setting.
They aren’t, but Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards doesn’t think the sky is falling either. Yes, there are issues to be addressed, but as he said, “If we had won all the games last weekend. There would have been things to work on.”
“It was tough weekend,” said Edwards. “Each game was different. First game, penalties was an issue. We gave up a couple five-on-three’s and then we were left chasing the game. Second game, I felt like we could be up 3-0, but they get one and we weren’t able to respond. In Worcester, I felt like we competed hard. I don’t think this is indicative of the team (ability and attitude). I don’t think we played that bad, we just didn’t win.”
“We are moving past that weekend. I think it was an aberration.”
One thing that hasn’t been an aberration has been special teams, namely the penalty kill, where the Pirates have been giving up goals at an alarming rate. Even when Portland was earning points, the penalty kills provided plenty of concern; losing just highlights it as they’ve given up 12 goals on 37 opposition power plays.
“The (penalty kill) hasn’t been as good as we hoped (of late),” Edwards said. “It started off well, but we’ve been giving up as (Pirates Asst. coach) John (Slaney) would say dumb goals. Goals that just shouldn’t happen like the goal were (McElhinney) puts the puck on the opposing player’s stick. It’s things like that shouldn’t be happening.”
“For us to have success in this league we need to be better on the penalty kill.”
The Pirates will have an opportunity to right the ship – no pun intended – when they play the Springfield Falcons, Friday night, in the first game of a home-and-home series.
The Falcons, who are led by Martin St. Pierre (seven goals, 25 assists) and rookie Cam Atkinson currently with 19 goals, are currently in 11th place in the conference, while the Pirates sit one point ahead in 10th place, only two points out of a playoff spot.
Portland is still looking for its first win against the Falcons this season after losses of 2-1 and 4-1, both in Springfield.
“We want to get our game back on track,” said Edwards about the upcoming weekend. “We’re not focused on who is in front of us or behind us in the standings. We just are focusing on the points. We need to just go out there and trying to win the game and get the points.”
Patrick O’Sullivan is back in town and he’s not happy about it.
That being said, he’s here now and is going to try to make the best of the situation moving forward.
“I’m really disappointed in how this has turned out,” O’Sullivan said about being assigned to Portland. “It wasn’t a lot of notice, but it’s a business and they probably don’t care about that. That’s the bottom line… It is what it is and you can’t worry about the logistics of the team making decisions.”
“It’s a chance for me to come down here and help this team and have some fun, which is sometimes tough to do at the NHL.”
The biggest concern of O’Sullivan is the lack of stability for his wife and seven month old son, who are both still in Phoenix.
“They’re in Phoenix now,” said O’Sullivan. “They didn’t come out to Phoenix for the first month and a half into the season and when we finally got house there I was assigned here, which was disappointing and frustrating, but hockey is a business.”
“You have to try and take your personal feelings out of it, if you don’t you can get hurt. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to play a lot. I want to win games and get the most out of this situation.”
This is O’Sullivan’s second assignment to Portland this season after being recalled the day after Christmas by the Coyotes. In six games with the Pirates, O’Sullivan has seven points with a plus-2 rating and six-game point streak.
“At this point of my career everyone knows the type of player that I am,” said O’Sullivan. “The only thing here is there are so many young guys that (Pirates head coach) Ray (Edwards) wants me to be a leader and to help the young guys.”
O’Sullivan, who signed a one-year, two-way contract over the summer for another shot at the NHL, made the Coyotes out of training camp, which makes this assignment so much more difficult for the 26-year-old to accept. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is going to be more selective about where he will play in the future.
“I had tons of options in Europe,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought I’d give it another shot at the NHL. I did it. I made the team out of camp and stayed there a lot longer than I think they me expected to. This summer is going to different. I am going to look at my options. It about stability for my family whether its playing in Europe, maybe taking a deal that has me in a city in the AHL that I want to play in.”
“At this point in my life it’s tough to be going up and down.”
Edwards’ expectations aren’t changing for the North Carolina native regardless of the situation.
“I expect him to be a dominate player down here, score goals and lead our team. Lead us on the ice, lead us with his work and attitude. No more or less than we expect from any of our leaders,” he said.
Pirates’ defenseman Michael Stone had a reason to watch the World Jr. Championship a little closer than the rest of the 35 million Canadians who were glued to their television sets.
Stone’s brother, Mark, was playing for Team Canada and if he wasn’t a household name before the tournament got underway in Alberta, he was by the end.
“He played really well in the tournament,” Stone said of his brother Mark. “He has a knack for putting the puck in the net. He’s had some success scoring and that’s good to see. He’s had a really good year with his junior team. There was a lot of hype about him. He’s had a lot of media attention in Canada and I’m just really happy for him.”
The younger Stone, who plays currently for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, was drafted by the Ottawa Senators last year in the sixth round (#178 overall), and led all Canadians to finish fourth in scoring in the tournament with seven goals, three assists for 10 points with a plus-10 rating in six games.
The Canadians won the bronze after missing out on a chance to play for the gold medal after a thrilling near comeback, scoring four times in the third period, before losing 6-5 to Russia.
Former Lewiston Maineiacs Andrei Makarov also took part in the tournament, playing for the Russian team that won the silver medal, stopping 57 of 58 shots in the Gold Medal game against Sweden.
The Pirates have decided not to adjust the 7pm start time of Saturday’s contest against the Springfield Falcons to avoid a conflict with the NFL playoff game against the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, which is slated for an 8pm start time.
Moving the start time up to a possible 4pm or even 5pm would have allowed for a better walk up crowd and allow those who purchased tickets of attending the game and still being able to get back home in time to watch what has become a three ring circus because of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
“It was discussed, but the decision was to not change the start time,” said Pirates Managing Owner/CEO Brian Petrovek.
Portland is the only New England based team playing at home on Saturday night. The Manchester Monarchs are in Glens Falls, NY, the Connecticut Whale are in Norfolk, VA, Springfield, of course is playing the Pirates, and the Providence Bruins are playing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, which is consider more metro New York than New England.
Coincidence??? I think not.
A couple of former Portland Pirates are taking part in the NHL All-Star festivities in Ottawa, Ontario later this month.
Luke Adam, last season’s AHL Rookie of the Year with the Pirates, was one of xx rookies named to take part in the NHL festivities. He won’t play in the game, but he will participate in the Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 28. Adam, who played for the Pirates last year, scoring 62 points (29g, 33a) in 57 games, has appeared in 42 games for the Buffalo Sabres this season recording 20 points.
Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry will be playing in the game on Jan. 29 as he was one of 36 forwards selected. Perry, who has 35 points in 41 games with Anaheim, will be making his third appearance in the All-Star game, played 19 games with Portland during the 2005-’06 season.