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Surging Portland Pirates at home tonight and Saturday

The Portland Pirates are hosting two division rivals this weekend. The Worcester (MA) Sharks will be in town this evening and the Providence (RI) Bruins are visiting tomorrow, both at 7 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Pirates will finish off the weekend playing at 3 p.m. Sunday in Manchester.
The Pirates sit in fourth place in the tightly packed Atlantic Division of The American Hockey League's Eastern Conference. With 18 points (teams receive 2 points for each victory and 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss), the team is just 3 points behind the first-place Manchester (NH) Monarchs. Worcester sits just ahead of the Pirates in third place with 20 points, while Providence is just below the Pirates in fifth place with 15 points. In their 18 games, the Pirates have 8 wins, 8 losses, 1 overtime loss and 1 shootout loss.
The Pirates have beaten Worcester only once in four games so far this season. They split two games in Lewiston at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee and lost twice in Worcester, including last Friday. Tonight's game will be the first time this season that the teams will meet in the Cumberland County Civic Center. Providence and Portland have only met once this season, a 2-1 home loss for the Pirates.
Other than the loss at Worcester, the Pirates had a good week, winning their other two contests in overtime. They defeated Northeast Division leading Springfield at home 6-5 on Friday and Atlantic Division leading Manchester on the road Sunday 3-2.
Portland leads the Atlantic Division in both goals scored (57), and goals against (61).
Individually Alexandre Bolduc (#49) is tied for third in the AHL with 11 goals, just 2 behind the league leader. The 6" 3" native of Montreal, also has 6 assists to lead the team with 17 points. Rob Klinkhammer (#12) and Andy Miele (#21) are tied for second on the team in scoring, both with 5 goals and a team leading 11 assists for a total of 16 points. The team's "point a game" scorers are Oliver Ekman-Larsson (#23) who has 5 goals and 7 assists in eleven games and Chris Connor (#14) who has 5 goals and 8 assists in twelve games.
The Pirates are in their second year of a five-year agreement as the affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix's prior AHL affiliate, San Antonio, last made the playoffs in 2008. Last season the Pirates finished in third place in the Atlantic Division, just 2 points behind second place Manchester and a spot in the playoffs. The parent Coyotes made the NHL playoffs last season, for a total of eight times in their sixteen years since relocating from Winnipeg.
In the American Hockey League, each of the two fifteen-team conferences has three divisions, as in the parent National Hockey League. The division winners receive the top three seeds in the conference playoffs, with the other five slots going to the remaining teams with the most points. At this point, the Pirates are just 2 points below the playoff cutoff.

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