Ams' busy week continues

By Annie Fowler, Herald staff writerOctober 31, 2008 

It's a busy week for the Tri-City Americans, playing four games in five nights, but when you lose the first two games on the road, the week seems to get a little longer.

The Americans (10-3-0-1, 21 points) suffered a shootout loss to Everett on Tuesday, then gave up a one-goal lead in the third period Wednesday in a loss to Vancouver.

Things don't get much easier this weekend when the Portland Winter Hawks and Seattle Thunderbirds roll into town.

"I think we played hard in Vancouver and deserved a better fate," said Americans coach Don Nachbaur, who needs seven wins to reach 400. "We were lucky to get a point in Everett. There were a lot of players who didn't play well and we weren't willing to pay the price. We play well at home, but on the road is where you make your mark in the WHL."

Portland (2-12-0-0), which has the worst record in the Western Hockey League, was given new life this week when Calgary billionaire Bill Gallacher took ownership of the team.

The Winter Hawks and Americans will be playing the first of their nine-game season series tonight, which also marks the coaching debut of Mike Johnston.

"I'm excited," Johnston said. "It's always enjoyable when you get to the game. We haven't focused on our opponent. We are preparing ourselves and getting them to play the way we'd like them to. There will be some subtle changes. You want them to learn the system and be relaxed."

Gallacher cleaned house, firing coaches and trainers, but retained former coach and general manager Ken Hodge as a consultant.

Johnston, who spent nine years as an NHL associate coach with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, replaces Rich Kromm and also will take over the general manager duties.

Travis Green, who played 14 season in the NHL for the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins before he retired in 2007, was named assistant coach and assistant GM.

"It was difficult for them the last couple of months not knowing what is going on," Johnston said. "But they are excited. They met the owner and saw how excited he was, how committed to them he is and that he is giving them the resources to perform. We will see how it goes over the next couple of weeks."

Johnston said he's watched the Americans play a few times this season, and that they can be a difficult team to play against.

"They have a definite style, they are well coached, they play with energy, they are a good skating team and have a fair amount of skill in their lineup," Johnston said. "The challenge is to try and match their pace and match them defensively."

One area of the Winter Hawks' game Johnston is not worried about is goaltending, where veteran Kurtis Mucha has tried to keep the team competitive.

Seattle, which has already lost two games to the Americans this season, has won just two of its last seven games, the most recent a 7-3 loss to Kelowna on Wednesday.

"Whenever we play Seattle or Portland, we have to play our best to win," Nachbaur said. "Anything else and it will be close. Portland is a big game. They are under new rule with a new coach -- they will be in the honeymoon period. They have a whole different standard to live up to."

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service