Should the Pirates need any perspective heading into their playoff series against the team with the AHL’s best record, they need look no further than what happened to their basketball brethren in Portland, the Maine Red Claws.

After posting the best record in the NBA Development League, the Red Claws got swept in their first-round playoff series by Fort Wayne.

The Pirates open a best-of-five, first-round series Thursday night in New Hampshire against the Manchester Monarchs, who earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

To secure the eighth and final seed, the Pirates needed a pair of victories in the final games of the regular season – after losing their previous eight – to slip into the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They also needed to overcome a two-goal deficit in the third period of Sunday’s finale at Worcester.

“We can’t be happy with just making playoffs,” said rookie forward Henrik Samuelsson, who scored twice early in the third period of Sunday’s playoff-clinching 5-4 victory after the Pirates had trailed 4-2.

“We’ve got to make a statement here in the first game on Thursday.”

The Pirates and Monarchs met 12 times in the regular season. Portland won just three, all of them essentially by one goal. (Portland scored a pair of last-minute empty netters to make a 3-0 victory on Dec. 28 appear more decisive than it was.)

Of course, not many teams had success against Manchester, which amassed a league-best 109 points – six more than any other team in the league.

Manchester’s Brian O’Neill (22 goals, 58 assists) and Jordan Weal (20 goals, 49 assists) finished first and third in the AHL scoring race. Michael Mersch was among the top rookies with 22 goals and 23 assists.

Sniper Nick Shore tallied 20 goals on 101 shots this season for an impressive 19.8 percent success rate. Goaltenders Jean-Francis Berube (2.18 goals against average, .913 save percentage) and Patrick Bartosak (2.23, .919) were among the league leaders.

“They have a lot of skill and a lot of speed,” said Pirates veteran forward Alexandre Bolduc, “so that’s something we’ll need to take care of. We’re just going to have to be physical. We match up with teams pretty well when we play a physical game, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

The trick, particularly for Bolduc – who led the Pirates with 23 goals – is to avoid getting penalized. The Monarchs led the league in power-play success (20.7 percent) while Portland was 27th of 30 teams at 13.9 percent.

“They’re very opportunistic, for sure,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “They’re a good hockey club. They’re first in the league for a reason.”

The geographic proximity of clubs – coupled with the fact that their parent clubs (Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes) are often at odds with each other – has added spice to the rivalry. Defenseman Evan Oberg suffered a season-ending leg injury against Manchester and forward Jordan Martinook was similarly injured against the Monarchs April 10 and has yet to return.

“We’ve had some bad blood that way,” Edwards said.

Martinook had skated on Portland’s top line with Bolduc and Samuelsson, but he won’t be available this series. Other Pirates who are questionable are forward Justin Hodgman, who took an elbow to the jaw Saturday night against Providence and did not play on Sunday, and defenseman Joel Hanley, who left Sunday’s game in the first period after a skate opened a gash in his upper leg that required 30 stitches to close.

But the Pirates’ lineup has been fortified by three recent additions. Swedish defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, a three-year AHL veteran who played 19 NHL games with Arizona after coming over in a late March trade with Chicago, has added stability to the back line.

Up front, 20-year old Laurent Dauphin and 19-year-old Christian Dvorak made their AHL debuts this weekend after completing their juniors seasons in Chicoutimi, Quebec (where Dauphin had 31 goals and 44 assists in 56 games) and London, Ontario (41-68-109 in 66 games for Dvorak and another 5-8-13 in 10 playoff games).

“They bring some fresh legs,” Bolduc said. “It’s good to have them with us.”

In only two games, Dvorak has blended nicely with the veteran Bolduc and the 21-year-old Samuelsson on Portland’s first line. They scored four of Portland’s five goals in the most important game of the season Sunday. Should they continue to click against Manchester, a solid Portland defense in front of seasoned goaltender Mike McKenna and rising prospect Louis Domingue could give the Monarchs a formidable challenge.

“I think having this confidence is key going into this series,” Samuelsson said. “If we keep playing hard, I think we’ll make it a good series.”