A cold New England chill blew through the loading area of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, home to the Providence Bruins, this past Sunday evening.
Portland Pirates coach Kevin Dineen, still every bit as intense as during his playing days, sent Tyler Ennis from the hallway located a short walk from the entrance to conduct post-game interviews back into the warmth of the Portland dressing room.
No need to chance pneumonia, though that chill served as the only element that slowed down Ennis in the Pirates’ 4-0 dismantling of the Bruins. Ennis had just rung up his second three-point outing in as many nights, putting up a goal and two assists on a line with waterbug Nathan Gerbe and sturdy winger Mark Mancari.
Buffalo took Ennis in the first round of the 2008 draft, 14 spots behind current Sabres blueliner Tyler Myers, then selected center Luke Adam in the second round. While the Pirates are firmly in the middle of the American League pack, Buffalo has a nice collection of prospects serving apprenticeships in Portland.
One of them is the 20-year-old Ennis, officially listed at just 5-foot-9 and 163 pounds, who closed out a Western League career that included a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championship and his second consecutive 43-goal season with Medicine Hat.
But the Sabres wanted to move Ennis off the wing as his pro career commenced.
“Part of it was I needed a centerman,” Dineen said. “Part of it was my feeling that my skill guys, I want the puck in their hands. The centerman has the puck in his hands more. He has the ability to dish on either side.
“If I can get the puck in his hands on the breakout or in the neutral zone, I think the advantage is to us.”
Ennis struggled slightly at first and opened his pro career without a point through four games. But his fifth outing brought a hat trick and the Edmonton native has cruised since then. The effort earned Ennis a selection to the Canadian team that will compete in the AHL All-Star Classic later this month on Portland’s home ice.
“I still have to learn the position a bit,” Ennis acknowledged, “but I’m having fun with it.”
Dineen likes the line’s chemistry. Mancari brings a hard, heavy shot, Gerbe brings tremendous speed and Ennis brings quickness and hockey smarts. All three have earned time in Buffalo.
“They’re awesome linemates,” Ennis said. “I think we all complement each other nicely.”
Ennis admits he needs to work on his faceoffs, but Dineen is happy with his rookie center.
“I compare him a lot to Tim Kennedy or Ryan Shannon,” Dineed said. “He has come in and taken the role. He works hard. His attitude is right. He has taken a lot of pride in the extra responsibility (that comes) with the center role.”
THIS AND THAT
• Chicago goalie Peter Mannino, once third on the Wolves’ depth chart, earned AHL weekly honors for a three-win week in which he stopped 100 of 104 shots.
• Lake Erie’s T.J. Hensick won December monthly honors for a four-goal, 23-point performance over 13 games with the Monsters. Cedrick Desjardins of Hamilton and his 8-0-0 December mark earned him monthly goaltending honors. Desjardins turned in a 1.16 goals-against average, three shutouts and a .949 save percentage.
• Rick Wamsley is the interim coach in Peoria after the parent St. Louis Blues promoted Davis Payne to replace Andy Murray…
• Last Saturday night’s Bridgeport-Hartford matchup saw a rare instance of 4-on-4 play to start a game. Bridgeport pest Pascal Morency and Hartford’s Dale Weise drew matching minors from referee Shaun Davis prior to the opening faceoff…
• Springfield’s win last Saturday was its first since Nov. 21…
• Mathieu Schneider’s demotion to Manitoba means that the Moose now possess two alumni (Mike Keane is the other player) of the Sherbrooke Canadiens, a team that departed the AHL in 1990…
• The AHL suspended Binghamton’s Cody Bass six games for leaving the bench to start an altercation at Hershey on Jan. 2.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.