River Rats hope to regain top form

Hoping that Wednesday's 9-2 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was only a hiccup, the Albany River Rats f


After getting back to form in Saturday’s and Monday’s wins, that’s what the Albany River Rats are hoping Wednesday’s 9-2 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was.

“It’s one we want to quickly forget,” defenseman Bryan Rodney said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ve been playing pretty strong in the last couple of weeks, so to do that is a little disappointing, but we’ll forget about that, move on and be ready tomorrow night.”

Tonight at 7 at the Times Union Center, the River Rats will host the Portland Pirates, winners of their last nine games. Saturday, they will host the Adirondack Phantoms at 5 p.m. before heading to Hershey for a 5 p.m. Sunday game against the Bears.

Albany coach Jeff Daniels said he expects the Pirates to play like their coach, Kevin Dineen, played.

“He’s a hard-working guy, and that’s the way his teams play,” Daniels said. “They’ve got some guys putting the puck in the net, right now, and they’re on top of their game. It’ll be a good test for us.”

Portland goalie Jhonas Enroth has won his last eight starts, allowing just 15 goals in those games.

Forwards Tyler Ennis and Mark Mancari lead the Pirates with 53 points (18-35) and 52 points (21-31), respectively. Ennis leads all rookies in assists and points. He is tied for the rookie lead in goals with Worcester’s Logan Couture.

This weekend’s home games are two of just nine remaining, so hot or not, the Rats have to take advantage, Rodney said.

“The last part of the season here, we’re mainly on the road,” he said. “For these home games, we’ve got to make sure we’re ready because there’s not many left. This time of year, points are important, and it seems every team we’re playing is hot. We expect two good teams to come in here, ready to beat us. We’ve got to be ready to answer that.”

Daniels said having played so well Saturday and Monday, it should be easier to put Wednesday’s rout behind them and get back to playing good hockey.

“It’s only been a couple days since we had a real good game,” he said. “The guys are a proud group and they weren’t happy with the way things went [Wednesday], so I expect them to respond [tonight].”

Clinch the Cup

With a win Saturday over Adirondack, the River Rats would clinch the Time Warner Cable Cup. Albany has won six of the eight games played n the rivalry series, scheduled for 12 contests this season.

Of course, winning seven isn’t the goal. Winning them all, or at least enough to make the post­season, is the goal.

“Honestly, it’s not something we talk about,” Daniels said. “Adirondack’s below us in the standings, and we’ve got to keep winning to keep them there. It’s got nothing to do with season series, it’s about winning games right now and getting to the playoffs.”

Forward Jerome Samson continues to lead the team in goals (22) and points (44) and is second in assists (22) to Jamie McBain (25).

Samson has had more success than any Rat against Adirondack, with three goals and seven assists in eight games with the Phantoms.

“Every year, it’s a different team,” Samson said. “It’s going to be easier for you to go at them, get goals, get assists, find the opening. The more offensive you get in the first few games, it just carries on to the next game. It snowballs and gets bigger and bigger. When you know you’re able to perform well, I think it gets in your head and comes easier, as much as it is on the opposite side when you’re struggling against a team. You try not to let it go to your head and just go back at it.”

Injury notes

Forward Matthew Pistilli (concussion) skated Thursday in a yellow (no-contact) jersey. Forward Brad Herauf (concussion) continued to skate without the yellow jersey, as did defenseman Jay Harrison (lower body). Daniels said Herauf and Harrison may return to game action as soon as this weekend, but he was unsure . . . Rookie goalie Mike Murphy (upper body) is out for at least two weeks.

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