PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates won’t have to look far to obtain a scouting report on the Syracuse Crunch, their first-round opponent in the Calder Cup playoffs, or the venerable War Memorial Arena, where the Crunch play their home games.
Forwards Brandon McMillan and Troy Bodie, who joined the Pirates earlier this month, have already played several games this season against the Crunch, who haven’t been on the Pirates’ schedule since the 2009-10 season.
McMillan and Bodie also spent much of last season playing for Syracuse in the 6,154-seat War Memorial Arena when the Crunch were the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.
“They’re a hard team to play against,” said McMillan. “They play the right way. They play as a team and they work hard. You’ve got to play the right way yourself against them if you want to have a chance at winning.”
McMillan came from the Norfolk Admirals April 5 after the Phoenix Coyotes sent center Matthew Lombardi to Anaheim.
“They’re an opportunistic team,” said Bodie, who came to the Pirates April 14 on loan from Norfolk.
“They’re very good if you play into their style. They like to run and gun, you know, and they feed off turnovers. They’ve got a lot of skill. There’s a reason why they were the champs last year and why they have a good team this year.”
Last season, nearly half of the players on the current Crunch roster played for Calder Cup-winning Norfolk, the AHL affiliate for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Pirates play the first two games of the best-of-five series at Syracuse Saturday and Sunday .
Learning to play in the cozy War Memorial Arena, which opened in 1951, could be a key.
“It’s a different game in there,” McMillan said. “There’s not as much space, and the neutral zone is smaller, so you’ve got to be smarter with the puck. You can’t turn the puck over in certain areas. I’m going to try to relay to the guys that in between the blue lines you’ve got to really be smart with it.”
“If you turn it over at the blue line, it’s at the next blue line really quick,” said Bodie.
“You’ve got to really manage your turnovers and manage the puck well. You do that and you have a good chance.”
Portland Coach Ray Edwards intends to tap into the knowledge of the two veteran forwards.
“We’ll be talking to those two players about their experiences playing Syracuse and playing in that arena,” he said. “You use all the information you can get. To me, if you’re not getting (such) information, you’re selling your group short.”
NOTES: The Pirates held an optional practice skate Tuesday morning at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
They are scheduled to practice the next two mornings before boarding a bus Thursday afternoon to Syracuse, N.Y.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: