When the puck drops for tonight’s second consecutive game with the Everett Silvertips, the Spokane Chiefs will find themselves in third place in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League.
Friday’s home-ice loss to Red Deer cost the Chiefs first place behind the streaking Portland Winterhawks, winners of eight straight games after Saturday’s 6-2 win over Victoria. Sunday, Tri-City leapfrogged both Spokane and Portland to take over first place in the division on the strength of a 9-1 blowout win over the visiting Vancouver Giants.
The Silvertips will likely look a little different tonight. If nothing else, they’ll be better rested.
Everett arrived at the Spokane Arena on Saturday for the fourth game in five nights with a roster thin on forwards after losing its two top scorers, Joshua Winquist and Manraj Hayer. The team remained in Spokane to rest up for tonight’s rematch before continuing a brutal stretch that includes three more games in the next four days.
The final three games of this six-game home stand will be the Chiefs’ final games with Don Nachbaur as head coach until January. Next week Nachbaur coaches Team WHL for the two-game Subway Series with Team Russia.
Nachbaur then moves on to be an assistant coach for the Canadian Junior National Team in the 2013 IIHF U20 World Championships in Ufa, Russia.
Chiefs assistant Jon Klemm will take over the head coaching duties in Nachbaur’s absence.
• The Chiefs’ injury situation is not expected to improve anytime soon. Mitch Holmberg, who suffered an upper body injury at Everett last week, still is listed as day-to-day and will miss tonight’s game. Defenseman Tanner Mort’s upper-body injury will keep him out of the lineup indefinitely and Marek Kalus’ upper-body injury will keep him out for the next three to four weeks. Blake Gal is out for one to four weeks. Defenseman Reid Gow, who went out with an upper-body injury in Friday’s loss to Red Deer, will likely miss another week.
• Despite being out of the lineup, Holmberg remains among the WHL scoring leaders. His 11 goals and 12 assists (23 points) in 14 games have fallen out of the Top 10, but he still ranks 13th. He’s now joined in the Top 20 by teammate Mike Aviani, who is 17th with 10 goals and 11 assists in 18 games.
• The top three scorers will be in the Arena Friday when Kamloops arrives in town. October WHL Player of the Month J.C. Lipon, Colin Smith and Tim Bozon rank 1-3, with 40, 39 and 31 total points, respectively. All play on the same line for the Blazers.
Goaltender Eric Williams, who earned Spokane’s first shutout of the season Saturday, has been nominated by the WHL for the CHL’s Goaltender of the Week Award. The 19-year-old from Langley, B.C., stopped 75 of 79 shots in three games last week for a 0.949 save percentage and a 1.42 goals-against average.