The Portland Pirates hope their early-season road success will translate into more wins at home.
The Pirates, currently in last place in the AHL’s six-team Atlantic Division, have won only one home game, but are 3-0-1-0 on the road for seven of a possible 10 points.
“For some reason, sometimes when things are not clicking at home it seems easier to go on the road and just play an easy game,” veteran center Ryan Hollweg said. “Sometimes you try to do a little too much in front of your fans and it results in a mistake that goes into the net.”
“I think it’s just coming into another team’s building and being able to weather the first five minutes of the game,” veteran defenseman Tyler Eckford said. “We seem to come out really strong and play a complete 60 minutes. At home it seems like, whether it is penalties or whatever we get, we’ll play 40 minutes or 35.”
The Pirates play two more games on the road — this morning in Manchester and Friday night at Springfield — before returning home Saturday night to start a four-game homestand against Providence.
“I think for the most part, when we’ve gone on the road, we’ve just simplified our game and really stuck to the game plan and have had a really solid effort,” Hollweg said. “We’ve got to realize that’s what we’ve got to do at home. We don’t have to put on any extras because we’re at home. We’ve got to definitely take what’s been working on the road and bring it home and get some wins in our building here.”
During the first month of the season, the Pirates were plagued by injury and illness. In addition, they had two players suspended, three called up by NHL parent Phoenix and several added to the roster via trade or by reassignment from the Coyotes.
“You’re going to have guys in and out of the lineup because of call-ups, injuries or what not,” Hollweg said. “You’ve got to look at it as opportunities for guys to step up, especially young guys who don’t get much of a chance when there is a full lineup here. We’re professionals. We don’t have any excuses. Just because we don’t have a guy in the lineup, we still want to bring a solid game to the ice every night.”
Last Sunday, Portland came off a nine-day break and rolled to a 4-1 win in New Hampshire.
New to the lineup for that game were forwards Brett MacLean, who arrived in Portland last week after being claimed off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets; Andy Miele, the 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner who spent three weeks in NHL with the Coyotes; and Brett Hextall, a rookie who missed the previous four games because of a wrist injury.
“We have a few new guys in the lineup, and the chemistry is starting to click now,” Eckford said.
While it was difficult for the Pirates to always keep the same forwards in the lineup during the first five weeks of the season, the defense has remained essentially intact. Aside from Chris Summers, who spent three weeks in the NHL with the Coyotes before rejoining the Pirates nearly two weeks ago, all of Portland’s defensemen have been available to play since the opener.
“Any time you can play 10 games in a row with a ‘D’ partner on one line, you start to gel as a unit,” said Eckford, who has been paired with Michael Stone.
“I think we’ll get this thing worked out at home,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “Sometimes this happens and typically a team figures it out, and we have to figure it out soon because (the Civic Center) needs to be a place where teams don’t like coming to. It needs to be a place where we know we can get points.”
NOTES: Manchester right wing Jordan Nolan was suspended for two games as a consequence of a Nov. 4 elbowing incident at Providence. … The Pirates’ Ryan Duncan and Ashton Rome enjoy three-game points streaks.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]