Tri-City Americans

Ams prepare to break the ice

KENNEWICK -- The holiday break has come and gone, and after 10 well-deserved days off for Christmas, the Tri-City Americans are back on the ice.

Coach Jim Hiller put his team through a couple of workouts Monday in preparation for today's game at Portland. The Winterhawks will play at Toyota Center on Wednesday.

"Last year we had the delayed flights, but this year it came off without a hitch," Hiller said of his team returning to the Tri-Cities. "We had a couple of easy workouts and are ready to get back at it."

The Americans (19-11-1-1, 40 points) are 7-3-0-0 in their last 10 games, but they ended the first half with a 4-2 road loss to Everett.

Adam Hughesman leads Tri-City with 20 goals and 22 assists, while Jordan Messier also has 20 goals.

"We still have a ways to go," Hiller said. "We were all over the place the first couple of months, but our last few weeks we saw the chemistry developing within the lines. We will firm up the lines and find the strength of our team."

Portland (25-9-0-3, 53 points) is 4-4-0-2 in its last 10 games, though the Winterhawks have won three of their last four. Portland also dropped the last game of the first half, 4-2 to Seattle.

While the Americans are healthy and have a full lineup, the Winterhawks are without forwards Sven Bartschi and Nino Niederreiter (playing for Switzerland) and Ryan Johansen (Canada), who are playing in the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y.

Bartschi, a rookie, leads the Winterhawks with 21 goals and 26 assists, while Johansen has 17 goals and 19 assists and Niederreiter 13 goals and 13 assists.

"They are a good team with or without those players," Hiller said. "It's about us. If we are at the top of our game, we can beat anybody."

Tri-City forward Carter Ashton also is playing for Team Canada, but the trade that brought him from Regina came the day before Ashton left for Team Canada's camp, so he's yet to put on an Americans jersey.

And when Ashton finally arrives, Hiller said he will be a welcome addition.

"We will find a place for him," he said.

* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574;