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Thunderbirds weekend preview: Giants and Winterhawks

Zack Andrusiak and the Seattle Thunderbirds hit the road this weekend for two games (Brian Liesse/Thunderbirds)

The Seattle Thunderbirds opened the new season with a rousing win over the rival Portland Winterhawks last Saturday.

The reward for the big opening night win? A week off.

A week off sounds great, but there is some merit to playing more regularly.

“I love having games every other night,” Zack Andrusiak said after Saturday’s game. “I don’t know if I want to say it gets boring but there’s just so much anticipation to play again and you’re excited to compete. But, its good this early to get more practice time as well.”

The week of practice could help the Thunderbirds on defense as they began the year with two key guys out with injury. Jarret Tyszka is still out due to an injury he suffered with the Montreal Canadiens but fellow defenseman Reece Harsch was upgraded on this week’s injury report to day-to-day.

With two tough road games on tap for the weekend, the Thunderbirds can use as full a lineup as possible.

Here’s a preview of the Thunderbirds weekend:

Friday, 7:30 PM, versus Vancouver Giants at Langley Events Centre

The Giants come into this season with some high hopes. Picked by many to be the class of the B.C. Division they opened the season with back-to-back 3-1 wins over the Everett Silvertips last weekend.

Vancouver is led by their goalie, David Tendeck. The Arizona Coyotes prospect got the win in both games against Everett and has only allowed two goals. He had a .912 save-percentage last year and went 1-0-1-0 against Seattle, including a remarkable 49 save performance in a game that Seattle out shot the Giants 50-21. As with any good goalie, Seattle will need to generate traffic in front of Tendeck and get a lot of pucks on him.

Offensively the Giants rely on depth and can roll lines. They don’t have one big superstar but get their scoring from a number of quality forwards. Calgary Flames prospect Milos Roman may be the best of the bunch but guys like James Malm, Dawson Holt, and Jared Dmyriw can all find the back of the net.

On the blue line, Vancouver is led by Bowen Byram. The 2016 third overall Bantam pick is in his NHL Draft year and could be a potential first-rounder. He’s coming off of an impressive six-goal, 27-point campaign as a 16-year-old and the Thunderbirds will need to be aware of him jumping up into the rush.

Saturday, 6 PM, versus Portland Winterhawks at Moda Center

The Winterhawks will have a different look when Seattle skates down to the Rose City on Saturday evening. Cody Glass, who was not with Portland last Saturday, has been returned to the Winterhawks from the Vegas Golden Knights. He gives Portland a jolt of offense after leading them in scoring last season with 37 goals and 102 points. The Winterhawks can use his scoring after dropping their first two games of the season last week.

Portland will be in Kennewick Friday night making Saturday their home opener and they’ll be amped to see the Thunderbirds. Seattle will have to withstand what should be an active Portland squad at the start. There are no secrets between these two clubs as they just played last week.

Winterhawks rookie forward Seth Jarvis has been impressive early. He scored twice in the third period during Saturday’s game and while he’s only 16, is a sniper that the Thunderbirds will have to find a way to match up with. During the season opener, Portland head coach Mike Johnston played Jarvis along with another impressive looking rookie in Cross Hanas.

Seattle’s top-six was key in the first game between these two. They combined to score four of the five goals the Thunderbirds recorded. Glass will be a tougher match up but Seattle could still have an advantage at the top of the lineup come Saturday.