The Tri-City Americans went from earning points in 10 consecutive games to losing three games in a row.
After posting an impressive 5-0-1-0 record on their Eastern swing, the Americans (9-6-1-1, 20 points) returned home for a three-game set last weekend that began with a loss at Seattle, a home loss to Spokane, and finished with a less-than impressive 6-0 loss at Portland.
In the midst of the three losses, the Americans also lost their spot at the top of the U.S. Division standings, now held by Spokane (22 points), followed by Portland (21 points) and Tri-City.
This turn of events has not been lost on coach Jim Hiller.
We outchanced Seattle. We outchanced Spokane. On the road, we got outchanced a couple of games, and we won them, Hiller said. It doesnt always go according to script. Sunday, we got outplayed. It was a one-sided affair.
Tri-City is done with the road work for the next little while, playing their next eight games at the Toyota Center, starting tonight with Everett.
The Americans host Red Deer on Saturday for their only meeting of the season, and Vancouver makes one of its two visits Sunday.
We have to plan for us, most importantly, Hiller said. There are things we have to do better. The value of prescouting on the Internet, is you get a chance to see (teams) and know what they do. You dont know the personnel as well, but again, the focus has to be on us. Its always entertaining for the fans to see different teams, and for our players to see different teams is a new challenge. Weve shown, if we are playing our game, we can play with anybody that comes into this building or on the road.
In recent years, the Toyota Center has been a tough place for opponents to play, but this season, the Americans are 2-3-0-1 on home ice and 7-3-1-0 on the road, picking up 75 percent of their points away from home.
Its been a small sample at home so far, Hiller said. If you can go out and win on the road, we know we can win in here. We have a great home ice advantage, its just a matter of getting our legs under us and building some of that momentum. We havent done that. Its been really odd. If we were 30 games into it and that was the case, Id be concerned. But at this point, I know were going to start getting it done.
Tri-City will play only on the weekends in November until a game at Kelowna on Nov. 28, leaving time during the week for crucial practice sessions.
This is a real important part of our schedule, Hiller said. Then it starts to get busy. The second half is mostly games. This is our practice month. Since training camp we have been out on the road. We have to make sure coming out of November we have to have everything in place.
And that includes scoring, which the Americans havent done much of lately, scoring just three goals in three games last weekend. They have scored 48 goals (2.8 per game) in 17 games, while allowing 46 (2.7 per game).
Your goaltending can be great, but three goals in a weekend is not enough to win games, Hiller said. We saw that. That is going to change. I dont think we will be among the league leaders in goals for, but we can be among the leaders in goals against and still score enough goals to win. You gave to be optimistic. Some of the goals we have got are guys first in the league, or their second. They are coming, not just as frequently as they used to.
Red Deer (8-8-1-1, 18 points) starts its four-game trek through the U.S. Division tonight at Spokane. The Chiefs and Rebels have split their last four games. ... The Americans are 1-1-1-1 against the Rebels the last four years.
Vancouver, which is at the bottom of the Western Conference at 4-10-0-0, has been shuffling players the last couple of days, trading veteran defenseman David Musil to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday, and center Austin Vetterl to the Kootenay Ice on Thursday.