The Tri-City Americans aren't ones to make excuses. They have two of their top forwards and a defenseman on the injured list, but this weekend they will make do with who is healthy and go forward.
"Our depth is our strength," said Americans starting goaltender Drew Owsley. "It's our best asset out there."
The younger players will be challenged tonight when the Everett Silvertips take the ice at Toyota Center, and on Sunday when the Kelowna Rockets roll into town.
"They have all improved," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller of his rookies. "They don't play as much as they would like, but we really rely on them. They have to help, they have to develop and we believe in them."
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Skating the odd shifts tonight will be Marcus Messier and Max Moline, who have been filling in for injured Neal Prokop (leg) and Jordan Messier (concussion) the last three games, while Drydn Dow has picked up shifts for Sam Grist on the blue line. Grist was shaken up against Portland on Tuesday and is day-to-day.
"Those guys deserve as much, if not more credit than the rest of us," said veteran defenseman Paul Sohor, who came over in a trade from Everett on Dec. 7. "When we need a boost or a break, they are there. Those are the guys you need to win championships."
Sohor, who toiled away in Everett for 21/2 years before coming to the Americans, has two goals and an assist in taking on a key role on the blue line.
"When I came here, it was like I was here for three years after the first couple of games," said Sohor, who was sporting four stitches in his chin after taking a stick to the face from Kamloops' Austin Madaisky. "I felt comfortable from the start. Our chemistry is good, and it makes it easier when we are winning."
The Americans (28-12-2-1, 59 points) are sporting a 12-game winning streak at home entering tonight's game. Tri-City is 17-2-0-1 at home this season -- second best in the WHL behind Saskatoon (18-2-0-1).
Tri-City trails U.S. Division leaders Spokane and Portland, who each have 63 points.
Everett (18-21-3-4, 43 points) is the last team to hand Tri-City a home loss -- 4-2 on Nov. 21. The Silvertips, who are last in the U.S. Division and 10th in the Western Conference, lead the season series 4-1-0-1.
Kelowna (25-20-0-0, 50 points) has not won a regular-season game at Toyota Center since Feb. 25, 2006, a span of nine games. The Rockets are second in the B.C. Division.