Tri-City Americans

Busy days ahead for Ams

Six games in eight days.

Not a bad deal if you are a fan, but the Tri-City Americans will be put to the test during that stretch, which includes four home games and trips to Portland and Spokane.

"This is where the depth of the team comes in," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. "Everyone is important. By the time the season is over, everyone will have played an important role and gotten their minutes."

The Americans (38-13-0-2, 78 points) are tied atop the Western Hockey League with Saskatoon and Brandon, and lead the U.S. Division by seven points over Everett and Portland.

Tri-City will open its long week tonight with a home game against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Seattle (14-31-5-4, 37 points), which has lost 11 straight, has not won at Toyota Center since Jan. 27, 2008, a span of 11 games. But the Thunderbirds are far from the only team to struggle in the Tri-Cities -- the Americans boast the league's best home record of 22-5-0-0.

The Americans have relied on balanced scoring during their rise to the top of the standings, with nine players scoring 11 goals or more and 15 players with 12 or more points.

Among that group is rookie Patrick Holland, who has 11 goals and 14 assists in 40 games -- but he's really come alive since the Christmas break with six goals and eight assists in 16 games.

"We made note of him real early," Hiller said. "The biggest thing for him is that he's a good player, he just needed to work on his assertiveness and confidence. We knew he had it in him. When TK (Todd Kennedy) got hurt, that spread minutes around and he has shown consistent play."

Holland had a three-point night Saturday in Vancouver, scoring one goal with two assists. He also had the game-winner in the shootout.

"I was pumped up for the shootout," Holland said. "It was nice to have Drew (Owsley) stop all three at the other end."

Holland followed Justin Feser (who was stopped by Giants goalie Mark Segal) in the shootout. The two normally wouldn't have been at the top of the list, but ...

"You can't go away from the guys who are hot," Hiller said.

In Vancouver, the line of Holland, Feser and Neal Prokop accounted for three goals and seven assists in the 5-4 victory. During their Central Division road swing, the line scored five goals and had six assists in three games.

"I think we all connect well," Holland said. "We all complement each other, and their experience helps me."

Holland hopes to play tonight without the protective grill on his helmet. He was hit in the mouth during a fight with Calgary's Cody Beach on Jan. 31.

"My teeth got pushed in and were loose," Holland said.

Notes: Today is the first of three Two-for-Tuesday game nights. Fans can purchase two game tickets for $20. ... The Chilliwack Bruins have the Olympic spirit. The Bruins pushed the start time of their Feb. 16 game with the Thunderbirds to 8 p.m. to allow people to watch the Canada-Norway men's hockey game. Anyone wearing red can buy a ticket to the game for $5.

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