Saturday, December 7, 2013
By Paul Betit email@example.com
PORTLAND - Coach Kevin Dineen didn't spend much time drawing X's and O's Tuesday morning during the last full practice before the Portland Pirates host the Binghamton Senators tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-seven AHL playoff series.
David Leggio of the Pirates has piled up more minutes in the AHL playoffs than any other goalie while compiling a 2.93 goals-against average filling in for Jhonas Enroth.
Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer
Kevin Dineen says Binghamton poses a stiff challenge.
2009 Press Herald file
The Series Schedule
Pirates vs. Binghamton Senators
GAME 1: 7 p.m. today at Portland
GAME 2: 7 p.m. Thursday at Portland
GAME 3: 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Binghamton
GAME 4: 7:05 p.m. Monday at Binghamton
GAME 5: 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Binghamton
GAME 6: 7 p.m. Friday, May 6 at Portland
GAME 7: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at Portland
PIRATES VS. SENATORS -- HOW THEY MATCH UP
• Portland could be without its top scorer, Mark Mancari, who was called up to play Tuesday night for the Buffalo Sabres in the seventh game of their NHL playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers. During the first round of the playoffs, rookie right wing Corey Tropp had two goals and five assists to lead the Pirates in scoring, while veteran right wing Mark Parrish, second-year center Paul Byron and Mark Voakes, who was called up from the ECHL's Greenville Road Warriors in early March, each scored two goals and had three assists in six games. Despite playing without Corey Locke (21 goals, 65 assists), the AHL's MVP and leading scorer, who has been kept of the lineup by a shoulder injury, Binghamton still was able to average 3.6 goals per game in its seven games against Manchester in the first round of the playoffs. Center Ryan Potulny, a late-season acquisition who has spent parts of six seasons in the NHL, has lead all scorers in the playoffs with eight goals and six assists. Rookie right wing Bobby Butler, who spent nearly half the season in the NHL with the parent Ottawa Senators, follows with seven goals and four assists. Binghamton right wing Ryan Keller, who has three goals and seven assists, also ranks among the top 10 in playoff scoring.
• Marc-Andre Gragnani (12-48), who set Portland franchise records for points by a defenseman in a season, remains in the NHL with the Sabres. In recent weeks, Dennis Persson, who has four assists in the playoffs, and rookie Alex Biega have been the Pirates' best defensive tandem, and former UMaine defenseman Jeff Dimmen, signed April 2 by the Pirates, has performed solidly. In six games against the Whale, Portland allowed 18 goals. Veteran Andre Benoit, second-year pros Geoff Kinrade and Craig Schira and rookie Patrick Wiercioch lead a Binghamton defensive unit decimated by injuries during the latter stages of the season and the first round of the playoffs. In seven games against the Monarchs, the Senators allowed 24 goals during regulation play.
• Portland's top goalie, Jhonas Enroth, remains with the Sabres. David Leggio has logged more minutes (369) than any other goalie during the playoffs while compiling a 2.93 goals-against average. John Muse, a former Boston College goalie who stopped 33 of 35 shots in his one start for the Pirates, serves as backup. After Binghamton fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against Manchester, backup goalie Robin Lehner stepped in and allowed 10 goals to lead the Senators to three consecutive overtime wins as they advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003. In Game 1 through Game 4 of the opening-round series, Barry Brust allowed 14 goals during regulation time.
– Paul Betit
"We wanted to get our legs kind of warmed up," Dineen said. "I tried to keep it fairly crisp and short."
The Pirates spent about 70 minutes on the ice at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
"There's always things you look at on the other team, but more importantly, you try to focus on what your team does," Dineen said. "We had a few drills that were geared around our next opponent, but we really tried to give the guys a chance to get out and get some flow."
The second-round series features two of the league's most potent offenses. Portland led the league in scoring during the regular season and Binghamton is the postseason scoring leader among the eight teams left in the playoffs.
"They are an extremely dynamic offensive team, so we have to be very conscious of that," Dineen said.
The teams split two games during the regular season. On March 18, Portland skated to a 3-2 win at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in New York. On Jan. 11, Binghamton won 5-2 at the Civic Center.
But those two regular-season games don't mean much at this point in the season.
"I don't think you can even think about the regular season right now," Portland left wing Derek Whitmore said. "They've got a whole different team than what we saw back in March. They've got a whole bunch of guys sent back from Ottawa (Binghamton's NHL affiliate)."
Binghamton forwards Bobby Butler, Colin Greening and Erik Condra each played 24 or more games with Ottawa.
Binghamton center Ryan Potulny, who recently came in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, has eight goals and six assists in seven playoff games to lead the league in scoring.
"One of our strengths is our ability to create (offense), but certainly we're going to have to be on our toes with that kind of talent," Dineen said.
During their six-game series against the Connecticut Whale, the Portland power play went dormant. In one three-game stretch, the Pirates went 0 for 22 with a man advantage.
"I think it just came down to the guys on the power play taking pride in the privilege of being on the power play," Whitmore said.
Portland ended up scoring five goals in 36 power-play opportunities to rank 10th among 16 playoff teams.
"It was nice in Coach Dineen showing confidence in the same group of guys, knowing they're going to get the job done," Whitmore said.
"I thought we did a good job on the power play in Game 5 and in Game 6 to put the series away. We're still a work in progress, but I think we're headed in the right direction going into the next round."
In their seven-game series against the Manchester Monarchs, Binghamton converted on 6 of 34 power plays.
On the penalty kill in the first round of the playoffs, the Pirates were 15th (74.2 percent) and the Senators 16th (69.2 percent).
NOTES: T.J. Brennan was out of the Portland lineup in the last two games against Connecticut because of an injury to his left foot, but Dineen expects him to return before the end of the series against Binghamton.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org