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Hawks hang on to playoffs by their fingernails

• Against the Americans, Portland scrambles for guys who can put puck, net together

To keep the lights from going out on their season Ñ it could be tonight, could be Saturday Ñ the Portland Winter Hawks need to light the lamp more than once or twice.

Scoring seven goals in four playoff games has made Tri-City goalie Carey Price look like the next coming of Patrick Roy. You never know, he could be, but don't let the fuzz-faced 16-year-old think he is.

'We're going to the net, but not shooting pucks,' coach Mike Williamson says, 'and when we're shooting pucks, we're not going to the net.' What a conundrum.

And none of the lines have jelled through four games, from Brandon Dubinsky's No. 1 crew on down. In fact, Williamson says, 'we have a lot of guys with a lot to give in them,' referring specifically to Darrell May, Brian Woolger and Dan Da Silva.

'They have been nonexistent in this series,' the coach says.

The Americans, with a 3-1 series lead, can close it out at 7 tonight in the Rose Garden or in Game 6 at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tri-Cities Coliseum. A Game 7 would be Wednesday in the Rose Garden.

Whoa, no talking about Game 7 in the Winter Hawks' locker room. They need to stop Ryan Kinasewich and Dylan Stanley and those talented defensemen and get to Price.

It would also help to stop committing dumb penalties, which led directly to goals or wiping out power plays in the 4-1 and 3-2 Tri-City wins this week in Kennewick, Wash.

The Americans have outshot the Hawks in three of the four games. The exception was -Game 3, when Portland outplayed them for 52 minutes but the Ams scored four goals in an eight-minute span.

'They're getting goals by driving to the net and scoring,' Williamson says. 'We need to get those. É Any pucks they get they're sending to the net. Our guys are guilty of thinking too much.'

In Game 4 on Wednesday, it was the pass-first Dubinsky passing up wide-open looks at Price. At other times, the Hawks have simply been off the mark with open shots, fanning on them or sending them straight at Price.

Notes

Tri-City's Marcus Jonasen says: 'It's never wrong to shoot the puck.' Coach Don Nachbaur agrees somewhat and says Tri-City's defense should get credit for stopping Portland shots before they reach Price, who has had to make few key saves. 'They shouldn't be second-guessing themselves,' Nachbaur says of the Hawks, 'because they would probably be pumping their shots right into bodies.' É Price has allowed seven goals, and the only one he didn't see coming was Cody McLeod's Game 4 tally. That says something about Tri-City's defense, and Portland's ineffectiveness in creating traffic in front of Price. É Shots on goal 'come from hard work and having your sticks on the ice,' Portland's Brad Priestlay says. Adds May: 'They're throwing everything at (goalie Krister) Toews, whether they're open or not. So far, it's come down to them getting bounces. But they've earned them. I don't think we've earned them.'

Williamson has mixed and matched lines, trying to spark the offense, even going back to teaming Da Silva with Dubinsky, the leading scorers who shined for most of the year. Dubinsky knows he must work on looking at the net, but he says the blame must go around. 'It comes down to guys bearing down on their chances,' he says. 'We can't rely on our 60- and 70-point guys, because that's when defensive matchups come into play. That's when the dark-horse scorer should come into play.'