While NHL parent Phoenix is continuing its Stanley Cup playoff run, a group of coaches and players from the Portland Pirates have set up shop at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

“We basically have our own little group,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “We have eight or nine players and our little staff, and we just manage our group. You know, we’re sort of on our own schedule.”

Tuesday night, Phoenix won its first playoff series since 1987 when the franchise was known as the Winnipeg Jets by dispatching the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

The Coyotes start their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Nashville Predators on Friday night at home.

Edwards, who is accompanied by his assistant coach John Slaney, trainer Mike Booi and equipment manager John Krouse, is in Arizona to make sure the Coyotes have well-conditioned substitutes if needed.

“If (the Coyotes) run into injury problems, this is the group they will lean on,” Edwards said. “It’s a testament to that group, and it’s our job to keep them ready in case they’re needed.”

The group of Pirates practicing includes veteran forward Brett MacLean, and rookie forwards Brett Hextall, Andy Miele, Jordan Szwarz and Ethan Werek, as well as defensemen Maxim Goncharov and David Rundblad. Defenseman Connor Murphy, who spent the season in the juniors with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League and goalie Louis Domingue from the Quebec Ramparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League also are with the group.

“When the Coyotes are on the road, we practice at the normal time at 11 in the morning,” Edwards said. “When the Coyotes are at home then we practice in the afternoon after they do.”

Edwards said it was good for the younger players to be in a playoff environment.

“They’re out here to learn and to see how hard it is, and the intensity and to watch how things are done,” he said.

A number of players who spent a significant amount of time with the Pirates during the regular season continue to practice with the Coyotes.

That group includes veteran forwards Alexandre Bolduc, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Matt Watkins, defensemen Michael Stone and Chris Summers, and goalie Justin Pogge.

Pouliot is the only player from that group to play during the playoffs. He had assists while playing Games 5 and 6 against the Blackhawks.

“I thought down the stretch, he was one of our best players,” Edwards said. “I thought it was very rewarding for him to get an opportunity to play meaningful games.”

It is the third consecutive season Edwards has been placed in charge of a group of AHL players while the Coyotes, who moved to Arizona in 1996, have been in the playoffs.

“I went through this the last couple of years, and I know how hard this group has worked the last couple of years to become an elite team,” he said. “The last couple of years they’ve lost in the first round, and it’s exciting and rewarding to see all that hard work pay off.” 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH