Wednesday, December 18, 2013
PORTLAND — Kyle Rank felt comfortable Thursday on his first day back in the Portland Pirates' locker room at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
''This is like our home away from home,'' said Rank, taping his sticks in preparation for the start of the team's training camp. The Pirates take the ice at 10 a.m. today at Portland Ice Arena for their first practice.
Rank, who turns 27 in December, is especially happy to start the season in Portland with an American Hockey League contract.
That wasn't the case last fall, when he started the season with the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones after getting a tryout with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.
''Obviously, being under a contract makes me feel more comfortable,'' he said, ''but I still have to keep my nose to the grindstone.''
The Pirates called Rank up twice last season before keeping him for the final four months.
''I was really happy to be here last year,'' he said. ''But the contract I had was day to day, and you just never knew what was going to happen.''
Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said Rank earned the right to have some stability.
''I'm a big fan of Kyle Rank,'' Dineen said. ''You can always go out and try to find new players and try to change the dimension, but I feel he's the kind of guy who will not only do the job he did last year, but he can improve as a player. I feel he's got steps to improve upon. You put a little confidence in guys like him, and you can see them improve as a player.''
Rank, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound right wing, became a fixture on Portland's checking line. In 44 regular-season games, he had one goal and seven assists.
''You know what, it's not always about flashy stats that make you valuable to a team,'' Dineen said.
''Your team is a recipe and you want to have right mix, and he's certainly a great fit for us, character-wise and skill-wise.''
Despite his extremely physical style of play, Rank made relatively few mistakes. He was assessed just eight penalties during the regular season.
''I try to play a pretty clean game,'' said Rank, entering his third full professional season. ''I'm a physical player, but I try to play within the rules.''
After playing 10 games in the AHL with Bridgeport soon after the end of his college career in 2007, Rank split the 2007-08 season between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL and the Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL.
The Penguins didn't invite Rank back, and he started last season with Cincinnati.
''(The Penguins) had a lot of young guys who they had drafted and they obviously want to develop those younger players,'' Rank said. ''I took it as a learning experience.''
Earlier this week, Rank was one of 14 players assigned to the Pirates out of the Buffalo Sabres' training camp.
''I was excited to get the opportunity to go to the Buffalo training camp,'' he said. ''We've been skating hard for the last three weeks, and that gives you a jump on the season.''
NOTES: A left ankle injury will sideline defenseman Matt Generous for at least a month. He played eight games with the Pirates in the spring following his fourth season at St. Lawrence University. The Pirates will open the season Oct. 3 against the Springfield Falcons at Mass Mutual Center. Portland will play its home opener Oct. 10 against the Providence Bruins at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: