The Portland Pirates may have to complete their push for a spot in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs without some of their leading scorers.
Coach Ray Edwards wasn’t sure Tuesday morning whether forwards Brett MacLean and Ryan Duncan, and defenseman Nathan Oystrick will be healthy enough to play this weekend.
Duncan, who is fourth on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 18 assists in 55 games, joined the team’s injured list Sunday when he was cut in the face by Casey Wellman’s skate about a minute into overtime during a 5-4 shootout loss to Connecticut.
“We thought at first there was an orbital fracture, there might be some nerve damage,” Edwards said. “Right now it doesn’t look like any of that, but there was a lot of trauma to a small area of his face.”
Duncan, who was cut under his nose from cheek to cheek, was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center by ambulance after the game in Hartford. According to Edwards, Duncan needed 45 stitches.
“He’s hanging in there,” Edwards said. “It was a very traumatic experience for him. We’re hoping he will stick his head in here (Wednesday) and say hi.”
Duncan, who was not at Tuesday morning’s practice, was unavailable for comment.
Edwards wasn’t sure if Duncan will be able to play this weekend.
“Right now I would say no,” Edwards said. “But he’s a tough little bugger. If I know him, he’s going to want to play, but it all depends on the swelling.”
MacLean, who is third on the team in points with 18 goals and 17 assists, didn’t make the trip to Connecticut after he suffered an upper-body injury Saturday night during the Pirates’ 5-3 home win against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Edwards characterized Mac-Lean’s availability for the three games this weekend as “not probable.”
Oystrick, who has missed five games because of a lower-body injury, was one of several players who participated in Tuesday morning’s optional skate at the Civic Center.
“He’s day-to-day,” Edwards said
“We’ll have to get an evaluation from the trainers. We’re hoping he can be part of a full practice (today) with contact, but I won’t know about that until I talk to the trainers.”
Oystrick leads Portland defensemen in scoring with 10 goals and 21 assists.
Edwards said he also expects to be without defenseman Maxim Goncharov for an extended period after he incurred his third concussion of the season on Saturday.
With 12 games left, Portland is two points behind the Worcester Sharks for the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.
The Sharks, who have one game in hand over the Pirates, play the Albany Devils tonight at the DCU Center. Albany also trails Worcester by two points.
Edwards said the Phoenix Coyotes, the Pirates’ NHL parent, will try to bring in more players.
“We can add players from junior teams that are done and college players, too,” Edwards said. “We have a couple of free- agent guys we’re looking at. We’ll see how the next couple of days go. We’re trying to get some help for the weekend.”
Starting Friday, the Pirates play the Connecticut Whale, the Manchester Monarchs and the Providence Bruins on the road on successive nights. “We haven’t proven we can do very well injury-wise when we play three (games) in three (nights) on a weekend,” Edwards said. “We seem to lose people.”
Despite the probable absence of some of their key players, the Pirates remain confident in their stretch drive.
“Every team has to deal with injuries,” veteran center Alexandre Bolduc said. “It’s nothing new to us, and we have to deal with it as well. We have a lot of good players waiting in the wings here, so it’s no issue at all.”
Ethan Werek, a rookie center, is one of those players. In his last five games, he has three goals and four assists.
“With some guys down, I’ve gotten some opportunities lately, and my biggest thing with opportunities is to take advantage of (them),” Werek said.
“We know we’re a playoff team, and the only guys who are going to affect that are the guys in the (locker room). Whoever is healthy and here, we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ games for however many games we have left and really make that push.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]