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Eye on the Pirates: Portland Fighting to Get Back into AHL Playoff Mix

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By Chris Roy

The Portland Pirates, the Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate, are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings but just three points out of eighth place with 23 games to go.

Portland, which has lost several key players to the injury-plagued Coyotes lately, has dropped eight of its past 11 games.

The Pirates have sent no less than 12 players to Phoenix this season, and all have been ready to step into the roles they’ve been given by the Coyotes because of the preparation received by Pirates Head Coach Ray Edwards and his staff, assistants John Slaney and Mike Minard.

“The positive for me, although you want it in wins and losses, is the development,” Coyotes Assistant G.M. Brad Treliving said. “We’ve had a number of guys play their first NHL games this season. It’s one thing to be called (to the NHL), but it’s another thing to be called up and contribute, and we’re getting a lot of guys who are doing that.”

Forward Matt Watkins, who made his NHL debut with the Coyotes on Tuesday before being sent back to the AHL on Thursday, is a prime example.

In 47 AHL games this season, Watkins has notched nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points, but it wasn’t his offensive production that earned him a recall by the Coyotes, but rather his work ethic and ability to take on any task given to him by Edwards.

Matt Watkins
“He’s been very consistent,” Edwards said. “The one thing that our team hasn’t been, he has been. Every night you can count on him to give you a consistent game. I’ve played him at center, he’s played the power play, he’s killed penalties, he been a top defender against top lines. He’s done everything. He’s got nine goals (on the season), but he could probably have a lot more if he had a little luck around the net, and got some of the bounces.”

The Pirates will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they play at Connecticut on Friday. That game will be the first of three games in three days in three AHL cities.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Saturday in Worcester, Pirates defenseman Dean Arsene will skate in his 500th career AHL game.

“It’s shocking to me that I’ve played this many games,” Arsene told “When I first started playing, I was just trying to break into the league. To be able have played professionally this long is a real accomplishment.”

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