Close to 30 players could be on the ice Monday at the Cumberland County Civic Center for the first day of the Portland Pirates’ training camp.

Portland Coach Ray Edwards said he is unsure just how many players will be available, because 18 began the trip across the country Thursday night following their reassignment by the Phoenix Coyotes, the Pirates’ NHL parent team.

“We’re planning on two groups for the first practice but I won’t know until (tonight),” said Edwards. “Some of these guys are driving and may not be here yet.

“I’m planning for two groups, but it’s easy to go back to one group.”

Another 11 players, including former Pirates Igor Gongalsky and Jimmy Bonneau, have been invited to try out for the team.

“No matter what, we will be on the ice at noon Monday,” Edwards said.

Seven players who spent time last season with the San Antonio Rampage, the Coyotes’ former AHL affiliate, are among the players headed to Maine from the NHL team’s training camp in Glendale, Ariz. That group includes defensemen Mathieu Brodeur, Nick Ross, Michael Stone and Garrett Stafford and forwards Colin Long, Mathieu Beaudoin and Matt Watkins.

“I’d rather have just our guys and not deal with a bunch of other guys,” Edwards said. “But it does give you a chance to see them and get to know them and either put a check mark beside them or an X and decide if you want them down the road.”

According to Edwards, a dozen more players will be assigned to the Pirates over the next week as Phoenix trims its roster to 23 players, the NHL maximum.

“I’m guessing we will have most of the group for the final week of practice before we play,” he said.

The Pirates open the regular season Oct. 2 on the road against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Edwards, entering his second full season as an AHL head coach, indicated he could keep as many as 23 players with the Pirates.

Additionally, four players could be assigned to the Gwinnett (Ga.) Gladiators, Phoenix’s new ECHL affiliate.

NHL teams can have no more than 50 players under contract in their system.

“We’ve got guys under contract, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Edwards said. “It means you’re getting paid by the Coyotes, but it doesn’t guarantee a spot here.” 

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

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