KENNEWICK — The Tri-City Americans' plush lead in the U.S. Division has been whittled to nothing more than an uncomfortable Styrofoam pad.
The Americans (41-17-1-2, 85 points) have lost five of their last seven games and lead Everett by just three points in the division with 11 games left in the regular season.
The two-time defending division champions are back on home ice, where they have lost two in a row, tonight against the Portland Winterhawks (38-22-2-1, 79).
Portland is just 1-6 against Tri-City this season, but won the last meeting 5-3 on Feb. 10 in Portland.
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After tonight, Tri-City goes on a seven-game road trip that includes six games against division opponents.
The biggest game could be Friday night in Everett (39-10-3-1, 82). The Silvertips have bounced back from a slow start to win 20 of their past 24 games.
In the past month, the Americans' lead has been shaved from 12 points to where it is now at three.
Tri-City is coming off two, one-goal losses last weekend. The first, a 3-2 loss to Everett on Friday night, followed by a 2-1 loss to Spokane on Saturday.
After Saturday's game, first-year coach Jim Hiller remained confident that his team will turn things around.
"We are going to have to do this the hard way," he said. "We have to do most of the work on the road. We will get it done."