The Pirates, who currently sit in 11th place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot, with 62 points, will play nine of their next eleven games on the road, starting with Springfield on Friday – a place that hasn’t been very kind to Portland this season.
The Pirates are 1-2-0 – with their only victory coming in a shootout – at the MassMutual Center and 2-5-0 overall against the Falcons this season.
“They’re like us, a .500 team, but they seem to have our number,” said Pirates coach Ray Edward. “We just have played well against them. If you look at all the games we’ve played against them this year, we just haven’t played consistent enough to win.”
“To go in there and get a victory would be a good step in the right direction.”
The Pirates road record hasn’t been very kind to them either, going 10-13-2-3 in 28 games with one win in their last seven games away from the Civic Center.
Consistency has also been an issue for the Pirates this season as they’ve only won back-to-back road games on consecutive nights once, dating back to December, 9-10 when they defeated Adirondack (2-1) and Bridgeport (4-2), respectively.
“We’re going to have to go on a run and win some games,” said Edwards. We need put a string of victories together… In a perfect world if we could just get hot now, this would be the time to get hot. We have 15 games left which is a lot of games. We’d like to get on a hot streak and ride that into the playoffs, but a lot things have to happen and go our way first.”
Despite all that woes Portland on the road, they are still in control of their own destiny in terms of making the post season for a fifth straight season.
Only five points separate seventh through 14 place in the Eastern Conference and the Pirates have games in hand on Springfield (one game), Providence (two games), and Manchester (two games) and all the teams the Pirates face rest of the season are in the playoff hunt.
Pirates’ remaining schedule
vs. Bridgeport – 2 (1H, 1A)
vs. Manchester – 2 (1H, 1A)
vs. Connecticut – 3 (1H, 2A)
vs. Worcester – 2 (1H, 1A)
vs. Providence – 2 (2A)
vs. St. John’s – 2 (2A)
vs. Hershey – 1 (1H)
The Pirates are also getting more balanced scoring over the last several games.
“We’re getting scoring from role players which we need to have,” said Edwards. “I like the way our young kids are playing. If we can get healthy and get our goaltending going in the right direction we have a chance.”
Rookies Ethan Werek and Evan Bloodoff have multi-game point streaks in progress and the Pirates are getting contribution from several new Pirates acquired in Clear Day roster transactions.
Werek has a two-game point streak, recording three assists and Bloodoff has three goals, one assist to extend his point streak to three games.
Brett Sterling (2 goals, 1 assist) and Kenndal McArdle (1 goal, 2 assists) each have three points in four games since being acquired on loan by Portland.
Peter Mannino in his first start with the Pirates backstopped them to a 5-4 victory after making 45 saves and expects to get the start on Friday in Springfield. Mannino’s best season was back in 2009-10 with the Chicago Wolves where he went 26-5-0-1with a 2.34GAA and .921 save percentage and two shutouts.
“They’ve come in and have been great,” said Edwards. “If we can get healthy and get people playing better than I really like our chances with the recent additions.”
Edwards would like to see more production from the top-six forwards, which has been has been on again, off again over the course of the season. Rookie Andy Miele has only three goals in his last 30 games with the Pirates. He scored his first goal in 11 games last Sunday against Providence. Brett MacLean was benched as a coach’s decision on Sunday. MacLean has only two goals in his last 16 games and has no goals in his last eight contests.
“We need Brett (MacLean) to be good,” Edward said. “MacLean has to be in the lineup. He’s got to be a guy that we can count on. We’ve got to find away to get him going. We need to find a way to get Andy (Miele) to take off. He’s played better the last few games, but there is still room for improvement.”
The Pirates will have defenseman David Rundblad back in the lineup after being assigned to Portland by the Coyotes. He has six points, four assists for 10 points in 15 games.