There is something special about opening night of a hockey season…probably because it only happens once per season (thanks Captain Obvious!). Tonight will be especially exciting with the raising of the the 2010-11 U.S. Division and Western Conference Championship banners. It is a time to honor the past accomplishments while looking forward to what lies on the horizon.
First off…a roster update: The Winterhawks started off with 15 players eligible to return attending NHL camps. To date, with Taylor Peters being returned today by the Minnesota Wild, six of those players are in Portland or are on their way back to Portland — Peters (MIN), Brad Ross (TOR), Troy Rutkowski (COL), Mac Carruth (CHI) and William Wrenn (SJ).
That means that nine players are still at camp, but there are a few that shouldn’t be expected to return — Brett Ponich (STL), Nino Niederreiter (NYI), Ryan Johansen (CBS), Oliver Gabriel (CBS) and Taylor Aronson (NSH). And, today, Riley Boychuk was assigned by the Buffalo Sabres to their AHL affiliate in Rochester, NY. Boychuk still hasn’t signed (as far as I know) a professional contract and if he doesn’t, he will be back in Portland. But, the odds of him returning were lessened today.
That leaves Ty Rattie (STL), Sven Bartschi (CAL) and Joe Morrow (PIT) as the remaining three that are most likely to return. Rattie is playing tonight for the Blues in preseason action, but the roads point to a return for him soon. Both Bartschi and Morrow have signed and could be with their NHL clubs for a while. Both are playing very well and I think the Hawks will be fortunate to have them back by next weekend.
So, that opens some spots for players like Nic Petan, Chase De Leo, Ryley Bennefield, Joey Baker, Layne Viveiros and others to get an early jump on their rookie seasons starting tonight against the Everett Silvertips.
This team has done a lot to build up their depth and tonight we’ll see that pay off.
A few notes about opening night:
In the 35 previous season openers, the Hawks have gone 19-15-1-0-0 overall.
In the 35 previous home openers, the Hawks have gone 22-11-2-0-0 overall.
The Hawks have opened their home schedule against Everett just once, and that was in the inaugural season of the Silvertips with the Hawks winning 5-2 in front of 7,013 at the Rose Garden on 9/20/03.
Last year, Portland wen 9-1-0-0 in 10 games against Everett, outscoring the Silvertips 35-23. One of the wins was in overtime while another was in the shootout (meaning Everett went 1-7-1-1 against Portland last year). The Hawks then swept the ‘Tips in four straight in the first round of the postseason.
Tonight’s game will be number 2,521 in team history…in those 2,520 previous games, Portland has gone 1240-1106-127-33-14 outscoring their opponents 10,843 to 10,674.
Let’s drop the puck…be in your seats early for the raising for the banners!