Portland takes on St. John's tonight at Mile One Centre
It hasn’t been that long since the St. John’s IceCaps played the Portland Pirates — the teams squared off twice during the IceCaps’ most recent road trip — but the Pirates team that will take on the IceCaps three times this week at Mile One Centre, starting with a matchup tonight, will be far different than the one that took to the ice for those two games in Lewiston, Me., last month.
St. John's IceCaps
No fewer than seven players who played for the Pirates in one or both of those contests aren’t with the team this week, and we’re not talking about fringe players.
Since the IceCaps took on the Pirates three weeks ago, Andy Miele, Portland’s leading scorer, has been recalled to the parent Phoenix Coyotes, as have Brandon McMillan, Chris Summers and Brandon Gormley. Meanwhile, Rotislav Klesla, David Rundblad and Chris Brown are out of the Coyotes’ organization, having been included in deals at least week’s NHL trade deadline.
Four of those seven — Summers, Gormley, Klesla and Rundblad — are defenceman, meaning rookie rearguard and Goulds native James Melindy has suddenly zoomed up the Portland depth chart. Melindy, who had only played in 21 of the Pirates’ first 56 games, has dressed for the last three.
Melindy isn’t the only youngster Portland is counting on these days. With Miele (23-34-57) in Phoenix, the Pirates’ top scorers are rookie wingers Lucas Lessio (20-20-40) and Tobias Rieder (22-15-37).
Portland (21-28-10) enters tonight’s game (7:30 p.m. NT) having gone 2-7-1 in its last 10 games, including three straight losses over the weekend. The Pirates look to get back on track against the hottest team in the AHL — St. John’s (36-19-4) has won a team record eight straight games — and one that has dominated them so far in the season series; the IceCaps have won seven of their eight meetings to date.
Besides tonight's games, the teams will also square off Friday and Saturday nights at Mile One.
It isn’t accompanied by a whole lot of fanfare, with day-long television coverage and crowded panels of rumour-spouting analysts, but today marks the American Hockey League trade deadline, when teams — especially those on playoff runs — often look to fine-tune their lineups.
Officially, only players under AHL contracts can be dealt as swaps involving those with National Hockey League deals had too be completed by last week’s NHL trade deadline. However, the rules do allow for loan-loan transactions, whereby an organization transfers a player on an NHL contract from one AHL team to another, often with a similar move the other way. In fact, the AHL deadline often involves more of these loan-loan arrangements than straight-out trades.
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With Tuesday’s news that the IceCaps have lost leading scorer Kael Mouillierat to injury for the rest of the season, it will be interesting to see if the team might make a move to fill the vacuum before this afternoon’s 4:30 p.m. (Newfoundland time) cutoff. The IceCaps and parent Winnipeg Jets have shown a willingness to participate in the process in the past, such as the 2012 deadline, when they traded Shawn Weller, loaned out Kenndal McArdle and received forwards Brock Trotter and Ray Sawada in return.
See ALBERT, page C2
After the Jets lost centre Mark Scheifele to a knee injury last week, Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said the team would not immediately bring up a replacement from the IceCaps, because they didn’t want to use up one of the four non-emergency recalls they were permitted between now and the end of the regular season. However, the next day, they promoted centre John Albert from St. John’s.
It turns out the Jets were able to bring Albert in on a non-emergency basis, meaning he wouldn’t count against the four-recall quota. Here’s why: Although the Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien has been playing as a forward for some time now, he is officially listed as a defenceman. With Scheifele and Chris Thorburn (day-to-day) both injured and Byfuglien counted as a rearguard, Winnipeg could technically claim to have only healthy 11 forwards, one below the lineup minimum, creating an emergency situation.
However, if Thorburn returns to action — and that could happen for tonight’s game against Vancouver — the Jets would have to make a move, either returning Albert to St. John’s, make him a non-emergency call-up or declare another forward as injured.
Albert played sparingly Tuesday night in Winnipeg’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, seeing four shifts and just over two minutes of ice time.