The Tri-City Americans have a busy week, playing four games in five days, starting tonight with a Valentine's Day special against the Vancouver Giants.
The U.S. Division-leading Americans (38-14-1-1, 78 points) have won five in a row against the Giants (32-21-1-2, 67 points), including an 11-4 victory at Vancouver on Jan. 13. The Giants last won at Toyota Center on Dec. 13, 2008, a span of five games.
Just as they have had success against Vancouver, the Americans are 8-2 on Valentine's Day, dating back to 1993.
"Too bad Valentine's Day doesn't come 10 times a year," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "I bet I'm the only guy who'd say that. We've played well against Vancouver, but they are healthy this time. They are always competitive. I like playing them -- if you aren't ready, you will get run over."
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The Americans continue their torrid schedule Wednesday at Portland, Friday at Seattle, and will host Spokane on Saturday.
Tri-City is coming off a 5-3 win at Spokane last Saturday, while Vancouver suffered a 4-2 at Everett on Saturday.
"You don't get confidence, you earn confidence, and that's what we did," Hiller said of the win over Spokane. "We made some things happen and we feel good about it. The game is simple, it's people who are complicated."
Forward Brendan Shinnimin has been a bright spot for Tri-City during its recent stumble in which the Americans have won just four of their last 10 games.
Shinnimin has scored 35 of his 85 points in the 19 game since returning from the Christmas break. He has scored points in eight of his last nine games (8 goals, 8 assists), including two goals and an assist in the game against Spokane.
"It has been a rough road for the guys," Shinnimin said. "After the Portland game (4-2 loss last Friday), our morale was down. Spokane was a tough game in a tough building -- it was a bounce-back game and a big win. We treated it like a playoff game."
And his personal success?
"I'm just trying to play a next-level game," he said. "I look at the things I need to do at the next level --being good in the defensive zone, playing well the stick and playing with a pro mentality, and hope the rest falls into place."
While wins have been hard to come by, the Americans still have been playing good defense in front of the top goaltending tandem in the league -- Ty Rimmer and Eric Comie.
The Americans have allowed the fewest goals in the league (139) and have the top-ranked penalty kill (84.6 percent) with 11 short-handed goals.
"Just goes to show our PK is tops in the league." Shinnimin said. "We keep the puck out of the net, but we can score too. We have speed up front."
Notes: Tri-City forward Tyson Dallman will be out at least four weeks with a knee injury, according to general manager Bob Tory. ... The WHL suspended Portland's Joe Morrow for two games for a checking-from-behind major and a game misconduct at Tri-City on Feb. 10. Morrow checked Americans defenseman Zach Yuen into boards at 17:30 of the second period. Morrow sat out the Winterhawks 7-2 win over Seattle on Feb. 11, and will miss Wednesday's home game against Tri-City. ... Kamloops forward Brendan Ranford was named WHL Player of the Week after collecting eight points --three goals and five assists -- in helping the Blazers to a 3-0-0-0 record.