KENNEWICK -- The puck is going in the net and the penalty kill has taken a turn for the better, but Bob Tory still felt his team could be better.
The Tri-City Americans general manager acquired two players over the last 11 days, adding forward Nate MacMaster and defenseman Derek Ryckman to the fold, while reassigning 16-year-old forward Justin Gutierrez.
MacMaster, 19, was brought over from the Calgary Hitmen in the Brock Sutherland trade. He has played five games for the Americans, with one assist.
MacMaster and Ryckman will be in the lineup tonight when the Americans (7-4-0-0, 14 points) play host to the East Division-leading Saskatoon Blades.
MacMaster has been playing on the checking line with Mason Wilgosh and a rotating list of players.
"I think I fit in pretty well," MacMaster said. "I like the style of play and the team atmosphere. I have played every role in my WHL career. Last year in Calgary I was brought in to provide scoring. I'm familiar with the checking line role, and playing with Wilgosh makes the transition smoother."
John and Lois MacMaster made the drive down from Rossland, British Columbia, to watch their grandson play last weekend.
"It's always nice to have family around, especially my first week here," said MacMaster, a native of Calgary. "It was special to have them here."
Ryckman, 19, had ties to the Americans before the trade. He grew up playing hockey in Red Deer, Alberta, with Justin Feser and Mitch Topping, and all three were coach by Feser's dad, Myron.
"It was a little bit of a shock," Ryckman said of the trade after playing his entire career before Sunday with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. "But I'm glad to be with a winning team."
The Hurricanes had lost eight consecutive games before the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Ryckman was traded.
Ryckman skated with the Americans for the first time Tuesday.
"I was a little nervous at the start of practice," Ryckman said. "New team, new plays to learn. I didn't know what to expect. When you've played with just one team, you've never had a taste of anything else."
Ryckman, who describes himself as a stay-at-home defenseman, came to the Americans with one goal, one assist, a minus-7 rating and 21 penalty minutes in 11 games.
"There's always a shortage of defenseman in the league, and depth is important if you have injuries," Tory said. "(Ryckman) has three years of experience in the league and he's a big man. We wanted to add more experience on the blue line and the price was fair (fourth-round bantam pick in 2012).
"Derek also wore a letter in Lethbridge," Tory added. "We are adding leadership to our team. He will be a big edition to our team."
The Americans share the top spot in the Western Conference with Kamloops with 14 points apiece, but there are plenty of teams right on their heels.
Tri-City won two of four games last week, but the Americans will have to have a better showing this week if they want to stay on top.
"Four games in five nights is not easy," Tory said. "The Brandon game (3-2 loss) could have gone either way -- it was an excellent hockey game. We were good against Vancouver, but not so good in Everett. As we get better each week, the wins will take care of themselves."
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; email@example.com