BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Portland Winterhawks will try tonight to deliver the knockout in their Western Hockey League second-round playoff series with the Kamloops Blazers.
But the Winterhawks, who lead the series 3-1, might have to play Game 5 at the Rose Garden without a big weapon.
Ty Rattie, who leads the league in playoff scoring with 13 goals and seven assists, said on Friday that he hopes to play. But Rattie watched Friday’s practice wearing a neck brace, a result of a hit from Kamloops forward JC Lipon that sent Rattie into the wall and out of Wednesday’s Game 4.
Lipon has been suspended by the league and will not play today. The length of Lipon’s suspension was not announced on Friday.
“I was trying to chip it out and Lipon kind of caught me different and my head just went straight into the glass and it kind of compressed my neck a little bit there,” Rattie said.
The good news is that Rattie didn’t suffer a concussion. Portland head coach and general manager Mike Johnston said it was back pain that sent Rattie to a Kamloops hospital following the first-period collision on Wednesday. Johnston said X-rays showed no injury to the neck or back, and the coach did not rule Rattie out of today’s 7 p.m. contest.
“Just taking it day by day right now. Doing a lot of therapy,” Rattie said. “It’s getting better. When I wake up (Saturday) morning, we’ll see how it goes.”
Johnston said he is confident the Winterhawks can get the job done if Rattie doesn’t play, and that getting in Friday’s practice without Rattie will help players understand changed roles.
“I believe we have enough guys prepared to step in for anybody on our team,” Johnston said.
With or without Rattie, Portland will try to finish off a Kamloops team that stormed back from a 4-0 deficit in Game 4, winning 5-4 to keep the series alive.
Johnston said winning today will require handling momentum shifts better than Portland did in Game 4.
“We’ve got to know that if Kamloops picks it up tomorrow night and maybe has a good three or four shifts in a row, we’ve got to break that and take control of the game back ourselves,” Johnston said.