February 25, 2010

Pirates get a bit stronger


— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — After sitting out seven of the first 12 games of the season, Cody McCormick is ready to return to the Portland Pirates lineup.

McCormick, a center, sat out the last two weekends while serving a five-game suspension after leaving the bench to start a fight late in the third period during an Oct. 18 game at Providence.

Earlier, McCormick missed two games because of injury.

While he was out, he missed two long road trips.

''The guys went on the road right away, so I came in and worked out with Brad Larsen, rode the bike and got out on the ice when I could,'' said McCormick, a veteran of five NHL seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. ''I really was eating time until the guys came back.''

A broken left foot has kept Larsen, the team captain, out of action for nearly a month.

Because of the suspension and injury, McCormick had to sit in the stands for three of the Pirates' first four home games.

''It's never fun to watch,'' he said. ''You want to play, and I think any hockey player out there will say the same thing.''

McCormick, who has nine goals and 21 assists in 190 NHL games, tried to make the best of the situation.

''Earlier in my career, I was told to sit but to watch the games,'' he said. ''It's definitely a learning thing. It's always good to see the game (as a spectator). You see how things develop. You see the systems, and you see how things develop from there.''

Portland Coach Kevin Dineen is glad to have McCormick available to play.

''When he came back (from his injury) we were happy with the games he played for us,'' Dineen said. ''Now, we've got to get him back to where he was. He was a big part of our plans.''

In his five games with the Pirates, McCormick, 26, has two goals.

McCormick isn't the only player expected to return to the lineup this weekend.

Dineen is optimistic rookies Dennis Persson, a defenseman who sat our the last three games because of a concussion, and Paul Byron, a center sidelined the last two games because of a contusion in his upper body, will be able to play this weekend.

''When you get some guys back, it just gives you more options in your lineup,'' said Dineen.

In addition to Larsen, the Pirates are missing veteran defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, sidelined the last two games because of an injury to his right leg, and Nathan Gerbe, who has been unable to practice the past two days because of an upper-body injury.

Following the call-up of starting goalie Jhonas Enroth by the Buffalo Sabres, the Pirates signed Ryan Nie to a professional tryout contract Thursday. A fourth-year pro, Nie is 3-0-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in four ECHL games with the Kalamazoo Wings.

NOTES: Because of Enroth's absence, Mike Fellows, a 1998 graduate of Massabesic High School in Waterboro, practiced with the Pirates on Thursday. Fellows, who works at Play It Again Sports on Marginal Way in Portland, plays goalie for men's league teams in the Portland area. ... After arriving in Portland early Thursday morning following a 5-2 win against the Lowell Devils in Massachusetts, the Hershey Bears skated at the Cumberland County Civic Center Thursday afternoon. ... Next Thursday night, the Pirates will play one of their two home games against the Rochester Americans at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

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


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