PORTLAND – After spending the first three weeks of the abbreviated NHL season with the parent Phoenix Coyotes, veteran forward Alexandre Bolduc appears ready to pick up where he left off with the Portland Pirates about a month ago.

“I was having a lot of fun here before I left, and it is a great place to play,” Bolduc said. “It’s hard to be sad or disappointed when you’ve got such a good group of guys. I still get to play hockey, which is pretty much all I want.”

Bolduc left Jan. 12 to join the Coyotes when their week-long training camp opened after the 113-day NHL player lockout.

“Hopefully he can pick up where he left off when he left,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said.

Despite missing 10 AHL games during his call-up, Bolduc’s 32 total points trails only Rob Klinkhammer on the team, who has 38. Bolduc’s 17 goals still leads the Pirates, as does his 18.5 percent shooting percentage.

“We need him to be one of our top players,” Edwards said. “We need him to be hard on the puck. Whether he plays wing or center, we need him to be a top-six player for us.”

Bolduc, who remained the Pirates’ captain even during his absence, said it shouldn’t take him long to get back into the swing with Portland.

“I try to play the same way in both spots, so when I was in Phoenix my game didn’t really change much,” he said. “There isn’t much of an adjustment.”

During his seven scoreless games with the Coyotes, Bolduc played a variety of roles.

“I was kind of all over the place,” he said. “I started out on the fourth line, and (center Martin) Hanzel got injured so I moved up to the first line and second line a little bit. I played all over the place, which was a lot of fun. (The coaches) got to see me in a lot of looks, and they said they were happy with what they saw.”

Bolduc, who appeared in 45 NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks over three seasons, expressed disappointment about being sent back to the AHL, but he is not unhappy about being with the Pirates.

“The goal is obviously sticking in the NHL, but at least I’m coming back to a place like Portland,” he said. “I love it here. I love the guys, I love the coaching staff. I was disappointed for a half-day, whatever. As soon as I saw the guys, I was happy again and ready to play hockey.”

Defenseman Michael Stone, who has played 10 games with the Coyotes, also was reassigned to the Pirates.

“Of course it is disappointing anytime you get sent down, but the way I see it is we’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of D-men who are capable of playing,” he said, “so you’ve got to keep at it and hopefully I’ll get another shot.”

NOTES: The Coyotes recalled rookie goaltender Mike Lee from the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators to the Pirates. Mark Visentin, another rookie goalie, has a lower-body injury and will not be available for this weekend’s games, Edwards said. In three stints with the Pirates this season, Lee has a 3-0 record with a 1.31 goals-against average and a .960 saves percentage. … The Pirates will travel to Connecticut on April 16 to play Bridgeport in a game postponed Saturday night because of the weekend blizzard. Portland will play three of its final four regular-season games against the Sound Tigers. … Following Thursday morning’s practice at the Portland Ice Arena, the Pirates left to travel to games in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

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

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