KENNEWICK Just because your team is one of the tops in the league, it doesn't hurt to try and make yourself a little better.
The Tri-City Americans did just that Thursday, handing over a 2010 second-round bantam draft pick to Lethbridge in exchange for former Americans defenseman Eric Mestery.
Mestery was shipped to the Hurricanes last year in exchange for Mitch Fadden and a couple of young defensemen. Bringing the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Mestery back into the fold gives the team more depth on the back end, according to Tri-City general manager Bob Tory.
"We wanted to acquire a top four defenseman," Tory said. "The number of good defensemen available is limited and we didn't want to wait until the trade deadline. We paid a premium, but we feel we are a better team than we were yesterday."
Mestery, who had two goals and five assists in 21 games for the Hurricanes this season, is excited to return to the Americans, the team that took him in the first round (7th overall) of the 2005 WHL bantam draft.
"It's a really good day," said Mestery, despite having to battle snow, rain and wind during the drive between Lethbridge and Spokane. "I know all the guys except for the rookies. I'm going to be really comfortable there. I've had kind of a disappointing start to the season, but hopefully I'll be able to impact our lineup."
Mestery, a 2008 second-round NHL draft pick of the Washington Capitals, and Americans defenseman Tyler Schmidt were both drafted by Tri-City in 2005 and arrived together as rookies in 2006.
"Eric and I are really good friends," Schmidt said. "We grew up playing together. He's really happy to be coming back. It could be the best thing to happen to his career, especially with the coaching style that Jim (Hiller) has. It will be good for his game."
Mestery is slated to play tonight when the Americans (17-5-0-0, 34 points) host the Everett Silvertips (13-6-1-0, 27 points). The Americans are riding an eight-game win streak at home, while Everett is coming off a shootout win over Kamloops.
"The guys are familiar with Eric, he's a year older and a veteran defenseman," said Americans coach Jim Hiller. "He gives us a good upgrade."
It will be the first meeting this season between Tri-City and Everett. The Silvertips have lost their last five games at Toyota Center, but Hiller said Everett could pose some problems.
"They have a lot of speed and a couple of solid Euro defenders (Radko Gudas of the Czech Republic and Rasmus Rissanen of Finland)," Hiller said. "Their forwards skate well and attack with creativity, and they are committed to keeping the puck out of their own end."
Saturday, the Americans host the Regina Pats from the East Division. The Pats play at Kootenay tonight before starting their five-game swing through the U.S. Division.
Regina (11-11-3-0, 25 points) is at the bottom of the six-team East Division, but only six points separate second and sixth.
"Typically, there is more skating and a free-flowing game in the West, and the East is a more physical, grind it out style of play," Hiller said. "But (Jordan) Eberle is one of the top scorers in the league, they do have team speed and they are not one dimensional."
Eberle, a first-round NHL draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2008, has 18 goals and 23 assists this season, and is the second-leading scorer in the league behind Brandon Kozun of Calgary (45 points).
On Saturday, your ticket to the Tri-City-Regina game also will get you a seat to the Tri-City Titans-Eugene Generals game that starts at 1 p.m. at Toyota Center. Both games will have a fundraising table for former Titans player Giovanni Midili, who had emergency brain surgery this summer. Midili also is a 2009 Southridge graduate.