PORTLAND – Tim Army didn’t really want to see his team after Thursday’s loss in Lowell.

The Portland Pirates coach figured they didn’t want to see much of him either after he denounced their dismal performance in a 4-2 loss to the Lock Monsters.

So Army tried to simplify things. He gave his team some basic instructions, gave them Friday off and told them to return Saturday with the right frame of mind.

“There were three things that I stressed to the team,” said Army. “I wanted them to come to the rink like they were when their mom and dad brought them to hockey when they were little kids. We didn’t have that spirit, and there’s no reason not to have it. We want to have that enthusiasm.

“Number two, I wanted them here to listen and do what’s asked of them, and number three, I wanted them to compete individually and collectively. The outcome of games will take care of themselves. This was the challenge for every game now.”

The Pirates needed some kind of spark after going winless for seven games. It wasn’t exactly what a hockey team would consider peaking at the right time, especially as Portland continued to slide down the Eastern Conference standings. Army used a tactic that worked when he was an assistant with Anaheim. The Ducks were chasing a playoff spot and needed a boost.

“We had a Sunday afternoon game, and we gave them all day Saturday off,” said Army. “We played our best game of the year against Edmonton. That kind of set the mood.”

Army is hoping Saturday’s 3-0 win over Worcester will have a similar impact. The Pirates played soundly and passionately, two signs that have been lacking recently.

“I was kind of searching and reaching,” said Army. “I thought it might be good to get them out and reassess some things. We did what we needed to do as a team. This may be the best thing for us — to have some adversity right now. Maybe we’ll come through it.”

The season has been somewhat disappointing for the Pirates. They’ve had a stronger lineup with relatively few callups compared to other years, yet Portland has struggled to maintain consistency.

“The group we’ve got, it shouldn’t even be a question,” said forward Mike Farrell. “It (a playoff spot) should be a given. The fact that we’re still in the playoff race now, I think we’re taking offense to that.”

Portland still has a chance to earn a bye from the qualifying round with four games left this week.

“I think it’s coming to a time now where it’s crunch time,” said Farrell. “I think it took us a couple of losses to realize that. I think we all realize that if we want things to happen and if we want careers to go the way we want them to go, we’ve got to start winning.”

Sudden impact

It didn’t take long for Josef Boumedienne and Trent Whitfield to make their presence felt when summoned by Washington last week. Boumedienne was called up to take Ken Klee’s spot in the lineup and scored his first goal as a Capital to give Washington an overtime win over Montreal. It was his first NHL game with the Capitals, fifth overall, and his second NHL goal. Klee, out with a bruised foot, may return as early as Tuesday, but Brendan Witt missed Saturday’s game with an injury.

Whitfield was a key addition as well when he joined the Capitals later in the week. He had the game-winner as well and added an assist for his first multi-point game in the NHL. Whitfield was called up to help bolster the fourth line with Brian Sutherby and Sergei Berezin. Though he’s used in more of a defensive role on that line, he managed to score his first NHL goal since March of 2001.

They’d have to clear waivers if returned to Portland, a scenario Army doesn’t expect.

“I’m not counting on it,” he said of their return. “The fact that Boomer is playing really well and Trent went up and did what they need him to do. I’m not anticipating that they’ll be sent back.”

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