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Next games: Tri-City, 5 p.m. Sunday, Veterans Memorial Coliseum; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Everett, MC

Going into the season, the Winterhawks were confident in their mostly established defensive corps, but the jury was out on how good their crop of young forwards would be in the first months.

So far, so good.

Oliver Bjorkstrand“All our forwards are contributing. We’ve got extra depth and good chemistry,” coach-general manager Mike Johnston says. “Seven of our 12 forwards in the last game were first-year players, but they’re starting to get some experience, and they all contribute when in the lineup. It’s made for some tough decisions for the coaching staff regarding ice time.”

One of the newbies, right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand of Denmark, has jumped in with five goals and five assists to rank tied for third on the team in scoring.

“Anybody coming from Europe to play in North America is facing a very difficult transition; they have bigger ice surafaces and a different style over there,” Johnston says. “Both our Euros, Oliver and (Moscow defenseman) Kirill (Vorobev) have adjusted quite well at age 17 to our team, to Portland and the different game.

“Oliver has really good puck skills, very good vision on the ice and a good shot.”

After scoring 22 goals in the first eight games, Johnston was lamenting the lack of finish (Portland averaged 4.6 goals per game in 2011-12).

But he was expecting better things.

“We haven’t scored like I think we can,” he said, “but we lost six of our top 10 playoff scorers. It’s going to come around.”

The Winterhawks have tallied 21 goals in their past four outings, giving them 43 (to their opponents’ 27) in 12 games.

After six road games in nine nights, the Hawks are in the midst of a stretch with two games in 15 days. But they aren’t taking it easy.

“These are real work weeks for us,” Johnston says. “We’re doing more conditioning and weight work and having longer practices. We’ll do the same thing in February when we have a period like this. If you want to be good later in the season, you have to take advantage of these times.”

Portland’s last game was a 6-1 home victory Sunday over visiting Seattle. The Hawks broke it open with a 3-0 edge in the third period, but Johnston says the key was period two, when “we limited them to three scoring chances and started to play really good defensively.”

n The Winterhawks’ first visit of the season to Everett is Sat., Dec. 1. That’ll be the first opportunity for Silvertips fans to express their feelings personally to Portland defenseman Seth Jones, who opted not to play for Everett, a decision that opened the door for the Hawks to sign him.

n Nic Petan leads Portland in plus-minus (plus-13). ... Mac Carruth is 3-0 in goal since his return to the club, with 1.00 goals allowed per game and a .961 save percentage. ... The Hawks have outscored foes 31-17 in eight road games. At home, Portland is 2-2 with a 12-10 scoring edge.

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