The Portland Pirates have proven they can win at home, regardless the venue, so now they get the chance to do it for an extended period on the road.
The Pirates play their next seven games away from the Cumberland County Civic Center, returning Feb. 24 against the Manchester Monarchs.
The Pirates, who are in first place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division by three points over Providence, are 11-10-1-1 in road games to rank 10th among the 30 teams.
“It’s hard to win on the road in this league,” said left wing Rob Klinkhammer, who has 10 goals and 25 assists to lead the Pirates in points.
“We’ve got to keep it simple and just play hard. When we’re skating and we’re flying around, we’re hard to beat.”
The Pirates’ departure on this trip was delayed a day when Friday night’s game against the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was postponed because of the expected snowstorm. It will be played at 7:05 p.m. Monday.
Instead the Pirates’ first game is Saturday night against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena.
During the next 21/2 weeks, the Pirates will play one game in Rhode Island, two in Connecticut and three in Massachusetts.
The Pirates rank fourth in the AHL with a 16-6 home record. They are 4-1 in games played at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston and 12-5 at the Civic Center.
On Feb. 17, the Pirates will play a game against the St. John’s IceCaps at the Colisee.
“There’s a comfort (level) being at home and playing in front of your fans,” said goalie Chad Johnson, who turned in two strong performances during a brief call-up with the Phoenix Coyotes last week. “You can get some energy from that but I don’t think anything changes when you go on the road. It’s just a matter of being focused and ready to go.”
Last Saturday night, the Pirates won their third straight, a solid 2-0 effort against the Albany Devils at the Civic Center.
“That’s the way we’ve got to play on the road,” Klinkhammer said. “Hard, fast, smart, pretty good defensively.”
Dating back to a 4-3 shootout win Dec. 8 on the road against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Pirates are 17-6 to move from last place to first in their division.
“I’ve never been in this spot ever in my career and I love it,” Klinkhammer said.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s good to come to the rink every day. Everyone is always positive, and we’ve got confidence, and we’re going to try to keep it going here.”
NOTES: Defenseman Maxim Goncharov, who has missed 16 games because of an upper-body injury, is close to returning. This week he was cleared to have contact during practice. … Defenseman David Rundblad, who played three games while spending the first two weeks of the abbreviated NHL season with the Coyotes, returned to Maine in time to participate in Wednesday morning’s practice at the Portland Ice Arena. In 32 games with the Pirates, Rundblad has seven goals and 17 assists. … Phoenix called up defenseman Chris Summers, who has two goals and eight assists in 41 games with the Pirates. Last week, Summers won the AHL’s fastest skater contest, setting a record in the skills competition at the league’s All-Star classic with a time of 13.324 seconds. … The Pirates will play 15 of their final 24 games at the Civic Center.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: