Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Portland @ Tri City 2/17/15 Preview

Portland (32-20-1-3, 68 Pts, 2nd in U.S.) @Tri City (26-28-0-3, 55 Pts, 5th in U.S, 8th in West)
-7:05 pm in Kennewick at the Toyota Center.
The Portland Winterhawks travel to Kennewick to take on the Tri City Americans in the 6th of 10 meetings between the 2 teams. Portland is currently 5-0 vs. the Ams, including a 7-1 win in Portland last Friday.
The teams are trending in different directions as the Hawks have won 8 of their last 10, while T.C. has only won 3. Further complicating matters for the Americans, is the fact that leading scorer Parker Bowles has been lost for the season, as has Defenseman Carter Cochrane and possibly backup Goalie Evan Sarthou (waiting on a Dr's diagnosis).
Playoff Positioning:
-The Hawks are 8 points behind Everett for the U.S. Division lead and 3 points ahead of Seattle with a game in hand on both teams. They will use this game up tonight and can crawl within 6 of the Silvertips with a victory.
Tri City:
-The Americans once had a rather comfortable lead for the last wildcard spot, but has had it decrease as injuries have eaten away at their depth. They have scored only 6 goals over the last 5 games against teams outside of Everett, whom they have beaten twice in a row. Kamloops and Prince George both sit 5 points back (50 pts each), while Vancouver has 51 points and is sitting in the last spot (3rd) in the B.C. Division.

-#22 Alex Schoenborn, F, has been out since February 6th with an "upper body" injury, but is listed as "week to week." So he is probably still at least 2-3 weeks away. #14 Nick Heid, D, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
 Evan Weinger has been doing a stellar job since being moved up in the lineup, during Schoenborn's absence, playing on the Hawks 3rd and 2nd lines; notching 2 assists in his last game.

Tri City:
-#39 Parker Bowles, F, upper body, out for the season. #27 Carter Cochrane, D, upper body, out for the season, #10 Dylan Coghlan, D, upper body, 1 - 2 weeks #5 Tyler Morrison, D, upper body, 1 week #31 Evan Sarthou, G, lower body, undetermined.
Braden Purtill was moved back to play defense, as Tri City did call up a 17 year old D-man (Kurtis Rutledge)without using him much last weekend. He is no longer on the roster.

Players to Watch:
-#27 Oliver Bjorkstrand (like there'd be anyone else listed first): 34 points in his last 15 games, since returning from World Juniors. He has 6 goals in his 3 games vs Tri City this season and will look to continue that tonight. Tri City seemed flat out intimidated during the 3 games, sitting back and giving him too much room to work his magic.

-#13 Keegan Iverson: Has been criticized (and somewhat rightly so) for most of the season for inconsistent play. Though he has only 2 points in his last 3 games, Iverson's play has been markedly better. Winterhawks coaches have recognized this and have moved him up in the lineup, now playing with Chase De Leo and Evan Weinger on Portland's 2nd line. His play along the boards has really been impressive as he is learning to use his size more in tight areas.

-#4 Josh Hanson: The over-age D-man has been inconsistent all season, resulting in healthy scratches and very limited play. He scored his first goal of the year in his last game and has shown a ton of improvement in confidence when moving the puck up the ice. At times this season, he has served up some costly turnovers inside his own blue line, while trying to move the puck out of his own zone. I don't think it's a coincidence that his goal came, when he has played his best this season, skating the puck out of the zone and shooting more. You could tell by his teammates reactions after he scored his goal last Friday, that he is beloved in the locker room. so it's really great for the team, when  a guy like Hanson contributes offensively.

Tri City:
#18 Richard Nejezchleb: The former Brandon Wheat King was recently voted most skilled overage player in the West in the annual "Best of the West" poll. He scored 24 points in his first 18 games with his new squad, but has notched just 13 in his last 17, including 4 straight games without a point. He is -6 in those games. The Americans need more from him with Bowles out and this has not been the case so far. He has just 2 assists in his 4 games vs Portland.

#36 Brandon Carlo: The 18 year old, 2015 NHL draft eligible D-man is -6 in 5 games against the Hawks this season with no points. While he is not counted on for his production from the offensive side of the puck (3 goals and 20 assists), contributions from him have been key in getting wins this season. His last two multi-point games were in Tri City wins.

#12 Jordan Topping: By far the best American in their 7-1 loss last Friday to Portland. He has scored 3 goals in his 5 games vs the Hawks this season. He also has 5 points over his last 6 games. This is particularly impressive when considering he has 7 goals and 5 assists for 12 points in 41 games this year. He will be a player the Hawks will have to keep an eye on as like Spokane's Dominic Zwerger, he brings his best against Portland.

Other Points
Eric Comrie has given up 13 goals in his last 2 games, but essentially has no backup and possibly could be without one for the rest of the year. 5 healthy D-men has probably played a larger role then actual struggles from the Winnipeg Jets drafted Goalie. If he is feeling good tonight, he could make it difficult for the Winterhawks shooters and keep his team in a game in which they are, quite frankly, out-gunned.

Look for Tri City to lean heavily on Carlo, Parker Wotherspoon and Justin Hamonic along the back end, especially against Portland's top line. Miles Koules, Skyler McKenzie and Dominic Turgeon showed some instant chemistry in their last game and hopefully they can continue this play.

No comments:

Post a Comment