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WHL US Division: Portland Winterhawks Notebook - Hawks Off to another slow Start

The Portland Winterhawks are off to a slow start this year, but they had a solid season last year after a similar start.

Off to a slow start.
Off to a slow start.
Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

It should come as no surprise to even the most avid Portland Winterhawks fans that the team is struggling with making up for the scoring that Nic Petan, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Chase De Leo took to the professional level. Still only one goal scored in two of their first three games is below what was expected coming in.

THE GAMES

Dropped 4-1 and 6-5 games in Victoria the opening weekend

Goalie Adin Hill, who came on as a backup last season and is expected to carry the team this year, injured himself in the warm ups of the first game missed both games.

Portland was victimized by over-age forward Alex Forsberg, who had 7 points in the two games on his way to being named WHL players of the week.

Swedish import Carl Ericson notched his first WHL goal in the first game.

Lost their home opener to Everett last Saturday 3-1

Latvian import Rodrigo Abols was arguably the Hawks best forward in the game as he scored his first WHL goal and also hit the post.

Everett's Goalie Carter Hart out dueled Adin Hill in Hill's season debut, making several highlight reel saves, including one that he pulled right off the goal line.

The top line of Paul Bittner, Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson has disappointed, point wise, so far this year with only two combined points through the first three games. Portland has notoriously leaned on their top line in recent seasons to carry the goal scoring burden. While this line will not be counted on in quite the same way previous top lines were, they definitely need to pick up the production.

Portland is also the only WHL team without a power play goal as they failed to score in their combined 14 chances so far this year.

THE OUTLOOK

-Portland only won one of their first ten games last year on their way 43 wins and a second place finish in the U.S. Division. There has to be some concerns about the slow start, but the season is long and due to the NHL drafted D-men: Caleb Jones (Edmonton Oilers) and Jack Dougherty (Nashville) added in the off season, along with the two previously mentioned new imports, chemistry may take a while to get where it is needed. Both Jones and Dougherty have shown flashes of the elite D-men they should be this year, but more consistency from those two is needed.

-The Hawks next play Spokane this Friday at home and continue the 5 game home stand on Sunday vs. the rival Seattle Thunderbirds. Both games will be at the Moda Center which saw over 9,000 for the home opener vs. Everett.

Former Hawks Crack NHL Opening Night Rosters

-Count me as a guy who did not think former Winterhawk Nic Petan would make the Winnipeg Jets out of his first NHL camp. He is listed on the opening night roster and could play in Boston against the Bruins, when the Jets start their season Thursday. Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice reportedly wants to use Petan as part of a skilled fourth line, along with Nikolaj Ehlers (who played with former Hawk Oliver Bjorkstrand with Demark at the WJC last year) and Andrew Copp.

-Playing against Petan that night, could be former Winterhawk D-man Joe Morrow, who due to some injuries in Boston, has cracked an NHL opening night roster for the first time. If both Morrow and Petan are dressed for that game, it looks like it is a must watch for any Portland fan.

-Unfortunately, two other former Hawks that looked to have a chance at making NHL opening night rosters failed to do so, in Ty Rattie (St. Louis) and Derrick Pouliot (Pittsburgh). It appears that Rattie was not kept in St. Louis due to the fact that the Blues wanted to get him more playing time with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, while Pouliot had a very poor training camp for the Penguins, resulting in him playing with Wilkes Barre/Scranton of the AHL.

Video of the Week

-Former Winterhawk Goalie Jason Labarbera, who was a backup on the last Portland team to win the Memorial Cup, talks about his time in the Junior ranks.

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