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Busy Weekend Ahead for Pirates

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE  -- The Portland Pirates - the Coyotes’ top affiliate in the American Hockey League – will experience their busiest stretch of the season to date this weekend as they play three games in three days in three cities staring Friday at Worcester (Mass.).

After Friday’s game, the Pirates will bus to Wilkes Barre/Scranton (Penn.) for a game on Saturday and then head south to Hershey (Penn.) for a game on Sunday.

Ray Edwards

“We’ve only played one game the past few weeks so the guys are excited for this weekend,” Head Coach Ray Edwards said. “We’re all eager to make some hay in the standings.”

The Pirates (4-3-1) enter the weekend having won three of their past four games. In those games they’ve allowed just five goals.

“I think we’re starting to become the team I expected us to be in training camp,” Edwards said. “We’re defending a lot better. We haven’t scored as many goals as we did early in the season but we’re scoring timely goals without giving up as much defensively.”

Captain Alex Bolduc has a five-game point streak and is leading the team with 11 points (six goals, five assists). Only five other AHL players have more than 11 points and only two have more than Bolduc’s six goals.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has missed the past several games because of an upper-body injury, will accompany his teammates on the hectic trip. Ekman-Larsson ranks fourth on the team and seventh in the AHL among defensemen with nine points.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

“We’re not sure if he’ll get into a game or not,” Edwards said. “We’re going to be overly cautious with him and see how it goes day to day. He skated with the group for the first time (on Wednesday) and he’ll have a full practice with the group (on Thursday). We’ll just see how it goes this weekend.”

Meanwhile, the Pirates will play Friday's game minus forward Phil Lane who was suspended by the AHL on Wednesday for a boarding incident that occurred in last Friday’s game vs. St. John’s.

Edwards said starting goalie Chad Johnson would start Friday’s game and backup Mark Visentin would play the next night.

“We’ve got 15 games coming up in the next four weeks so they’re both going to see plenty of action,” Edwards said.

Regarding this extremely busy weekend, which also will feature dodging a winter storm, Edwards said: “We don’t worry too much about busy schedules. We’re definitely in a tough stretch here but we’ll just try to take it game to game. It’s an old cliche but that’s honestly how we’ll do it.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Follow @PortlandPirates on Twitter for updates on this weekend’s games.

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