March 16, 2010

Pirates expect coach to be chosen soon

RACHEL LENZI

— By

Staff Writer

Now that the height of free-agency season in the National Hockey League is over, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and his staff have focused their energy on their new American Hockey League affiliate, the Portland Pirates.

The Sabres' priority is to hire a head coach for the Pirates. Regier said that will happen within the next 10 days.

''We're still working through the coaching situation and I think we're getting a little closer to getting a sense of what Randy Cunneyworth may or may not want to do,'' Regier said Thursday.

Cunneyworth who coached Buffalo's AHL team in Rochester, N.Y., the past eight seasons, is under contract with the Sabres through August.

''(Cunneyworth) still actually has at least one remaining opportunity as an assistant in the NHL, and that should move quickly, within the next week,'' Regier said. ''Depending on if he goes to the NHL or chooses to stay in Rochester, that will be within a week, 10 days at the most. In the event he's moving on, we'll move forward to find a new coach.''

Buffalo took over as Portland's parent club in June, ending a 29-year affiliation with Rochester. The Sabres shared an affiliation with the Florida Panthers the past three seasons.

Cunneyworth was expected to become the Pirates' coach, but he was given permission last week to talk to the Panthers about continuing to coach in Rochester.

Regier said Kevin Dineen's name has come up as a candidate for the opening in Portland. But he said the Sabres have not yet spoken to Dineen, who has coached the Pirates for the past three seasons.

The Ottawa Sun reported on Wednesday that Dineen had spoken with Los Angeles General Manager Dean Lombardi regarding the Kings' head coaching opening, which was filled Wednesday by Terry Murray, a former Maine Mariner. One NHL head coaching opening remains, with the New York Islanders.

Pirates CEO Brian Petrovek said that having a head coach in place within the next 10 days will benefit his team, both in becoming familiar with a new staff and in planning the logistics of the season.

''It gives us more time and a bigger learning curve to get to know those people,'' he said. If this is a time frame, then that's great for us.''

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

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