PORTLAND – The AHL All-Star break can’t come soon enough for the banged-up Portland Pirates.

Only 14 forwards and defensemen were on the ice Thursday for practice at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Before starting a four-day break, the Pirates, who moved into first place in the Atlantic Division last weekend, travel to play the Providence Bruins tonight and the Connecticut Whale on Saturday night.

“We’re giving guys a chance to heal up and to get them feeling better about themselves, and try to get healthy and give us some energy to get through the weekend,” Coach Kevin Dineen said.

Forward Mark Mancari, the AHL’s leading scorer, was among four players who dressed for Tuesday night’s game against the Norfolk Admirals but didn’t practice Thursday.

“It was a maintenance day for him,” Dineen said.

It was unclear whether Mancari will be available this weekend.

Also missing from practice were rookie forwards Brian Rolloff and Maxime Legault, and defenseman Drew Schiestel.

Rolloff said he suffered a concussion in the second period of the 2-1 victory over the Admirals.

Legault, who happens to be Rolloff’s roommate, suffered a bruised right foot when hit by a puck in the first period.

Schiestel, who was unavailable for comment, limped off the ice early in the third period and won’t play in the AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday and Monday at Hershey, Pa.

The Pirates, on a four-game win streak, are coming off a five-games-in seven-days stretch.

“We’re trying to get through this next stretch,” Dineen said. “We’re a little beat up and we just went through a ridiculous part of the schedule. There were so many games, and it’s not surprising you run into a lot of injuries.”

The Pirates should get a lift from the return of forwards Matt Ellis and Paul Byron from a five-day stay with the Buffalo Sabres.

It was the first NHL call-up for Byron, a second-year pro who scored during a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. In his first game, Byron had an assist in a 5-2 win Sunday against the New York Islanders.

In those two games, Ellis, who has played a total of eight games for the Sabres this season, averaged 121/2 minutes of ice time on the fourth line with Rob Neidermeyer and Mike Grier.

Dineen said he expects to call at least one player up from the ECHL to add to his team’s depth.

“We’ll make a transaction or two to make sure we’re healthy enough to play a competitive game in Providence,” he said.

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

[email protected]