KENNEWICK -- Fueled by a hearty Thanksgiving dinner, the Tri-City Americans will set out tonight in search of four points this weekend against two of the top teams in the Western Hockey League.
The Kootenay Ice, second in the Central Division, comes to Toyota Center tonight, while U.S. Division-leading Portland rolls into town Saturday.
"We are playing the best teams in the league, it will be a great challenge," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. "We regained a little momentum (with a win Wednesday night against Seattle) and we need to string a few together."
The Americans (13-9-1-1, 28 points) are in second place in the U.S. Division behind Portland (21-4-0-1, 43).
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Jordan Messier has 15 goals for the Americans, while Adam Hughesman has 14 goals and a team-high 31 points, which ranks him tied for 12th in league scoring.
Goaltender Drew Owsley, who picked up his 50th career win Wednesday against Seattle, has 10 wins this season, but an uncharacteristic 3.35 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.
Kootenay (16-6-0-2, 34 points) comes in having won five of its last seven games.
Kevin King leads the Ice with 11 goals and 26 points, while Matt Fraser has 10 goals and 20 points.
Goaltender Nathan Lieuwen ranks third in the league in goals against average at 2.41. He has a .906 save percentage and three shutouts.
Tonight, the Americans will have a Be a Match drive and fundraiser for the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
In addition to the fundraising activities, the local chapter of the National Marrow Donor Program, will be registering people to be a bone marrow donor.
The simple procedure (cheek swab) generally costs prospective donors about $100, but the fee will be waived today. The drive will start at noon and last through the second period of the game.
Saturday, the Americans and Winterhawks will meet for the first time this season.
Tri-City was 8-2 against Portland last season, but the Winterhawks have dominated the division this year, going 7-2-0-1.
Portland has one of the top goalies in the league in Mac Carruth (2.34 GAA, .933 save percentage), the fourth-best power play (22.4 percent) and the second-best penalty kill (86.5 percent).
The high-scoring Winterhawks (107 points) are led by Ty Rattie, who ranks third in the league in scoring with 15 goals and 40 points, while Sven Bartschi is fifth with 36 points.
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org