Winterhawks hope whole is a whole lot better
The next time the Portland Winterhawks play a home game, they should be a little more whole.
World Juniors Championships participants Kieffer Bellows and Henri Jokiharju should be back in the lineup when Seattle visits Portland on Saturday. Joachim Blichfeld, who was injured in Denmark's last game at the tournament, will be evaluated upon his return to Portland, according to Winterhawks coach/GM/VP Mike Johnston.
Still on the shelf with injuries are team captain Keoni Texeira and forward Lane Gilliss. Both are listed as week-to-week. Texeira has missed the last five games. Texeira might start skating this week. Gilliss is unlikely to start skating until at least next week.
The Hawks play at Seattle on Tuesday and at Tri-City on Friday.
• The absence of key penalty killers Texeira, Gilliss and Jokiharju has been felt. In the last five games, opponents have converted 9 of 16 power plays. Over the weekend, Spokane and Everett scored six goals on nine power plays.
"I expect better results," Johnston says. "We've got to develop in the second half (of the season) more depth on our penalty kill .... so that (Cody) Glass and (Skyler) McKenzie don't have to kill all the time."
• Wednesday is the Western Hockey League trade deadline. As of Monday morning, the Winterhawks had not made any trades since sending Brad Ginnell to Kootenay for two bantam draft picks on Dec. 28.
Everett and Tri-City, the two teams Portland is jousting with for first place in the U.S. Division, both made significant trades over the weekend.
"You can't overreact to what's going on," Johnston says. "And in my experience it's never the team that gets the best players at the trade deadline that wins in the end."
Johnston is reluctant to break up what is a roster he views as built to be good for this season and the next two. Despite recent struggles, Johnston likes his team.
"We've got a good team," he says. "For me, the measuring stick is in the first half (of the season), how many games were there where the other team was better than us?"
When the Hawks were at full strength, the answer was zero.
• Bellows scored nine goals in seven games to help the United States earn the bronze medal at the World Juniors. Bellows made the all-tournament team. His nine goals led the tournament and broke a Team USA record by surpassing the eight goals scored by Jeremy Roenick in the 1989 tourney.
• Canada, with eight WHL players, won the gold medal by scoring two late goals to beat Sweden, 3-1.
Observations on the Timbers' 2018 MLS schedule, which was announced last week:
• Portland will play Seattle three times (twice at home) but face Vancouver only twice, a necessary change with the addition of Los Angeles FC to the Western Conference.
• The Timbers will be tested early with five road games before the April 14 home opener. Work on the additional Providence Park seating scheduled to open in 2019 necessitated the early road games.
• The Timbers play home games on four consecutive Saturdays from July 21 to Aug. 11, capping a 16-game stretch that includes 11 home games.
• All but three of the 34 games are on Saturday or Sunday. One of two Wednesday home games is Aug. 29 against 2017 MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. That comes three days after the second visit to Portland by Seattle.
• Tickets for the first eight home matches go on sale on Feb. 28. A presale will be held Feb. 27 for members of the club's season-ticket waiting list.