Saturday, March 8, 2014
Darryl Bootland has been wearing a Portland Pirates uniform for little more than a week, but he already senses something special is going on with the AHL team.
''I've played on good teams in years prior,'' said Bootland, a veteran right wing who arrived in a trade from the New York Islanders' organization eight days ago in exchange for right wing Matt Keith. ''I've always noticed how the guys are together. How they react to a bad penalty. How they react when they get scored on. This team has done everything perfect.
''Just watching it is pretty amazing. When somebody takes a bad penalty, nobody is getting down. The atmosphere here is a little different. You can just tell something special is going on. We definitely have got a winner here.''
After losing four of their first five games of the season, the Pirates (25-12-2-3) have climbed out of the cellar to move into second place in the Atlantic Division, eight points behind Providence, which has the AHL's best record at 30-7-2-1.
Bootland, 26, signed as a free agent with the Islanders last summer after spending five seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL's North Division.
Before last week's trade, he had played 28 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders' AHL affiliate.
''Everybody has kind of welcomed me with open arms,'' Bootland said. ''I've gotten to know everybody pretty quick here. It's been a lot of fun. It's definitely a really good group of guys, one of the best (groups) I've played with.''
Bootland is expected to help fill the void created by the absence of right wing Mike Hoffman, the Pirates' enforcer who broke his right hand in a Dec. 7 fight with defenseman Tim Conboy at Albany.
Portland fans got an early demonstration of what Bootland can do last Saturday at the Cumberland County Civic Center when he pummeled center Matt Hendricks late in the third period during a 4-0 win against Providence.
''If it happens out there on the ice and someone is taking advantage of one of our players, I definitely don't have a problem to jump in there and help out,'' Bootland said. ''But I think I can definitely play in this league, and it's my job to show that to the coaches.''
Bootland, who has logged 32 games in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and the Islanders, scored a career-high 27 goals two seasons ago for the Griffins.
''He's shown a skill level that has been successful,'' Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. ''He's put up some points before, and it's a matter of making sure he gets those opportunities, those positions where he can show that part of his game also and not just be a one-dimensional guy.''
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 725-8795 or at: