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Dusty Collins signs new contract with Moose

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Manitoba Moose forward Dusty Collins has a new contract and it's a break-through event for a player who's been with six teams in his two professional years.

Collins, 24, recently signed a full AHL deal for the rest of this season and 2009-10.

"It's a great opportunity; I'm really happy with the situation," Collins said after this morning's game-day skate at the MTS Centre. "It does put some sort of ease in the back of your mind but you don't get comfortable at all.

"This is nice. I've been around a few teams this year and it's a stepping stone for sure. Playing with an organization like this is pretty incredible."

The native of Gilbert, Ariz., played four seasons at Northern Michigan University. Earlier this season, he was with the ECHL's Ontario Reign but it was when Collins scored for the AHL's Manchester Monarchs against the Moose here in December that he really got noticed.

When the Monarchs dropped him from their roster, the Moose — who really liked his size and determination — were quick to call and he was in the Manitoba lineup on a try-out by late January.

Since then, Collins has six goals in 27 games, including two in the last five.

Collins knows firsthand how common it is to bounce from team to team, but he said players never tend to worry too much that the odds are usually stacked against them sticking with a team.

"I don't think you put too much time or thought into that," he said. "It's just one of those things where you're taking it a day at a time."

* * *

Tonight's game against third-place Hamilton (7:30 p.m.) will be worked by referee Francois St. Laurent, who's been doing part-time duty in the NHL this season. St. Laurent's work has been in the news, which is never a good thing for a referee. He presided over an ugly incident in Toronto earlier this season that saw Moose forward Mark Cullen rammed head-first into the boards by Marlies Staffan Kronwall in the final minute of a 4-1 Toronto win. There was no penalty, but it led to a deserved three-game suspension for Moose defenceman Zack FitzGerald, who lost his cool over the hit and roughed up a linesman. Also recently, St. Laurent nearly took out the eye of Vancouver forward Mats Sundin, poking the player in the face while was waving off a play near the net.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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