March 13, 2010

Hockey's back in Portland as Pirates start practice today

PAUL BETIT

— By

Staff Writer

The Portland Pirates will open training camp today with a skeleton crew.

No more than 14 players are expected when the Pirates have their first practice at 9:40 this morning at the Portland Ice Arena.

''We will be very light the first couple days of training camp until Buffalo cuts its roster,'' Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.

The Sabres, the new NHL parent of the Pirates, aren't expected to make more cuts until after they played exhibition games at Minnesota Wednesday and at Columbus today.

''It's no different than year one with Anaheim when we only had 10 or 11 guys,'' Dineen said.

Portland was the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks the past three seasons.

''It's just the nature of the first couple of days of training camp. It's nothing unusual at a lot of (AHL) camps unless you invite a dozen tryout players, which we haven't done.''

When the Sabres make their final roster moves before their Oct. 10 opener against Montreal, as many as 10 players could be assigned to Portland.

The Pirates will have nine days to get ready for their Oct. 11 opener at the Cumberland County Civic Center against the Manchester Monarchs.

''We have enough time to put line combinations together and to get the players comfortable with one another,'' Dineen said.

Most of the players assigned to the Pirates have spent the last two weeks at the Sabres' training camp in New York.

''These guys are very well conditioned right now, so it's not like I'm worried about that end of it,'' Dineen said.

''A lot of these guys have been on the ice for the last three weeks or more.''

Dineen said it's too early to tell what kind of team the new Pirates will turn out to be.

''It's hard right now to put your finger on their strengths and what areas that they need to work on,'' he said. ''There's still work to be done but we're enthused.

''We're going to have a pretty exciting team, which will certainly have some speed to it and some abilities on the offensive side of the puck.''

The Pirates will play an exhibition game against the Albany River Rats at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Wallace Ice Arena on the campus of Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts. Admission is free.

The Pirates are not scheduled to practice at the Civic Center until the morning skate the day of the opener. The ice won't be installed until Monday.

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

pbetit@pressherald.com

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