It’s not the job Mark Mancari was seeking, but he intends to make the most of his return to the AHL to play for the Portland Pirates.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing for me or anyone on the team to get sent down,” said Mancari, a right winger who has been the Pirates’ leading scorer the past two seasons. “Your No. 1 goal is to play in the NHL, and every guy in the (locker room) has worked extremely hard this summer to try to achieve their goal.”

Mancari, 25, is entering his sixth professional season, all within the Buffalo Sabres’ organization.

“For me, I have to come down here and do whatever I can do to help the team win and also continue to be consistent and improve my foot speed,” he said. “Hopefully, that will help me to get to the next level.”

Consistency seems to be the key for Mancari.

“I’m a believer Mark has the ability to play in the NHL, (but) it has to be a consistent effort,” Portland Pirates coach Kevin Dineen said. “I think if Mark can learn to play on a more consistent basis and keep his skill level I think he has a good chance of having as long an NHL career as he has had at this level.”

In order to prepare for this season, the 6-4 Mancari dropped seven pounds.

“It’s going to help with everything,” he said. “I feel like I have more energy.”

 

JHONAS ENROTH is returning for his third season as starting goalie for the Portland Pirates.

The Sabres assigned the Swedish netminder to their AHL affiliate Wednesday after veteran goalie Patrick Lalime recovered from a groin injury that had kept him out of practice for a few days.

Lalime, who was signed to a one-year contract during the offseason, will serve as backup to Ryan Miller for the third consecutive season.

In 106 regular-season games with the Pirates, Enroth has compiled a 2.58 goals-against average and a .916 saves percentage.

 

VETERAN FORWARDS Matt Ellis and Mark Parrish are expected to be in the lineup when the Pirates open their season Saturday night against the Manchester Monarchs at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Parrish, 33, is a 5-11, 200-pound right wing who has played in 747 NHL games over 12 seasons, and Ellis, 29, is a 6-1, 210-pound center with 197 NHL games over four seasons.

Last season, Parrish scored 17 goals and had 21 assists in 56 AHL games with the Norfolk Admirals, and had two assists in 16 NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ellis, who scored two goals and had two assists for the Pirates at the start of the 2008-09 season, spent most of the last two seasons with Buffalo. In 72 regular-season games with the Sabres last season, he scored three goals and had 10 assists.

 

MARC-ANDRE GRAGNANI was officially assigned to the Pirates by the Sabres.

A knee injury has kept Gragnani, who led Portland defensemen in scoring the past two seasons, off the ice since the third day of Buffalo’s rookie camp more than a month ago.

Gragnani, in Maine for the past week, has been able to continue his dry-land training but he hasn’t received medical clearance to skate yet.

 

THE PIRATES released center Rob Ricci from his tryout. The former Merrimack College player will return to the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, where he scored 25 goals and had 25 assists as a rookie last season.

 

THE ICE IS IN and the boards are up at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Today, the Pirates will practice for the first time on their home ice at 10 a.m.

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com