SACO — Scoring and discipline have been in scarce supply for the Portland Pirates this season, particularly in the five games that turned into regulation losses.

The team is hoping another week off — during which each was a major talking and practice point — will help turn things around as the schedule begins to ramp up.

“We’ve identified three or four things that we want to focus on,” Pirates’ head coach Ray Edwards said. “And the first thing is finding a way to eliminate a goal or two a game. That’s being better with the puck, better managing the game, those types of things.

“In seven of the eight games, we’ve out-chanced our opponent, so I don’t want us to start squeezing our sticks,” Edwards added, “but we have to be a little bit hungrier. We need to find ways to score. We had 18 scoring chances last game and only got two goals.”

One thing that may help in that department is the likely return of Tobias Rieder from an injury. Rieder, in his first season with the team, scored twice in the team’s home-opener against Manchester (a 4-3 shootout loss), but has been on the shelf since.

“It was really frustrating. You come to a new team, you have a great start in your first game and then be out for a couple games, it was real frustrating,” Rieder said. “I’m really excited. I can’t wait for (Friday), and hopefully I can keep it going like last game.”

Edwards stopped short of confirming Rieder’s return to the lineup Thursday, but the forward skated with a full-contact jersey at practice alongside Chris Brown and Brendan Shinnimin.

“We’ll make a final decision on him (Friday), but he looks like he’s ready to go,” Edwards said.

That said, Edwards also tried to temper expectations for Rieder.

“It was one game, and we have to get him up to speed, and then get him going,” Edwards said. “But he’s a player who can hopefully create a little offense for us, and that’s something we need.”

Having been away from the lineup and able to watch from the stands has also helped Rieder gain some perspective on the team.

“I think we just need to stick to our game plan,” Rieder said. “I think we have a really good team here, we work hard every night, and you can see that from above. Once we start capitalizing on the chances we get, we’ll be fine.”

Lineup levels off … for now

After a flurry of roster moves during the first month of the season, things calmed down this week, allowing the Pirates to settle into some line combinations during practice.

“We’ve had lines all week,” Edwards said. “Now, there may be a change coming in (Thursday or Friday). It’s the American Hockey League. You can have lines all week and then two guys get called up one day and two more get sent down the next and it changes everything. The reality in this league is that everybody has to be able to play with everybody. It can change quickly. That’s one of the great things about this league, you have to be able to adjust.”

On the adjustment front, the Pirates found out Thursday that Andy Miele, who had been called up to Phoenix, is on his way back to the AHL, meaning the lines for Friday will again juggle.

Brown, who began the season with the Pirates’ parent club, the Phoenix Coyotes, has been on both sides of that coin.

“You wish all the best to the guys that get called up, and your goal obviously is not to play here, it’s to play in Phoenix,” Brown said. “So if you do get the opportunity, you want to make the most of it. We do have a bunch of guys here that have the ability to play there.

“But it’s also nice to get a little comfortable with your linemates now and then, get some chemistry, get some things flowing a bit. But we also have a bunch of guys in this locker room who are good at working through the adversity that is playing in this league.”

Awkward schedule

For the second time this season, the Pirates went nearly a full week without playing a single game, an oddity in the schedule precipitated by the expectation of splitting the season between Lewiston and Portland.

The breaks have reminded Brown of his days playing for the University of Michigan.

“I feel like I’m back in college again, I feel like we’re playing a college hockey schedule,” Brown said. “For me, it’s, I’ve been through that, but it’s tough, because you’re not in a game mode, you’re more in a practice mode. You try to keep the mentality of competing hard in practice so you compete hard during the game, but when you’re playing against your own teammates, you don’t want to hit them too hard, or sometimes you might back off on shots so you don’t hit someone in the face or injure someone else.”

Still early

Despite the team’s slow start, and winless record at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, neither the staff nor the players are about to throw in the proverbial towel.

“We just need to stick together,” Brown said. “I think we just need to be positive, stay positive and everyone keep playing their role. We’re getting some chances, we’re just not finishing right now, and the coaches are preaching that we just need to get one more, the game changes, and hopefully we can get a win.

“It’s a long season, we’re only eight, nine games in,” Brown added. “We’re going to get on a little streak here and we’ll be fine.”

“We’re working hard, the work ethic is there,” Edwards said. “We’re just not getting the results.”

Injury update

Rieder’s return isn’t the only positive update on the team’s injury front.

Edwards on defenseman James Melindy:

“Any time you have a guy out there in a yellow jersey, you know what that means. But he’s back skating, which is a good sign.”

Edwards on goalie Mike Lee, who was back on the ice Thursday:

“Mike had some work done Sunday, and he’s had a few days to recover. We think he’s close to being ready to play in a game, and then we’ll have to decide what to do.”

Edwards on veteran defenseman Randy Jones, who left the team’s most recent game after two shifts when he took a slap shot to the arm:

“We’re lucky. It’s nothing that will keep him out for a while. He practiced all week for us. We’d like him to get up to speed, get him some minutes so he can get accustomed to how we play, get accustomed to playing with his partner.”

Worcester again … and again

The Pirates will face the Worcester Sharks on Friday at the Colisee in their sixth home contest of the season. It’s also the second meeting of the season for the Pirates against their division rival, against whom they will also skate Sunday in Worcester. The Sharks and Pirates will meet 12 times this season.

“They’re a physical, big, heavy team that loves to go to the net,” Brown said. “We need to match that intensity, match that physicality in order for us to have a chance to win.”

Bracken Kearns and Daniil Tarasov have led the Sharks to date, with 10 and nine points, respectively. Kearns also leads the team with 31 penalty minutes. Former Portland Pirates forward Jimmy Bonneau is also among the team leaders in penalty minutes with 19 in just four games.

Also on the team is Freddie Hamilton, brother of Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Freddie has two goals in four games for the Sharks.

The Pirates’ active leading scorers include Miele at eight points, and Brown, defenseman Brandon Gormley and defenseman Daine Todd with five points each.

Military appreciation

With Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11, the Pirates are paying tribute to current and former members of the United States Military on Friday in their game against the Worcester Sharks.

The Pirates will wear special military-themed jerseys for the event, and they have created a Military Appreciation Pack for the game, with a portion of the proceeds from the pack benefiting the Wounded Heroes Program of Maine, a non-profit organization that helps support wounded veterans when they return to Maine after being injured in the line of duty.

“You can’t give those guys enough credit for what they do,” defenseman Chris Summers said in a team news release. “I think it’s a good thing we honor a guy every night, or a lady, and I think we should do more of it to be honest with you.”

“I think those people don’t get recognized as often as they should,” forward Brett Hextall said. “So it’s nice that we can kind of do our part and have a night for them.”

“Everyone has got someone that they know in war or overseas, so any time that you can help out and touch those families who do have someone over there, it’s special,” Brown said.


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