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Eye on the Pirates: Portland Looking to Establish Identity

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

Portland Pirates General Manager/Head Coach Ray Edwards liked what he saw in the team’s 4-3 road victory over Worcester on Wednesday and thinks it can be a blueprint for future success.

Nine different players notched at least one point and goalie Louis Domingue stopped 31 of 34 shots as the Pirates upped their record to 3-5-0-0 on the young season.

Ray Edwards

“We’ve had a couple games recently where we’ve had success and hopefully those wins will help drive home some of the points we’re trying to make,” Edwards said Thursday. “We’re a work in progress. We’re trying to figure out exactly who we might be. I think we have an idea of what our identity has to be and how we have to play and what we need from guys, and now it’s just a matter of putting the pieces in the right place and guys understanding what we’re striving for here.”

The Pirates are playing this season minus Andy Miele, a high-scoring center who is no longer with the Coyotes organization. Miele led the Pirates in points the past two seasons – including 2013-14 when he notched 72 points in 70 games.

Edwards said he’s not expecting just one member of this year’s team to jump up and replace Miele’s production.

“It’s got to be by committee,” Edwards said. “We need a little bit more from everybody. I don’t think one guy is going to do what Andy did.”

Center Alex Bolduc is leading the Pirates in scoring thus far with seven points (three goals, four assists) in eight games. Brendan Shinnimin (two goals, three assists), Lucas Lessio (three goals, one assist), Tobias Rieder (three goals, one assist) and Dylan Reese (zero goals, four assists) are close behind.

Bolduc is serving as team captain, as he did in 2012-13 when the Pirates last qualified for the AHL playoffs.

“He’s one of our offensive leaders but he’s a real competitive give who’s hard on the puck and he really drives the group with his work ethic,” Edwards said. “He has a good rapport with a lot of our second- and third-year guys. They really respect him.”

Reese, Brandon Gormley, Jordan Szwarz and Andrew Campbell are serving as alternate captains this season.

Alex Bolduc. Photo by Ron Morin.

Coyotes first-round draft pick Henrik Samuelsson has notched one goal and one assist in his first eight games as a professional.

“Like a lot of first-year pros he’s learning,” Edwards said. “He’s understanding what it takes at this level. He’s played eight games now so he’s got a real good sense of where he needs to get his game to. The players here are bigger and stronger and faster than in junior hockey. Once you realize that you understand you’ve got to get your game to a certain level. I think that’s the transition he’s going through right now.”

Goalie Mark Visentin, who played 45 games last season, has yet to play a game this season. That’s because he’s still nursing a lower-body injury he suffered early in Coyotes training camp.

“He’s skating and he’s doing a lot of good things in terms of conditioning but he’s still dealing with some pain,” Edwards said. There is no timetable for Visentin’s return.

With Visentin sidelined, Domingue has played three games and Mike McKenna has played five. Their goals-against averages are 2.01 and 3.04, respectively.

Edwards said a big surprise of the season has been the play of rookie defenseman Justin Hache.

“He’s come in and really earned an opportunity to stay in the lineup,” Edwards said. “He missed a few games early but he’s gotten into the lineup and now he’s forcing us to make tough lineup decisions. It’s been a nice to see him come in as a rookie and battle to be in the lineup every night.”

The Pirates return to action on Friday when they host St. Johns IceCaps, the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Portland Pirates are the Coyotes’ affiliate in the American Hockey League. For more info on the team visit portlandpirates.com and follow them on Twitter at @PortlandPirates.

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