PORTLAND — After completing a sweep of a four-game home stand, the Portland Pirates are back on the road.

The Pirates will play eight of their next nine games away from the Cumberland County Civic Center, starting tonight against the Connecticut Whale at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

The bulk of the road games are against teams the Pirates haven’t played or have played just once.

“We’ve seen Providence four times, Manchester five times, and to play some different opponents, I think it gets us going,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “The guys are excited in seeing someone else and going to a new building. There’s no easy games so it gets you on your toes a little bit.”

The Pirates (8-7-0-1) have won five of their last seven games.

“The main thing we’ve gotten is confidence that we can win,” said defenseman Michael Stone, who has a three-game points streak.

“Obviously, we didn’t start the year the way we wanted to, especially at home, so the fact we’ve strung a few wins together at home is a big confidence boost.”

The Pirates started the season by losing four of their first five home games.

“We’ve done a lot of work trying to pay attention to the small things, the details,” veteran defenseman Dean Arsene said.

“I think in the first little bit at home we were kind of beating ourselves. Mental mistakes. It’s not as if we don’t have the skills to make the plays or anything like that, but we just weren’t thinking or completely focused all the time.”

Arsene played for Hershey when the Bears won Calder Cups in 2006 and 2009.

“It’s a growing process with this team,” he said.

“We’re pretty young, but we’re starting to come around, and I think you can see that in the results the last few games.”

Rookie center Andy Miele, who has a six-game points streak, is one of the keys to the Pirates’ recent success.

Since returning from a two-week NHL stint with the Phoenix Coyotes, he’s become the team’s leading scorer with five goals and 10 assists in 11 games.

“I got up there and I realized I can play at that level, and I definitely gained some confidence,” he said.

“I came back here and it shows in my play and, hopefully, I can keep it going.”

Goalie Justin Pogge, who has been unable to play since suffering a lower-body injury in the waning moments of a 4-2 win Nov. 12 against the Providence Bruins, participated in Tuesday morning’s practice, but he is not expected to play this week.

“With this particular injury, he’s got to be 100 percent,” Edwards said.

“You don’t want him to come back too early, so we’re just going to err on the side of caution.”

Forward Ashton Rome, who suffered an upper-body injury in the final minute of last Saturday night’s 3-2 win against Providence, also practiced Tuesday morning as did veteran defenseman Nathan Oystrick, who has missed one game because of an upper-body injury.

According to Edwards, Rome should be available to play tonight.

Oystrick, who was not allowed to have contact during practice, could be ready to return for the Pirates’ first two games of the season this weekend against the Worcester Sharks.

Upper-body injuries to forwards Mathieu Beaudoin, Brock Trotter and Ethan Werek are expected to keep them out indefinitely, Edwards said.


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

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH