After winning just three of their first nine games, the Portland Pirates – last in the AHL’s Atlantic Division – are trying to make the most of their nine-day break.

Last Friday night, the Pirates fell apart in the third period in a 5-2 loss to the Manchester Monarchs at a packed Cumberland County Civic Center.

The Pirates don’t play again until they visit New Hampshire to play the Monarchs Sunday afternoon to start a three-game trip.

“This is not how we wanted to start the year, but if you’re going to have a bad time in the year you want to have it now at the beginning,” veteran defenseman Nathan Oystrick said. “We’ve got eight or nine days when we can really bear down and work on things.”

During the first two days of the break, practices were devoted to strengthening defensive play.

“We’ve worked on a lot of defensive stuff, one-on-one battles, and just getting stronger and more intense,” Oystrick said. “We’ve watched video and we’re going to continue to watch video to see where we can improve and what we’re doing well. It’s definitely not a vacation, not at all.”

Portland Coach Ray Edwards said he expected his team would experience some growing pains at the outset.
“No one likes to be 3-5-1, but this is where we are and we’re going to fix it,” he said. “I feel good about this group because I feel we’re going to continue to grow and get better.”

The break comes at a good time for the two newest Pirates – center Brock Trotter and left wing Brett MacLean.

Trotter, who came via a trade with Montreal,  joined the Pirates last week during their five-day trip to Newfoundland. He played four games without a full practice.

“I met the guys in St. John’s right from Hamilton (Bulldogs),” said Trotter, who averaged more than a point per game for the Bulldogs during the 2009-10 AHL season. “It was good to get some games out of the way, but it’s always nice to get time to settle in, kind of get use to the guys, the systems and the coaching staff.”

MacLean, claimed off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets by the Coyotes, participated in his first practice Tuesday.

“It’s probably the best time to come in,” said MacLean, who spent the last three seasons with the Coyotes’ former AHL affiliate in San Antonio. “We play Sunday, so I’m not jumping right into it. It’s great. I get four days of practice, and some down time to try and figure out my personal life, where I’m going to live.”

MacLean’s arrival increased the number of players on the  roster to 27 – two goalies, eight defensemen and 17 forwards.

Edwards intends to trim the  roster before the weekend.

“It’s not good, especially for younger players, to sit in the stands during games,” he said. “they need to play.”

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH

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