Ian Clark's On Hockey: Give this Monarchs-Pirates rivalry time to grow
MANCHESTER -- The jerseys are the same, but the players are not and that means a once-heated rivalry will need time to warm up again.
The Manchester Monarchs (3-2-0) visit the Portland Pirates (1-1-1) tonight at Cumberland County Civic Center, facing off for the second time in five days. The teams will meet 12 times this season.
These squads have been divisional rivals for 11 years and the tensions between them have risen over the past few seasons. But Portland changed affiliates this year, swapping from Buffalo to Phoenix.
That means a completely new roster and none of the past animosity.
“It'll take time, but we play them enough times,” said Monarchs forward Richard Clune. “I think we already established that we're a more physical team than them and we kind of pushed them around a little bit and I'm sure they're going to want to push back.”
The old rivalry even extended behind the bench, where former Pirates coach Kevin Dineen (now coaching Florida in the NHL) would give Clune — who doesn't shy away from anything on the ice — an earful.
“It's a little bit different because you don't hear Dineen behind the bench chirping at you,” Clune said. “That's probably the biggest difference for me. It's a good hockey rivalry. It'll pick up and be fun all year.”
One thing that never changes is the atmosphere in Portland, where AHL hockey has been part of the cultural landscape since the days of the Maine Mariners in the 1970s.
“There's different personnel, but the same feel in the building,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “They're a good organization. They give us all we can handle.”
Manchester defeated Portland 5-1 on Saturday and Morris liked his team's approach, but knows tonight could mean a completely different outcome.
“I thought we were very patient in the last game as we utilized our chances to our benefit,” Morris said. “Every game is a new game so you've got to come into it humble and get right back after it and make sure you're ready for battle because in this league things can change overnight and shift to shift.”
Morris said he expects to go back to Martin Jones in net. Jones was the winner in Saturday's game and is 3-1-0 to start the year.
“I think that having had recent success against Portland is a good reason to go right back to him,” Morris said. “He should be well-rested. He's had a few days to recover and he's played very solidly for us.”
The Monarchs will conclude their six-game road trip on Friday at Connecticut and Saturday at Worcester. Manchester returns home next Wednesday for a 7 p.m. game with Springfield.
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Defenseman Slava Voynov, called up by Los Angeles earlier this week from Manchester, was expected to make his NHL debut against St. Louis on Tuesday night.
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The banged-up Boston Bruins are slowly starting to get some players back to the lineup.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid was a game-time decision for Tuesday night's game with Carolina (he didn't play). McQuaid has been out for a week since suffering a head/neck injury against the Hurricanes last Wednesday.
Two other injured Bruins were on the ice for practice Tuesday and stayed behind for additional work. That pair was Steven Kampfer and David Krecji.
Kampfer has yet to play this season after injuring his knee in the preseason. His return is still a little ways off, but getting him back on the ice is a good sign and he should be cleared for practice contact in the next few days, if not today.
Krecji has a “core” injury and should be back in a game or two.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.