Nothing they do can change their playoff seeding, but the Spokane Chiefs may determine their first-round opponent. Read story
Following Wednesday night's setback against Portland, the Spokane Chiefs officially lost their outside chance at catching Seattle for third place in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs are penciled in as the Western Hockey League Western Conference's No. 7 seed to postseason and a first-round series against the U.S. Division champion.
Portland, by virtue of its win over Spokane, tied Everett for first place in the U.S. Division with three games remaining for both teams. Portland will finish with two games against Tri-City, which is battling for the conference's No. 8 spot, and one game with Seattle. Portland is 8-0 against Tri-City this season.
Everett plays two games against Victoria, which has locked down second place in the B.C. Division, and a regular-season-ending game at Spokane on Sunday evening.
The Spokane-Everett game and Tri-City's game at Portland are both scheduled for 5 p.m., the last two games of the league season. The U.S. Division may still be undecided when the pucks drop early Sunday evening.
"That's what you want, going down the stretch, to be playing meaningful games going into the playoff," said Adam Henry, whose first career hat trick led Portland's charge on Wednesday.
Henry is quite aware that Spokane and the Winterhawks may be gearing up for more encounters after just playing each other three times in six days.
"If we get first place, we'll play the Chiefs in the playoffs and we've had a good season series with them," Henry said. "They've played us tough."
Spokane and Portland split their eight-game season series, but Portland won three of the last four.
If it turns out to be the Chiefs vs. the Winterhawks in the opening round, Spokane head coach Don Nachbaur knows some things must change.
"Simply put, we have to be stronger without the puck," said Nachbaur, whose team allowed a combined 15 goals to Portland in the last two games. "When they have the puck, they're a strong team. I don't think we defended in good fashion.
"On the other side, we know we can play with these guys. We can score. ... I think the front-end guys have to look at (working hard) because we didn't play hard enough to beat that team tonight."