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River Rats return to Glens Falls

Albany, missing two top scorers, hopes for a win on Civic Center ice




Saturday, February 7, 2009 1:23 AM EST

TROY - Pat Dwyer stood behind the glass, dressed in a baseball cap and jeans, watching his Albany River Rats practice at RPI's Houston Field House on Friday morning during a rare day off for the veteran forward.

When the River Rats roll into a sold-out Glens Falls Civic Center today to take on the Portland Pirates (5 p.m.), they won't have the luxury of an extra body or the chance to let someone take it easy. It will be all hands on deck.

The last time the Rats played, a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia a week ago, they had 18 skaters. Since then, the Carolina Hurricanes have called up leading scorer Jakub Petruzalek. Matt Auffrey was assigned to Florida of the ECHL.

That leaves the Rats with a minimum of 10 healthy forwards and six defenseman. As of Friday morning, head coach Jeff Daniels was still hoping to add two forwards for today's game.

"We've been through (late call-ups) before," Daniels said. "We just give them a little crash course on our system, but really we just tell them to go out and play."

The Rats' top two scorers -- Michael Ryan and Petruzalek -- along with top defenseman Bryan Rodney, have been called up to the Hurricanes in the last two weeks.

"Carolina is a little banged up, and we're a little banged up here, too," alternate captain Pat Dwyer said. "So it's tough but it's one of those things where we've got to do what we've got to do."

What Dwyer has done, of late, is put on a show at the Civic Center. After losing their first five games in Glens Falls over two years, the Rats have won their last two in the building. Dwyer scored the game-winning goal in each, including a breakwaway, overtime goal in October to give Albany a 5-4 win over Worcester.

"I don't know if it's dumb luck or not, but it's just one of those barns where things have gone my way," Dwyer said. "I've had some big goals there. But if you look at it, two game-winning goals out of seven, eight tries, it's really not that impressive. As of late we've found a way to be successful there and hopefully we can continue that."

The Rats need to find a spark somewhere. With 32 games remaining, the Rats are in fifth place in the East Division of the Eastern Conference, 13 points behind Binghamton for the last playoff spot. The Rats have made the postseason each of the last two seasons.

"If we're going to make the playoffs, we better get hot quick," Dwyer said. "And I think now is the time. We need to string games together. At this point, we can't give any away. We don't have any points to give away."

Portland, meanwhile, would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The Pirates opened the season by going 12-4, but have since settled to fourth place in the Atlantic Division, just four points out of first place. They come in having lost their last two games and five of their last eight.

"We're not rolling right now," Portland head coach Kevin Dineen said. "The last two games we've lost leads. That's why I've been a little grumpy lately."

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