Silvertips work to improve communication on defense

EVERETT — Kevin Davis doesn’t pay too much attention to the jersey that hangs in his locker when he arrives for practice inside Xfinity Arena.

Sometimes it’s green. Other times it’s gray.

On Thursday, Davis and his fellow Everett Silvertip defensemen were in red jerseys as they practiced in preparation for this weekend’s stretch of three games in three nights.

Neither Davis nor assistant coach Mitch Love, who works the defensemen, could pinpoint exactly why the blueliners were in red. Perhaps it was to better distinguish them as they went against both the green and gray jerseys comprising the offense.

All six red-clad athletes were on the ice early with goaltenders Carter Hart and Mario Petit to work on their defenseman-goaltender communication.

“Communication was hard, I thought, last Friday night in our building,” Love said. “It was a little lax both from the goalie side of things and our D’s communication, and our readiness for breakouts back there. And then we put an emphasis on it into Seattle, and I thought Hart did a better job of getting out there and working with our D and I thought our D did a better job of communicating that.”

Thursday was also the only on-ice session of the week for the Silvertips after Monday’s 6-4 loss at Victoria capped a stretch of three games in four days.

“We’ve been losing a lot of bodies lately so (we are) trying to stay more energized by not going on the ice as much lately,” Davis said. “I think every team and every guy gets tired. I think the good teams have to find a way to stay mentally into it and stay physically into it at all times.”

Monday’s defeat ended Everett’s three-game winning streak. More disappointing to the coaches, however, was the fact the team allowed a half-dozen goals, a total they’ve reached only one other time this season (a 7-5 loss to Portland).

“I wasn’t thrilled with giving up six goals,” Love said, perhaps understating it a little. “I always try to pick something that I’m really seeing a lot of with our D — some tendencies in a negative light — and try to find some skill drills to work on those things to kind of put it in the back of our minds heading into the games on the weekend.”

If the number of six defensemen seems low it’s because it is. Everett had eight defensemen most of the year, but a season-ending injury to Mackenzie Dwyer dropped that number to seven.

Rookie 16-year-old Jake Christiansen has since been moved to the offense for the time being. That’s partly to improve forward depth — Everett recently lost forwards Dawson Leedahl, Brandon Ralph and Riley Sutter to injuries — and partly to ensure he plays the 40 games required of 16-year-olds.

There are no plans to permanently turn Christiansen into a forward, head coach Kevin Constantine said.

“I think we have a very challenging schedule and we’re by far the most injured we’ve been all year, so we have had our fair share of adversity we’ve had to get through down the stretch here,” Constantine said. “The common ingredient (between this season and previous seasons) is that (injuries) piled up when our schedule got extremely taxing. That causes fatigue and that makes us vulnerable a bit to injury.”

The U.S. Division-leading Tips (32-17-2-2, 68 points) begin the weekend Friday night at Portland beginning at 7 p.m. Everett defeated the Winterhawks 3-2 on Feb. 3. Portland (27-25-2-0, 56 points) currently has claim to the seventh playoff spot while Kamloops (24-22-5-3, 56 points) occupies the final playoff spot.

Both teams are two points back of sixth-place Spokane (26-21-4-2, 58 points), but just three points ahead of suddenly surging Tri-City (25-25-2-1, 53 points). The Americans are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games.

Dominic Turgeon (27 goals, 25 assists), Rihards Bukarts (23 goals, 27 assists), Jack Dougherty (nine goals, 33 assists), Caleb Jones (eight goals, 34 assists) and Alex Schoenborn (19 goals, 22 assists) are the top point producers for Portland. Goaltender Adin Hill boasts a 25-22-1-0 record with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

Everett continues the weekend at home against Victoria Saturday and plays at Spokane Sunday.

For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter @jessegeleynse.

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