The St. John’s IceCaps take to the ice tonight for a weeknight divisional match-up against the Portland Pirates (Phoenix Coyotes affiliate). Struggling (somewhat) out of the gate, the Pirates will be looking to pull their record to .500 as they currently sit at 2-3-0-1. It won’t be easy, as they’re missing arguably the best player from their lineup, Andy Miele, who was recalled to Phoenix over the weekend and will remain with the big club for now.
It’s quite obvious that this is a big game for the IceCaps. They’ll want to establish themselves early against these divisional clubs and hopefully keep a stranglehold on the Atlantic throughout the season.
A familiar face will be back in St. John’s tonight when Brock Trotter takes to the ice for the Pirates. IceCaps fans got a chance to see Trotter, a solid offensive player, when he suited up for the Hamilton Bulldogs on opening weekend. Since then, the Canadiens and Coyotes completed a trade that sent him to Portland and he’ll make his second trip to Newfoundland in as many weeks.
Trotter is a player to watch out for, but winger Mathieu Beaudoin is also a premiere player for the Pirates. He’s notched 4 points in six games this season and led his team in scoring (51 points in 63 games played) last season as a member of the San Antonio Rampage, the previous affiliate of the Coyotes. Since then, the Pirates have changed hands from the Buffalo Sabres to become Phoenix’s farm club, while the Rochester Americans are now the Sabres’ affiliate. Musical chairs.
The IceCaps have been stingy when it comes to giving up goals. Right now they sit at 14GA through six games, but on the other side of the puck their powerplay continues to struggle. And by struggle, I mean, is basically non-existent. The team sits dead last in the league for powerplay efficiency with only one goal in 29 attempts with the man advantage. That’s 3.4%. Ugly.
The fact that they’ve managed such a great record (4-1-1-0) during this span is unbelievable. But if things don’t start to click soon, the losses will come.
Puck movement along the point has been a breeze, but the powerplay unit lacks punch down low. Even strength, they tend to use their speed to generate chances, as is evident with Carl Klingberg’s quick feet and huge goal total, but they really need to start burying chances in close on the PP. It won’t be easy against the Pirates, they’re 8th in the league right now, killing off 87% of their penalties. It’s early of course, but just don’t expect any favors from Portland in busting the PP slump.
The powerplay isn’t an area where the Pirates struggle either, they’ve been a respectful 21.9% on the year so far for 12th league-wide. The IceCaps will really have to bring their game tonight to get the two points.
Game goes at 7:30 Newfoundland time at Mile One Centre, and can be heard on the radio online at thisisnewfoundlandandlabrador.ca
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