March 12, 2010

Pirates still short-handed on defense

PAUL BETIT

— By

Staff Writer

The Portland Pirates may have to play two games on the road this weekend with just five healthy defensemen.

Marc-Andre Gragnani, who leads Portland defensemen in scoring, was called up earlier this week by the Buffalo Sabres.

As of Thursday, Portland Coach Kevin Dineen was unsure how the Pirates would make up for Gragnani's absence.

Mike Weber, who has missed nine games because of a knee injury, might be ready to rejoin the team, and there's a possibility an ECHL defenseman could be signed today.

''We'll just evaluate where our health is and make a decision on game day and have a contingency in place,'' Dineen said.

One contingency could be to use Mark Mancari on defense. Mancari, a right wing, has a team-high 42 points in 38 games.

''Mark Mancari has played as a defenseman for us quite a bit in every situation,'' Dineen said. ''He has the skill set and the smarts to be able to play there, and he has good size.''

If Weber isn't able to return, Mike Kostka, a former University of Massachusetts player in his second pro season, would be the lone defenseman who started the season on the roster.

In addition to Weber, who underwent arthroscopic surgery Jan. 12, Mike Card (concussion), Paul Baier (broken jaw) and Mike Funk (concussion) are also injured.

Matt Macdonald, Zack Tarkir, Cliff Loya and Kenny MacAuley, who all began the season in the ECHL, have filled in admirably.

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

pbetit@pressherald.com

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