Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates hope Santa brings a little offense

Portland, ME – With the holiday season upon us, it can be assured the Portland Pirates are hoping to find a few more goals in their stockings and a little less coal, especially as the new year and the heart of the season quickly approaches.

The Pirates, for the second time this season, have lost three straight games as they’ve sputtered to a grinding halt offensively, and now find themselves embroiled in an Atlantic Division battle that at the beginning of the season looked it could be over by Christmas.

Now, it looks like it will last until the last day of the season and Portland may or may not be apart that race, but again, it depends on Portland over the rest of the season.

After opening the first 15 games of the season with a 12-1-1-1 record, the Pirates have only managed a 3-8-0-1 record, and they understand the need to turn this around in a hurry or they could be on the outside looking in.

“Every team is going to lose a few games and fall into a slump, but to lose three out of three is not what we want or expect,” said Mark Mancari. “We’ve got to work on things.”

“We letting a lot of goals against, but we’re not scoring any either – its two areas we need to improve on.”

Mancari has pointed out a problem that seems to become a bit of an epidemic for the Pirates and Sabres organization as whole, lately. In the last three games, Portland only scored three goals as their goals for has dropped by almost half, from 3.87 goals per game to 2.17 goals per game. Likewise, their goals against has increased from 2.53 to 3.25 goals per game.

However, the Pirates are getting shots on net, but not as in the case sometimes, its quality and not quantity.

“We’re putting 40 shots on net, but how many of them were quality chances to score goals,” said Mancari. “We have to get in front of the net and crash some dirty (goals) into the net.”

“If a goalie is going to see a shot from the blueline then 99% of the time he’s going to stop it.”

The Pirates could find plenty of excuses for their recent troubles, but they won’t accept them, knowing it’s the current team on the ice that has to dig out of the hole they’ve created.

Mancari was recalled on Nov. 21 by the Buffalo Sabres, missing six games with the Pirates as they went with a record of 1-4-0-1; however it wasn’t only the loss of Mancari during that stretch that created a hole in the Pirates lineup.

The Pirates also lost defenseman Mike Card to a concussion back on Nov. 15 when an errant puck him in the face and Jimmy Bonneau, who is an effective fourth line player. Bonneau gave some valuable minutes as he provided a boost of energy until he suffered a broken hand in a fight on Nov. 26 and is expected to be out for another two to three weeks.

Just prior to this last losing skid, the Pirates lost both Nathan Gerbe after he was recalled to Buffalo and defenseman Mike Funk who suffered a second concussion in less than three months. Since those recent deletions to the lineup, Portland has gone 1-4-0-0 in their last five games.

On Friday, the Pirates will have a chance to get back into the win column as they begin another three-in-three weekend with a game against the Providence Bruins on Saturday night sandwiched between a pair of games against the Worcester Sharks.

“We need to play the first 20 minutes like the last 20 minutes and I think we’ll be back to were we started,” said Mancari.

NOTES: The Sabres were beginning to get healthy at forward and there was a probable chance that Nathan Gerbe was going to be returned to Portland before the Dec. 19 holiday roster freeze. However, those plans have been shelved for now as Gerbe suffered an upper body injury and will be out for at least 10 days to 2 weeks, which means he can’t be sent down while being treated for an injury. Missing from Pirates practice today was Aaron Slattengren – no word yet on his potential injury.

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