UPCOMING: The Winterhawks, who played Tri-City on Wednesday, face Swift Current at the Moda Center at 7 p.m. Friday, then take to the road for five road games in eight nights, including games in Alberta against Lethbridge (Oct. 22) and Medicine Hat (Oct. 23).

What’s unusual about that? Well, the Hawks have usually scheduled their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference road games on one trip, rather than split; the Hawks also go to Alberta for consecutive games against Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary (Dec. 6-8).

“We’ve never done the schedule through a computer like it was done this year,” says Mike Johnston, general manager and coach. “Everything was computerized as far as dates; in the past, it was always done around a table (with people). You generally request to go to Alberta and get it done with one swing; now it’s two different swings.”

Games bracket the Lethbridge and Medicine Hat matchups, so it works, travel-wise. All WHL teams, for fairness, have been scheduled the same way.

“We don’t have a choice,” Johnston says. “It’s the same thing with the NHL schedule.”

• Dominic Turgeon returned from injury in last weekend’s 7-4 win against Kamloops. Paul Bittner and Shane McColgan are close to returning from injuries. Keegan Iverson and Brendan Leipsic served recent suspensions.

• Defenseman Derrick Pouliot has made an early impact since being sent back to junior from the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had two goals and an assist in the Kamloops game.

“He’ll play 25 minutes a game for sure,” Johnston says. “Defensemen in the NHL, high-end minutes would be 28-30. That’s half the game. Most D-men play about 22.”

• The Hawks are working on preventing shots. It’s one reason why the stats for goalie Brendan Burke haven’t been very good, yet: 4.30 goals-against-average (just slightly better than backup Jarrod Schamerhorn) and .879 save percentage.

Still, Burke does need to improve.

“I think it’s just getting experience playing on a regular basis,” Johnston says. “This is all new to him. I thought early we were giving up way too many shots; we’re starting to cut that down. I anticipate his goals-against and save percentage will (get better). He’s never really been a No. 1 goaltender, he just has to get used to that.”

• Nicolas Petan and Leipsic tied for the WHL scoring championship last year, but it’s Oliver Bjorkstrand who led the Hawks in scoring through eight games with 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points.

“I thought he had a great year last year,” Johnston says of Bjorkstrand, a Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick. “For a player who came from Europe and had to adapt to the North American style, he learned quickly. I anticipated he would have a great year. He has a great shot, deceptive speed. His skills overall are high-end. He’s not an overly big guy (6-0, 190), but he’s added a little strength.”

— Jason Vondersmith

Contract Publishing

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