February 25, 2010

Giving potential call-ups a serious look

PAUL BETIT

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — When Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen needed to fill a hole in his lineup last season, he had to scour the ECHL for a suitable replacement.

But Dineen, in his fifth season as coach of the Pirates, is taking a more proactive approach this season.

During the first few days of training camp, he's looking at four prospective replacements who have already been signed by ECHL teams.

''I put a lot of trust in coaches in the ECHL during the season last year with the injuries that we had, and the number of players that we went to,'' Dineen said.

''We're not just throwing flowers to ECHL coaches, but we're trying to identify players at this stage who can help us over the course of the season.

''I talked to people whose opinion I respect and made sure we are looking at players who have the ability to play for us.''

The group includes centers Tim Kraus, who has signed to play a second season for the Ontario Reign in his native California, and Mark Voakes, a recent graduate of Wilfred Laurier University in Canada who has signed to play for the Cincinnati Cyclones.

It also includes defensemen Brian Kilburg, a graduate of Minnesota State-Mankato who has also signed with the Reign, and Doug Krantz, who has signed to play a second season with the Wheeling Nailers.

All four players skated regular shifts Saturday night during the Lowell Devils' 6-3 preseason victory over the Pirates at Portland Ice Arena.

''It's a great opportunity to come out of college into a professional atmosphere and see how things are done,'' said Kilburg, a teammate of former Pirate Ryan Carter for one season at Mankato.

''I'm just trying to soak it in, learn from the older guys and get some experience.''

At the same time, the ECHL players are trying to make a good impression.

''If I don't make the cut (here), hopefully I can make enough of an impact to be the No. 1 call-up guy if an injury occurs and they need a player,'' Kilburg said.

''This is a good opportunity,'' Kraus said.

''There's not a lot of guys here, and I think I'll get a good look and show (Dineen) what I can do.''

The stay with the Pirates could be short-lived for the ECHL foursome.

The Buffalo Sabres, Portland's NHL parent team, sent seven players to Portland on Saturday.

After signing a one-year contract with the Sabres, Mark Mancari, a four-year veteran who led the Pirates in scoring last season, was assigned to Portland.

Two other veterans, forward Jeff Cowan and defenseman Joe DiPenta, also were assigned to the Pirates.

Before they can report, all three players must clear waivers.

Also sent to Portland were goalie Jhonas Enroth, who played in 68 of the Pirates' 85 games last season, German forwards Felix Schutz and Philip Gogulla, and Marc-Andre Gragnani, who led Portland defensemen in scoring last season.

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

pbetit@pressherald.com

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