Graying skies in southern Maine started spitting snow as Portland Pirates captain Jordan Szwarz and his teammates practiced Thursday. Afterward, Szwarz laughed about the weather.

“I’m from Ontario; we’re used to it,” he said

In the long term, of course he is.

But recently, there was more likely to be a disruptive dust storm on his drive to practice than a pesky nor’easter. After six games to begin the season with the Pirates, parent club Phoenix called Szwarz up to play with the Coyotes in Arizona, and he stayed there until this week.

“It was really a tremendous experience,” Szwarz said. “Just being around everyone at that level was an eye-opener. I learned a lot there, got to see what life is like day-to-day in the NHL.”

A 22-year-old captain with the Pirates, Szwarz has exhibited leadership qualities at every level of hockey, including with his OHL club in Saginaw, Mich.

“He’s a well-liked player and a good leader, which is why we made him captain in the first place,” Pirates coach Ray Edwards said. “And him coming back is certainly a nice addition to the team.”

In Phoenix, Szwarz continued to give everything he had, but was limited with a smaller amount of ice time than he’d been used to as a go-to player.

“It’s a totally different role with this team,” Szwarz said. “The past few months, I’ve been the younger guy, learning the ropes and only getting six-and-a-half or seven minutes per game when I played on the fourth line. Here, I’ll get twenty-plus minutes a game. All in all, I’m happy about that part of it.”

In 20 games with the Coyotes, Szwarz scored two goals and had 19 penalty minutes and was a minus-6.

“It’s going to be good to get back here, get going, get the confidence back up and hopefully get another shot,” Szwarz said.

It helped, he said, meeting with Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney before returning to the Pirates.

“When they sent me down, I had a good meeting with Don Maloney, and he told me they expect me to come to Portland with a good mindset,” Szwarz said. “They don’t want me to change my game, just to play more minutes because they’re liking the way I’m playing.”

It didn’t take long for the captain to rally the troops. In his first game back with the team on New Year’s Eve, Szwarz started a rally with a power-play goal as the team came from behind for a 4-2 win over Bridgeport.

“Aside from the goal, he was a dominant player on the ice,” Edwards said. “He played power play, penalty kill, took big faceoffs. That, and he’s the captain, and he’s trying to get back (to the NHL) and he’s going to have a larger role.”

His quick reacclimation is even more impressive given the slightly changed cast of character with which he’s now playing. Since he left the Pirates for the Coyotes in October, the skating roster has turned over a bit.

“It’s got a different look to it, for sure,” Szwarz said. “We’ve had some injury trouble up front, and added a couple guys,” Szwarz said. “But what hasn’t changed is that it’s a good group of guys. We’re a hard-working group that, even when we don’t win, they’ll work hard. It’s fun being a leader with a group like that.”

Stuck in the snow

With a three-game road trip against St. John’s slated to begin Saturday, the Portland Pirates were going to fly out of Boston on Friday. A winter storm slammed the Northeast beginning Thursday, and the team’s flight Friday was nixed.

They tried to beat the storm and reschedule for Thursday, but that, too, was snowed out, and with all of the delays from the storm, Saturday may not be an option, either.

“We’re going to try and get out Saturday, but we might not play a game until Sunday,” Edwards said. “And we might have to wait until the storm is done and drive to Halifax. Problem is, when the storm’s done here, it’s hitting Halifax.”

For now, the team’s game against the Ice Caps Saturday is on as scheduled as far as the American Hockey League is concerned, but Edwards is less than optimistic. He also said that the team would prefer not to reschedule a Saturday postponement to Monday, given that the Pirates already have a three-games-in-three-nights stretch next weekend. The other contests in Newfoundland are supposed to be Sunday and Tuesday.

Suspension for Cantin

Bridgeport defenseman Marc Cantin has been suspended three games for elbowing Brendan Shinnimin in the head during the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Pirates in Lewiston.

With the Pirates trailing 2-1, Shinnimin took a pass through the center zone and Cantin leveled him at the blue line. Shinnimin was briefly motionless on the ice before leaving the surface under his own power, with help from his teammates.

Cantin will miss games Friday, Saturday and on Jan. 10.

Edwards said Thursday that Shinnimin is definitely out this weekend.


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