Thursday, December 12, 2013
PORTLAND — It's not do-or-die, but the Portland Pirates' current seven-game trip could determine where they stand at the end of the regular season.
''When you play seven games in a row on the road at the end of the year and everybody's really close, it could define your season,'' said veteran forward Mathieu Darche. ''This is going to set ourselves up to be sure we're in the playoffs or battling to get in at the end.''
The Pirates are in second place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the division leader, Providence, and three points ahead of third-place Hartford.
With 25 games left in the regular season, inconsistent play still plagues the Pirates.
Until last weekend, goaltending had been a strength and scoring had been a problem.
In its last three games, Portland has 14 goals, an average of more than four per game. In the previous 10 games, it had averaged 2.2 per game.
Portland goalies Jhonas Enroth and John DeCaro have let in a total of 17 goals during the last three games, an average of nearly six per game.
In the 10 previous games the Pirates allowed an average of two goals per game.
The team hopes to get things back in balance while playing five games in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts over the next eight days.
''There are areas we have to tie up,'' said Portland Coach Kevin Dineen.
''But I think we, as players and staff, realize for us to keep striving for our goals, trying to get home-ice advantage at least through the first two rounds of the playoffs, we're going to have to continue to succeed on the road.''
The Pirates started the trip Tuesday night with a 6-3 loss to Springfield. The Falcons, who are in the cellar of the seven-team Atlantic Division, snapped an 11-game losing streak -- one in a shootout, one in OT.
Before that, Portland had earned six of a possible eight points in its last four games away from the Cumberland County Civic Center. Three of those points came when it lost in shootouts.
But the Pirates are looking for more.
''We're not looking to be competitive, we're looking to win,'' Darche said. ''You can look at it and say you got a point, but then again you left a point out there.
''It's something we have to work on. We have to be better in scoring more goals in shootouts.
''At the end of the year there could be five or 10 (standings) points you could have had, but you have to get them while they're there.''
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: