SACO — After a short preseason followed by a stretch of two weeks with only two games, the Portland Pirates will begin their season in earnest this weekend with a pair of games, the first of which is the team’s annual Pink in the Rink contest at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Saturday night against the Hartford Wolfpack.

“It’s really special because it’s people, their lives have been changed so much,” Pirates captain Jordan Szwarz said. “To show our appreciation toward them is the least we can do.”

A win would be nice, too.

“It definitely feels good to win the games when you have got something like the breast cancer night,” forward Andy Miele said. “You feel like you’re not just doing it for yourself, but you are doing it for the millions of people that are suffering for it.”

The Pirates took their first game of the season against Manchester to a shootout before falling there. Against Providence last Saturday, lack of discipline bit the Pirates in a 5-2 loss.

“I think what we have taken the last two games are we have been a little sloppy,” Szwarz said. “We had a couple of mental lapses against Providence there and the puck wound up in the back of our net.”

Saturday won’t be a walk in the park, either. The Wolfpack are 3-0-0-1 this season in four games, averaging four goals per game to start the campaign.

One of the team’s strengths has been goaltending, but that has been in flux this week with multiple call-ups between the Wolfpack and the NHL’s New York Rangers. Cam Talbot played Friday in Hartford against Manchester after being sent down from the Rangers following a game against the Washington Capitals during which he served as the backup to Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers replaced Talbot on the roster by calling up former Baie-Comeau Drakkar keeper Jason Missiaen.

But the Wolfpack still boast plenty of borderline NHL talent on the front end, including top scorers Chris Kreider and Danny Kristo.

Portland hasn’t had to deal with too many call-ups since the beginning of the season, and has largely benefited from the moves the Phoenix Coyotes have made. The NHL parent club of the Pirates recently signed veteran Jeff Halpern, and also got Rostislav Klesla back from injury, allowing the team to send defender Chris Summers and forward Brandon Yip back to the Pirates.

In addition, former NHL first-round pick Gilbert Brule has signed a PTO with the Pirates. All three of those players are available for the Pirates this weekend.

Saturday’s festivities surrounding “Pink in the Rink” night will begin with the team honoring breast cancer survivors, caretakers and their families during pregame ceremonies, and continue throughout the night. The team will also be raffling off a team-signed pink jersey, will all proceeds going to Making Strides for Breast Cancer.

“You are celebrating something there for people that are going through a tough time,” Szwarz said. “We really like showing our appreciation towards what those people have done and what they have been through so it is really nice to have a night like that.”

Puck drop Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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