After splitting the first two games of their first-round series with the Atlantic Division-winning Hershey Bears, the Portland Pirates will need to find a way to win twice at Giant Center to advance to the next round.
The parent Florida Panthers are doing their best to make that happen, returning forwards Logan Shaw and Greg McKegg and defenseman Mike Matheson to the Pirates.
Shaw played in the final three games of the Cats playoff loss to the New York Islanders and registered 9 shots on goal and -2 rating. In 19 regular season games with Portland, the 23-year-old scored an impressive 11 goals to go along with 3 assists.
McKegg made an appearance in Game 3 of the series against the Isles, posting a shot on goal and an even rating. In 47 games with the Pirates, McKegg amassed 23 points (10G/13A) in 47 games and was the only player on the club to notch a hat trick this season.
The chance to gain even more playoff experience will be a boon to Matheson, who was a standout in the hard-fought series against New York. After sitting out Game 1, Matheson played in the final five games, finishing with one assist, a +1 rating and three shots on goal. In 54 games with Portland, the 22-year-old put up 8 goals and 12 assists to go along with a +14 rating that was second-highest on the club.
Having these three players back in the lineup will give the Pirates a better chance of pulling an upset against the Bears.
Portland won the opening game of the series in a wild 6-4 shootout. Hershey replaced former Panther netminder Dan Ellis with Justin Peters (who stopped 31 shots) in Game 2 and took a 3-1 win to even things up in best-of-5. Tonight's game has a 7 p.m. start as does Saturday's Game 4. Game 5, if necessary, will be played on Sunday at 5 p.m.