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Pirates' Dixon yet to miss a game in three seasons

by Lindsay Kramer

Portland Pirates center Stephen Dixon has been in the lineup ever since he turned pro three years ago, including all postseason contests.
All Portland Pirates center Stephen Dixon needs is a workplace address. Show him where to punch the time clock, and he'll take it from there.

Dixon has played every game possible his first three pro seasons, 80 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton each of his first two seasons and the same number again this year with the Pirates. He also skated in each of the 22 postseason games the Penguins played in that stretch and all 15 games for Portland in these playoffs.

"I think a lot of it has to do with luck," Dixon said. "You get hit with a deflection, get a puck off your face, you could be out with that. It's not something I look into too much. It's almost kind of funny now. You are playing all these games, the boys are joking around, saying 'Ironman.' "

Dixon's current office is unlike any he's experienced before. And it's not just that he's helped nudge Portland to the skyscraper heights of the Eastern Conference finals. He's also sharing a workspace with the player he was swapped for last summer, Penguins center Tim Brent.

The two knew each other from their junior days, as teammates at the World Junior championships. Dixon, 22, never expected that he'd forge another bond with his friend, one that came when they changed teams.

 "I was excited to start again (with a new organization)," Dixon said. "It's funny now, we end up playing each other in the playoffs. You wish the guy all the best, but you can't look at (comparative stats). You'd put pressure on yourself, where it's kind of unnecessary."

Actually, there's no need for comparison-shopping. Both sides have to be happy about their new middlemen, as evidenced by the teams' respective places in the AHL final four.

Brent paced the Penguins with 61 points and leads the team in playoff scoring with 18 points in 14 games. Dixon had his best pro season with 45 points and has seven more in the postseason, centering a top line with Geoff Platt and Bobby Ryan.

"I didn't want to change too much, just do what I did before, play a good, two-way game," Dixon said. "I've tried to be consistent, be good at both ends of the ice. I just worried about myself, what I had to do here. I think I'm playing in a few more situations than I did before. That just comes with being older."

Chicago's Fahey goes home again -- Bringing a Calder Cup to Chicago is far more than a professional ambition for Wolves defenseman Brian Fahey.

It's also a point of personal pride, one with roots that extend back several years.

Fahey is from Glenview, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. During his early teen years and through his junior days, he was an avid Wolves backer. As a player with the team, he's been a leader in community appearances. 

"Being my home and playing in front of my friends, it gives it added incentive," Fahey said of returning the Cup to Chicago. "To be able to play a sport for a job is one thing. To be able to play a sport in your hometown is a bonus."

It's a perk made even sweeter by the bumpy route that brought Fahey, 27, home again.

In his first three years as a pro, Fahey bounced around among several teams, including Worcester, Hershey and Iowa of the AHL and Atlantic City and Idaho of the ECHL.

He wasn't able to gain footing anywhere, and even when he tiptoed into the Wolves camp two seasons ago, he did so only on a tryout contract.

"That helped me to grow as a player," he said of the job insecurity. "Jumping around really kind of gave me the whole picture of what it's going to take to make it in the American Hockey League, and beyond."

It seems like he's grasped that concept pretty quickly. Fahey chipped in with 37 points for Chicago this season, and for the past two years, has teamed with Boris Valabik to form the Wolves' top defensive pairing. That unit has been a fixture against opposing No.1 lines this postseason.

It's also helped make the Wolves must-see hockey in a competitive market. The popular Fahey is challenged by balancing the playoff ticket needs of friends and family, although he said many of his buddies know it's best to pony up for admission out of their own pockets.

"Being good friends, they pay at the gate once in awhile," Fahey said. "You don't want to hassle dealing with tickets. We try and get as many paying people to the games as we can."
Aubin scratching out some goals --
Somewhere deep inside Toronto rookie forward Brent Aubin, there was a goal-scorer struggling to get out. Fortunately for the Marlies, that side of his game emerged just in time.

Aubin was a large reason why Toronto rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the North Division finals against Syracuse. He scored once in Game 5 and twice in Game 7. That followed a two-game sitdown that Marlies coach Greg Gilbert gave Aubin because he wasn't sweating enough. In Game 2, Aubin didn't even register a shot.

"When you are a hockey player and scratched, you are (upset) a little bit," he said. "I wasn't working hard enough. I said if I get a chance to play again, just go out and have fun, just calm down when you are on the ice. When you sit, you want to respond well."

Nerves usually haven't been a problem when Aubin has tried to sniff out goals. He tallied 51 in 68 games for Quebec in the QMJHL last season.

But through January of this season, he had just two, before hustling to finish out the regular season with 10.

"I had a lot of chances. I was probably too nervous," Aubin said. "When you're a goal-scorer and you're not scoring, you think too much. I wasn't playing the same way I played in juniors. Since the all-star game, my game changed a lot. I gained more confidence, I got more ice time. I just want to go out there, finish every check, don't be afraid."

Around the AHL --
Before topping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 5-2 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference finals series May 18, Portland had won all nine of its playoff games this season by one goal. The league record for most one-goal wins in a single playoff year is 10, set by the 2003 Calder Cup champion Houston Aeros (10-5). ... Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's 5-4 win in Game 4 on May 20 ruined Portland's 6-0 record at home this postseason and ended a Pirates streak of eight straight playoff wins at the Cumberland County Civic Center dating to the 2006 conference finals. ... Seven players in the Portland-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton series used to play for the opposing team. Portland's Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Stephen Dixon and Andy Schneider are all former Penguins, while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Tim Brent, Dennis Bonvie, Alain Nasreddine and Mark Ardelan are ex-Pirates. ... Eight players who have led the AHL in regular-season scoring have also paced the league in playoff scoring in the same season. Chicago's Jason Krog, who had a league-high 112 points in 2007-08, has taken over the league's postseason scoring lead with 24 points in 15 games. ... Krog's goal 25 seconds into Game 2 of the Western Conference finals vs. Toronto on May 18 established a franchise record for the quickest score from the start of a postseason game. ... In the five games since the Wolves fell behind 3-2 in their second-round series against Rockford, Krog has recorded 12 points (8-4) and four game-winning goals… This will mark the fifth consecutive season in which a former AHL coach will win the Stanley Cup. Either Detroit's Mike Babcock or Pittsburgh's Michel Therrien will follow Randy Carlyle (2007), Peter Laviolette (2006), John Tortorella (2004) and Pat Burns (2003). ... Carolina has agreed to terms with defenseman Brett Bellemore on a three-year, entry-level contract. Bellemore, 19, completed his third season with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL in 2007-08, contributing six goals and 18 assists Following Plymouth's exit from the OHL playoffs, Bellemore finished the season with Albany playing in four of the River Rats' last six regular-season games, and five of the team's seven postseason games.

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