Tri-City Americans

Ams begin longest trip since October

KENNEWICK -- The Tri-City Americans kept their travel agent busy this past week making arrangements for a trip that includes a game tonight in Portland, Saturday in Spokane, Sunday in Chilliwack and Tuesday in Kamloops.

It's the first road trip for the Americans that encompasses more than one game since Nov. 12-13.

"It's going to challenge us a bit," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "We haven't been on the road much since the start of the season. We just have to keep climbing off the bus and keep going."

While the Americans have enjoyed a 21-3-0-1 record at home, the players do enjoy a few days on the road.

"We haven't played on the road in a while, but it's nice to get some team bonding," said Adam Hughesman, who leads the team with 35 goals and 73 points. "It will be a test for us. Thanks to Bob (GM Tory) and the owners for letting us come up (to Portland) a day early. We will play some good teams and we'll see how it comes out in the end."

The Americans (33-14-2-1, 69 points) are third in the U.S. Division, one point behind Spokane and eight behind division-leading Portland (37-15-0-3).

Tri-City is 4-2-1-0 against Portland this season, but their last game -- at Memorial Coliseum last Saturday -- wasn't pretty.

The Winterhawks, who are 22-6-0-2 on home ice, rolled to an 8-2 victory. The Americans have won just once at Portland this year.

"We certainly have to look at the last game and find out what we need to work on," Hiller said. "We realize there are a lot of good teams in the Western Conference and we know we need to play well to win. We just need to play better."

When going up against the Winterhawks, that's a good place to start.

Portland has won four in a row and nine of its last 10. The lone loss was to Tri-City on Jan. 18. During the 10-game span, the Winterhawks have outscored their opponents 58-30.

"They are dangerous up front and have some offensive defensemen who like to jump up in the rush," Hiller said. "You can't let them outnumber you in the neutral zone."

The Americans are 4-1-1-0 against the Chiefs this year, including a 5-2 home victory last Friday.

Tri-City and Chilliwack have played just once this season, a 4-3 road loss Nov. 19. Against Kamloops, the Americans are 2-0, having outscored the Blazers 12-3.

"We've been playing Spokane and Portland a lot," Hughesman said. "We've had some good games and we know how we match up against them. It will be nice to test us out against other teams."

Chilliwack and Kamloops will each be short defensemen against the Americans.

The Bruins will be without defenseman Brandon Manning, who was suspended seven games by the WHL after his hit ended the season of Kamloops defenseman Austin Madaisky last Friday.

Madaisky, 18, suffered a C-7 fracture (a fractured vertebrae) when Manning leveled him back first into the boards.

Kamloops also is without defenseman Brandon Underwood (knee). The Blazers have brought up Landon Cross, 16, to help out.

NOTES: Hiller would not confirm that forwards Neal Prokop and Conner Rankin would play this weekend. ... The WHL Board of Governors and WHL commissioner Ron Robison agreed to a five-year contract extension. Robison is in his 11th year as commissioner and CEO of the WHL. ... Red Deer forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was named WHL and CHL player of the week after scoring five goals and handing out seven assists in three games.