The Tri-City Americans have played so well on the road this season that coach Jim Hiller has no doubt the success will carry over to a pair of games at Prince George tonight and Tuesday.
“This team has been pretty resilient all year and I’m confident we can meet the challenge again,” said Hiller, whose team has won 20 games on the road this season. “This team has been pretty special this year. We have been good, and we strive for perfection as a whole. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.”
The Americans (38-23-1-2, 79 points), who have won seven of their last 10 games, have won 20 or more games on the road five of the last seven years.
Tri-City, which beat the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-3 on Saturday, left Kent Sunday morning for the 12-hour drive to Prince George in central British Columbia.
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The Americans, who trail fourth-place Spokane by one point in the Western Conference standings, will make up their game in hand on the Chiefs tonight.
“It’s a fight for fourth place and home ice in the first round,” Hiller said. “It’s a dog fight. It’s makes the challenge great.”
The Cougars (18-37-2-6, 44 points), who trail eighth-place Everett by seven points in the race for a playoff spot, are 0-1-0-0 against the Americans this season. They have lost their last four games.
After today and Tuesday’s game, the Cougars will play at Tri-City on Saturday to finish their four-game series with the Americans.
“We saw them at home and they brought it,” said Hiller, whose team beat PG 5-2 at Toyota Center on Jan. 30. “You can’t look at their record, that is the biggest mistake.”
A pair of wins in Prince George would give the Americans 40 wins in seven consecutive seasons, tying a WHL record held by Kamloops (1989-90 to 1995-96) and Regina (1979-80 to 1985-86).
“That’s a pretty good stamp for the organization if we can get that done,” Hiller said. “A lot of people have come through here over the years to get that one done.”
Tri-City forward Ryan Chynoweth, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing 14 games with an upper body injury, went down at 12:41 of the first period Saturday after getting checked into the boards. He suffered a cut on his forehead and was helped off the ice. He returned to his hometown of Cranbrook, British Columbia, on Sunday.
“He’s had a tough second half,” said Hiller, who was not specific about Chynoweth’s injury. “He will be out a bit.”
Justin Feser leads the Americans with 40 goals and 57 assists (97 points). He needs three points to reach 100. He would be just the fourth player since the 2001-02 season to reach the century mark.
Feser, who has 151 career goals, needs eight to tie franchise leader Daymond Langkow (1991-96).