The Portland Pirates need to earn just one point during their last three regular-season games to clinch a playoff spot this weekend, but the AHL team wants to do more than that.

“We just want to be at our best running into the playoffs and not limping in,” defenseman Mark Louis said.

“These next three games are momentum builders going into the playoffs,” rookie forward Chris Brown said. “We know we’re going to play a tough team, either Binghamton or Syracuse, and both those teams are very good. They’ve got a lot of skill, a lot of speed, a lot of power, so we need these next three games to be momentum-builders.”

Going into the weekend, the Pirates, who pulled out a 5-4 overtime win at Bridgeport on Tuesday to run their season record to 4-0 against the Sound Tigers, hold a four-point lead over both the Norfolk Admirals and the Connecticut Whale in the race for the East’s sixth playoff spot. The Manchester Monarchs and the Hershey Bears each trail them by six points. Eight teams from the conference qualify for the playoffs.

“We need to get a win,” Brown said. “Things could happen, other teams could lose and we’ll still get in, but we want to go (into the playoffs) on a winning streak to have a little confidence.”

Portland remains without high-scoring forwards Alexandre Bolduc, Rob Klinkhammer and Chris Conner, and top-notch defenseman Michael Stone, who are all on call-up with the parent Phoenix Coyotes.

The Pirates’ roster includes six players who weren’t even with the team two weeks ago.

“The thing with this group is there’s a lot of new players so we’ve got to try to use this weekend to not only clinch but get some chemistry with new players,” Coach Ray Edwards said.

“We’ve got to find a way to do a couple of different things this weekend. Hopefully, we’ll (clinch) early and have some time to work on our game.”

The Pirates can’t expect to get any help this weekend from the Coyotes, who are trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with five games left in the regular season.

“It depends on the numbers we have up there,” said Phoenix assistant general manager Brad Treliving, who is spending a few days with the Pirates. “It’s not like we’ve got extra healthy guys. If we get healthier up there, then we’ll get guys back here.”

“We have to deal with what we have here and not with what we don’t,” Edwards said. “We have to find a way this weekend to clinch and then worry about the following week next week.”

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

pbetit@pressherald.com

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