GLENDALE, Ariz. – Mark Louis traded in his stiff defenseman’s stick for a more flexible forward’s stick Friday during the second day of the Phoenix Coyotes’ training camp at Jobing.com Arena.
It was the next step in Louis’ transformation from a heavy-hitting defenseman to a heavy-hitting right wing.
It’s the continuation of an experiment that started last spring near the end of his first full season with the Portland Pirates, who are entering their third season as the AHL affiliate of the Coyotes.
“We tried to use him a little bit at forward at the end of last year and he did well,” said Brad Treliving, Phoenix’s assistant general manager. “He’s a big guy, he can skate, he can get in on the forecheck. He brings a different element up front so we’re going to take a look at him there.”
Signed as a free agent in 2012 out of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Louis agreed to a two-year AHL contract after last season.
“He’s a guy we really like,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “He’s got a lot of raw ability there and we’ve got to find a way to use it.”
The position change could give Louis a better chance to play in the NHL.
“We’ve got pretty good depth at the blue line with our young players,” Edwards said. “What we don’t have are big tough forwards.”
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Louis has embraced the move.
“I’m all for it,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do in the back of my mind for a long time, but I’ve always been groomed as a defenseman.”
Louis registered three assists and logged 111 penalty minutes during his first full season with Portland.
Louis alternated with Portland forwards Jordan Martinook, Darian Dziurzynski and Phil Lane in practicing breakouts during Friday’s 90-minute practice session.
“There have been guys around me who have been giving me good pointers,” Louis said. “They help me out with questions that I have or they will see something that I’m doing, something I need to correct.”
Louis said his experience as a defenseman should help his transformation.
“It’s a learning transition but at the same time it’s kind of seamless,” he said. “You already know what the D-man’s thinking. You can find those pockets of ice because you know where the puck’s going to go. The big difference is there is a lot more skating. You’ve got to get to those open spots.”
NOTES: The Coyotes are scheduled to play their first intrasquad scrimmage at 11:30 a.m Sunday. On Sunday, they’ll play split-squad games against the Los Angeles Kings at Jobing.com Arena and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Rookie forward Lucas Lessio will still limping around with a protective boot placed on his right foot.
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