PORTLAND — The Portland Pirates’ mission for Thursday night is simple — win and get to play another playoff game.
Lose and the season is over after the Syracuse Crunch opened the best-of-five Calder Cup series last weekend by winning twice at home.
“We’ve got to be better,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “I don’t think we’ve played to our potential yet. I’m not taking anything away from Syracuse because they’ve played well, but I don’t feel we’ve got into the game we need to play.”
In Game 1 last Saturday night, the Pirates held a 3-1 lead midway through the second period before losing 4-3 in overtime. In Game 2 they trailed 4-0 after the first 34 of the 60 minutes in a 4-2 loss Sunday night.
“Obviously in Game 1 we started good but our discipline got away from us,” Edwards said. “In Game 2, I thought it ended OK but we didn’t compete well enough at the start.”
The Pirates could get a lift with the return of forwards Alexandre Bolduc and Chris Conner, and defenseman Michael Stone from the Phoenix Coyotes.
“Having those three guys (back) doesn’t guarantee us anything,” Edwards said. “What it does is give us a little bit of experience, obviously a little more skill in the lineup and some guys who have been through these battles before. Hopefully that will help some younger players and give us a little jump.”
Between them, Bolduc and Conner have played in 61 Calder Cup playoff games and 11 Stanley Cup playoff games.
“A playoff is where you want to be this time of year and I’m happy to be playing in a playoffs somewhere,” said Bolduc, who had 24 goals and 27 assists in 56 games with the Pirates. “It didn’t happen in Phoenix but I’m just happy to still be playing this far into the season.”
It will be the first playoff game as a pro for Stone, who appeared in 40 games for the Coyotes.
“I feel pretty confident coming down here and being able to play the way I play,” said Stone, who had six goals and 22 assists in 36 games with the Pirates prior to his call-up to Phoenix. “Hopefully it will help the team out a little bit here.”
It is the first playoff appearance by an AHL affiliate of the Coyotes since 2008, when the San Antonio Rampage lost a first-round series to the Toronto Marlies.
Syracuse’s roster includes 12 players who helped the Norfolk Admirals win the Calder Cup last season. During the offseason the Crunch became the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate.
“You have to experience this stuff, and we don’t have a lot of guys who have experienced pro playoffs,” Edwards said. “(Syracuse) understands it. They get that there is another level to it and they came with that level.”
Bolduc said the Pirates aren’t facing an impossible task.
“Just a few years ago I was down 3-1 in a series when I was with Manitoba and we had Games 6 and 7 on the road, and we came all the way back,” he said. “I’ve won three games in a row in the playoffs before. It’s not where you want to be but it’s three games, and we’ve won three games in a row before. It just has to start with one game.”
Edwards expects the Pirates will turn in a better performance in Game 3.
“I think we’ve learned a couple of tough lessons, and we’ll start on time here (Thursday),” he said. “We’ve sort of dipped our toe in the water instead of jumping in. Now there’s no time to dip our toe in. We’ve got to get going here.”
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: