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AHL Weekly: Another Maine event

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The Portland Pirates and the city of Portland are three weeks away from hosting the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic, stirring up memories of the league’s successful showcase at the Cumberland County Civic Center back in 2003.

The 2003 AHL All-Star Classic was a celebration of 25 years of AHL hockey in Portland, and the Canadian AHL All-Stars opened the event with a 15-13 victory in the Skills Competition. Chicago Wolves defenseman Kurtis Foster, now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was an injury replacement on the Canadian roster but proved his worth in the Hardest Shot event by registering 101.0 miles an hour, the first time an AHL player had cracked triple digits on the radar gun. Rookie phenom Jason Spezza, who would go on to play in the NHL All-Star Game in 2008, claimed the Puck Control Relay, and current New York Islanders forward Trent Hunter took the title in the Accuracy Shooting event.

The next night, Hunter’s Islanders teammate Jon Sim was selected the All-Star Game MVP, scoring two goals and adding an assist as the Canadians rallied from 7-5 down to earn a 10-7 victory. On his way to being named the AHL’s rookie of the year for 2002-03, Darren Haydar also had three points (2-1) for the Canadian side, as did 2002-03 regular-season MVP Jason Ward. Goaltender Ray Emery, now of the Philadelphia Flyers, stopped all nine third-period shots he faced to earn the win and St. Louis Blues forward Brad Boyes dished out a pair of assists; two months later they had both secured spots on the AHL All-Rookie team.

Joe Corvo, who now suits up for the Carolina Hurricanes and has a Stanley Cup Finals appearance with Ottawa on his resume, led the PlanetUSA squad in 2003 with a pair of goals. Andy Hilbert, Jeff Taffe and current Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek were among PlanetUSA’s other goal-scorers, and Washington Capitals blueliner Brian Pothier had two assists in the game. Portland Pirates teammates and twin brothers Chris Ferraro and Peter Ferraro served as co-captains of the PlanetUSA team in front of the hometown fans, just three months after the tragic death of Chris’s wife Jennifer from cancer.

The 2003 AHL All-Star Classic also featured a pair of head coaches who now ply their trade in the NHL. After leading Chicago to the Calder Cup title in 2002, John Anderson – now head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers – directed the Canadian All-Star bench. And current San Jose Sharks head man Todd McLellan led PlanetUSA in the midseason classic prior to coaching his Houston Aeros to the 2003 Calder Cup. McLellan earned the All-Star Classic nod that year after Hamilton’s Claude Julien, the 2009 NHL coach of the year with the Boston Bruins, was promoted to the NHL just weeks before the event.

By hosting the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic on January 18 and 19, the Pirates will become the first team to put on the modern All-Star event twice, and Portland will join Hershey (1954, 1959, 1996), Providence (1956, 1995) and Rochester (1957, 2000) as the only cities all-time to host multiple AHL All-Star Games.

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OFF TO PORTLAND … Head coach Mark Morris and assistant coach Scott Pellerin of the Manchester Monarchs have been named the coaches of the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team for the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic.

Morris and Pellerin have earned the honor because the Monarchs own the second-best points percentage in the AHL as of the pre-determined deadline, the end of play on Sunday. Following their 2-0 win over Providence, the Monarchs are 23-9-1-2 (.700) for 49 points and first place in the Atlantic Division. Hershey (.727) owns the league’s top points percentage, but the Bears’ staff of Mark French and Troy Mann are already guiding the Canadian AHL All-Stars in Portland courtesy of Hershey’s 2009 Calder Cup championship.

Morris, 51, is in his fourth season as the Monarchs’ head coach and shows a record of 150-109-16 (.575) in 275 games at the helm. A native of Massena, N.Y., Morris has taken the Monarchs to the playoffs in two of his first three campaigns, including an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2007. He is the second Monarchs head coach to go to the AHL All-Star Classic, following Bruce Boudreau in 2005.

ROSTERS TO BE UNVEILED … The American Hockey League this week will be releasing the playing rosters for the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic. The Canadian AHL All-Star squad will be unveiled on Tuesday, followed by the PlanetUSA team on Wednesday. Players earning spots in the starting lineups were voted in by fans via on-line balloting at theahl.com, and the remainder of the rosters was determined by a committee of AHL coaches.

POWERING IT UP … Lowell converted four of its 10 power plays in two games last weekend, and the Devils are clicking at a league-best rate of 24.8 percent overall (40-for-161) through 35 contests, which is 4.2 percentage points better than any other team in the league.

The Devils, who finished last year ranked 22nd in the AHL with the man advantage (15.3 percent), have received balanced power-play scoring in 2009-10. Rookie Michael Swift has tallied a team-high six of his nine goals on the power play, defenseman Matt Taormina shows five man-advantage markers, Ben Walter and rearguard Tyler Eckford have four apiece, while Patrick Davis rookie Nathan Perkovich each have two. All told, 16 different Lowell skaters have netted a power-play goal this season, most in the AHL.

ETC. … Adirondack was 0-11-1-0 when trailing after two periods this season prior to back-to-back comeback wins at Worcester on Dec. 19 and at Binghamton on Saturday… Recent acquisition Pascal Pelletier snapped a career-high 21-game goal-scoring drought with a goal in Peoria’s 5-1 win at Grand Rapids on Sunday… Former AHL All-Star T.J. Hensick has 19 points (3-16-19) in his last 11 games for Lake Erie, which enters the week riding a season-high four-game winning streak… Rockford’s 6-4 win at Chicago on Sunday marked just the fifth win by a road club in 28 all-time regular-season meetings between the intra-state rivals… Chicago’s Joey Crabb had two points (1-1-2) in his previous 16 games before recording four points (1-3-4) in two contests last weekend… For the first time since Jan. 9, 2005, Portland did not receive a power-play opportunity on Saturday in a 2-1 overtime loss to Manchester… Bridgeport is 9-0-1-2 in games that extend beyond regulation, including a 7-0-0-1 mark at home… Binghamton’s Josh Hennessy has a point in nine of his last 10 AHL games (9-7-16), including six multiple-point efforts over that span… Hershey’s current six-game winning streak is its longest since its franchise-record 11-game run from Nov. 14 to Dec. 7, 2008… Average attendance at the 23 AHL games over Christmas weekend was 5,856, a 32-percent increase over the season average prior to the holiday break.