PORTLAND – Coach Kevin Dineen didn’t spend much time drawing X’s and O’s Tuesday morning during the last full practice before the Portland Pirates host the Binghamton Senators tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-seven AHL playoff series.
“We wanted to get our legs kind of warmed up,” Dineen said. “I tried to keep it fairly crisp and short.”
The Pirates spent about 70 minutes on the ice at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“There’s always things you look at on the other team, but more importantly, you try to focus on what your team does,” Dineen said. “We had a few drills that were geared around our next opponent, but we really tried to give the guys a chance to get out and get some flow.”
The second-round series features two of the league’s most potent offenses. Portland led the league in scoring during the regular season and Binghamton is the postseason scoring leader among the eight teams left in the playoffs.
“They are an extremely dynamic offensive team, so we have to be very conscious of that,” Dineen said.
The teams split two games during the regular season. On March 18, Portland skated to a 3-2 win at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in New York. On Jan. 11, Binghamton won 5-2 at the Civic Center.
But those two regular-season games don’t mean much at this point in the season.
“I don’t think you can even think about the regular season right now,” Portland left wing Derek Whitmore said. “They’ve got a whole different team than what we saw back in March. They’ve got a whole bunch of guys sent back from Ottawa (Binghamton’s NHL affiliate).”
Binghamton forwards Bobby Butler, Colin Greening and Erik Condra each played 24 or more games with Ottawa.
Binghamton center Ryan Potulny, who recently came in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, has eight goals and six assists in seven playoff games to lead the league in scoring.
“One of our strengths is our ability to create (offense), but certainly we’re going to have to be on our toes with that kind of talent,” Dineen said.
During their six-game series against the Connecticut Whale, the Portland power play went dormant. In one three-game stretch, the Pirates went 0 for 22 with a man advantage.
“I think it just came down to the guys on the power play taking pride in the privilege of being on the power play,” Whitmore said.
Portland ended up scoring five goals in 36 power-play opportunities to rank 10th among 16 playoff teams.
“It was nice in Coach Dineen showing confidence in the same group of guys, knowing they’re going to get the job done,” Whitmore said.
“I thought we did a good job on the power play in Game 5 and in Game 6 to put the series away. We’re still a work in progress, but I think we’re headed in the right direction going into the next round.”
In their seven-game series against the Manchester Monarchs, Binghamton converted on 6 of 34 power plays.
On the penalty kill in the first round of the playoffs, the Pirates were 15th (74.2 percent) and the Senators 16th (69.2 percent).
NOTES: T.J. Brennan was out of the Portland lineup in the last two games against Connecticut because of an injury to his left foot, but Dineen expects him to return before the end of the series against Binghamton.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org