PORTLAND – Last spring, goalie J.P. Lamoureux was instrumental in helping the Alaska Aces reach the final game of the ECHL championship series.

This spring, Lamoureux, of North Dakota, has a little less travel while playing in Portland, but he’s expected to be in a starting role when the Pirates open the AHL playoffs Friday against the Manchester Monarchs at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“You try to get the proper rest and get the proper reps in practice,” said Lamoureux, who was in goal as Alaska and South Carolina went to a deciding game in the Kelly Cup, the ECHL championship. “It’s no different for me. I’ve kind of been a starter my whole career until I came here, and I have to lean on past playoff experiences from there to help me through the first round here.

“This year there will be less travel for me, but the difference in the AHL is that you’ve got a lot of NHL-caliber players that are kind of knocking on the door for an NHL job. I’m going to have to be focused on playing a mistake-free game.

“This is a huge opportunity for me. If I can get it done this time of the year, it shows my value to the team and that I’m a player who can play well at the most important part of the season. I want to take advantage and stay real focused for the guys.”

Jhonas Enroth hasn’t played since March 13 when he suffered a left ankle sprain, and Lamoureux is 6-3 with one shootout loss in his absence.

But given that Enroth has resumed skating — he worked out Tuesday morning before the Pirates’ practice at the Portland Ice Arena — and that Todd Ford is available after South Carolina was eliminated from the ECHL playoffs, the Pirates could have four goalies by the time the playoffs begin. At the least, the Pirates would have two — Lamoureux and Beau Erickson, who has played 27 games with three pro teams this season.

“We’re extremely happy with the way (Erickson) has skated in the last week,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “His work ethic is very high.

“(Ford) played some strong hockey for us. He went 3-0 and had a really strong goals-against average (1.00). I hate to pass the buck, but the majority of those decisions will come out of Buffalo (the Pirates’ NHL parent team).

“We’re going to evaluate it. We’re in a holding pattern.”

Dineen has not set a timetable for Enroth’s return.

Dineen said Lamoureux’s name continuously came up in talks with other coaches and pro hockey personnel in the search for a goalie last summer.

Lamoureux (14-12, two shootout losses) signed with the Sabres and was assigned to the Pirates, where he began the season as Enroth’s backup.

“I’d be the first one to say I thought he had some very average games early on,” Dineen said. “He was in a very obvious backup role. He was getting in games sometimes one a month, sometimes one a week.

“With his opportunity to fill the hole in the net, we can’t say enough about the job he’s done. He’s one of those people, he wants to be relied on. When he is, he takes it upon his shoulder.

“We signed him for this exact situation — if (Enroth) got hurt, or if Patrick Lalime had something or if Ryan Miller had something and (Enroth was called up to Buffalo). We needed to make sure we had a contingency plan in case. We feel we got the right guy.”

And while there’s little uncertainty surrounding the quality of the goalies, there’s some surrounding the quantity, which doesn’t necessarily bother the available goalies.

“You go out there and you just stop pucks,” said Erickson, who spent time with Reading, South Carolina and Utah of the ECHL before joining the Pirates last week. “You just control what you can control. It’s kind of wasted energy, worrying about what other people are doing in situations like that.

“You kind of just take that experience and watch everyone else around and see what they’re doing, the way they handle it, and you try to learn as much as you can.”

 

NOTES: Jacob Lagace and Luke Adam skated Tuesday morning with the Pirates. Dineen said Lagace had to drive back to Montreal on Tuesday to obtain paperwork to complete his visa application. After spending the night there, he will return today to Portland. … Defenseman Dennis Persson did not skate Tuesday (scheduled rest day) and left wing Jeff Cowan was excused from the team to attend his mother’s funeral.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]