Seattle (1-2-0-0, 2Pts) @Portland (0-5-0-0, 0 Pts)
Seattle travels down to Portland tonight to take on the winless Portland Winterhawks tonight at 7:00 pm in the Moda Center. For two teams that widely believed to be the runaway favorites in the U.S. Division, this is not the start that was expected. The main reasons for their combined 1-7 record were actually expected before the season started. Portland's inexperienced and error prone Defense was the team's major concern coming into the season and Seattle's scoring depth was their concern. Both issues have rared their ugly heads as Portland has given up 26 goals in their first 5 games and Seattle was shut out by Everett and held to 1 goal in Tri City in their last 2 games. All 3 Seattle players with more than one point play on their top line (Ryan Gropp, Matthew Barzal and Keegan Kolesar).
-Seattle leads the season series 1-0 with an opening night win over Portland 4-1. Ryan Gropp had 2 goals, Matthew Barzal had 2 assists and Keegan Kolesar had 1 goal and 1 assist for Seattle and Goalie Taran Kozun stopped 24 of 25 shots for the win. Portland's lone goal was scored by Tyson Predinchuk on the power play. Adin Hill played well stopping 33 of 37 shots. The Hawks were without 9 players who figure to be regulars for them. Portland plays them twice in the next 8 days, before not playing them again until December 13th.
-Captain Justin Hickman's status was adjusted to "day to day" on the 9/29 Injury Report and could make his season debut soon. Anaheim Ducks first rounder Shea Theodore is also still out as he injured his elbow while attending Ducks camp and should be out another 3-4 weeks or so. 18 year old Right Wing Calvin Spencer returned from an illness and 20 year old pest Evan Wardley was returned from a tryout at Montreal Canadians camp.
-Nic Petan is still away at Winnipeg Jets camp and figures to play in at the very least their one remaining preseaosn game on October 4th. Josh Hanson is still listed as "day to day" with his hand injury and will probably not play tonight. Blake Heinrich is also still out with post concussion related concerns
-Along with Wardley making his season debut for Seattle; recently acquired 17 year old D-man Turner Ottenbreit looks to make his debut for the T-birds after being traded from Saskatoon earlier this week for overage D-man Adam Henry. Ottenbreit was a 12th round pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft and has scored 1 career WHL goal in 12 total games over last season and this one. Seattle also recently traded overage Center Sam McKechnie to Saskatoon for a 6th round pick. Interestingly enough; McKechnie and Henry have both played for 3 WHL teams now, all of which they have been on together.
-For Portland: Miles Koules, who was just acquired for a 4th round pick will make his debut tonight. Also making his season debut is Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was returned from Columbus Blue Jacket's camp. He looks to get a great start to the 2014/15 campaign after scoring 31 and 50 goals in his last 2 seasons.
Players to Watch:
2)#28(RW)Keegan Kolesar- Kolesar was targeted early and often in the first game and if he can continue to get under the skin of guys like Alex Schoenborn and Joshua Smith, he will put his team's very talented power play on the ice.
3)#27(D)Evan Wardley- Another guy that annoys the heck out of Portland's players. He has a cannon of a slap shot and with Adam Henry gone and Shea Theodore out, he will be their go to power play quearterback.
4)#26(C/LW)Nolan Volcan-He was recently named to one of Canada's U-17 World Challenge Teams and has been playing well on the T-birds 4th line.
1)#27(RW)Oliver Bjorkstrand- It's no secret that Portland's puck possesion has suffered with Bjorkstrand and Petan out of the lineup. He will immediately be deferred to more times then not and the puck will be on his stick for a majority of whatever power plays Portland gets. Though the Hawks are 8th in the WHL at 21.7% on the PP, they have looked disfunctional a lot of the time. A whole week practicing the power play with Bjorkstrand should help them take advantage of these opportunities more.
2)#8(D)Joshua Smith- Smith was a lot better in the Hawk's loss to Everett on Sunday, using his wide frame to push smaller Tips forwards off the puck. He also had several solid stick checks on entry attempts. He will need to continue improving as the season goes, as well as, stay out of the penlty box, to improve the team's goals agaisnt average.
3)#12(RW)Miles Koules- How quickly Koules can fit into the Portland lineup will go a long ways into how succesful Portland's offense is and how much scoring depth this team can boast. If he can help generate chances right form the get go, despite only practicing with the team a couple times, the Hawks will be in great shape.
-Well we know that this should not look anywhere near the same as the last time these 2 teams matched up. Both teams have a lot to prove tonight as they are starting much poorer then expected, so a lot is on the line, especially for Portland. Starting 0-6 would be tough for even a team as talented as the Hawks to recover from easily. If the Hawks drop this game, the excuses will be running very thin and questions about Jamie Kompon's coaching will start to arise.
If Portland can stay loose and keep the bench fun tonight it will go a long way in helping them on the ice as holding your stick a little too tight can cause you to miss out on thiose golden opportunities and take stupid penalties. If Portland can stay out of the box tonight and keep the play 5 on 5, I think Portland gets the monkey off their back in a big way tonight.
Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Tri City @Brandon
The Americans are the first ones to start the East Division swings as they start out in Brandon tonight vs. the very hot Wheat Kings.
The Oil Kings put forth a poor effort in their last game; a 4-2 loss to Medicine Hat at home and hope to turn things around.
The Chiefs are without 5 regulars(all injured), including 4 forwards and had to call up a 15 year old for this weekend's games.
-Moose Jaw @Prince Albert
The Warriors looked good in their 3-0 win last night over Red Deer and look to make it 3 wins in a row after getting back a trio of their best players form NHL camps.
Cole Ully is currently 4th in the WHL in scoring with 9 points in 5 games and linemate Matt Needham has 6.
-Saskatoon @Medicine Hat
Cole Sanford is currently leading the WHL in points with 10 in 5 games. New Blades Sam McKechnie and Adam Henry will make their debuts for Saskatoon.
-Swift Current @Vancouver
The Broncos continue their B.C. Division swing after dropping a 3-1 contest to Kamloops on Wednesday.
Nikita Scherbak makes his debut for the Silvertips as they take on the blazing hot Rockets. Kelowna has 6 players in the top 14 in the WHL in scoring currently.