From the Seattle Times:

Coaches often spend a lot of time searching for the smallest rays of light on the darkest of days.

Not so for Kevin Constantine, who assesses the Everett Silvertips with the brutal honesty and calculating precision of a mathematician studying a column of numbers.

As the Silvertips struggled with five forwards out of the lineup with injuries and ailments and lost four straight games for the first time in franchise history, Constantine freely conceded that his team's chances of successfully defending its U.S. Division title in the Western Hockey League were all but over.

The virtual concession came with 27 games remaining in the regular season and the Silvertips sitting in second place in the division at 21-16-6-2. The Silvertips also have seven games remaining on the schedule with the Seattle Thunderbirds, the division leaders at 31-11-0-1.

"I look at it in terms of hockey history, and to be talking about chasing Seattle for the title is a little far-fetched," Constantine said. "What I'm saying to the team is that window of opportunity is closing fast."

Constantine said he wasn't throwing in the towel to win the division and that the ultimate team goal remains to win the Memorial Cup.

"If you don't take an honest, straight-on approach as you go, you don't give yourself the chance to make the adjustments you need to make," Constantine said. "We've talked all year about trying to win the division two years in a row, but Seattle is so far ahead it's hard to keep saying that. You have to walk the talk, and in some cases we haven't done that."

Constantine's clear-eyed view of reality also reveals that Everett is nearly as close to last place in the division (14 points ahead of Tri-City) as it is to first place (13 points behind Seattle).

"The good news is through this stretch we've maintained second place and there are three teams behind us," Constantine said. "It's a lot harder for three teams to catch you because they play each other so many times."

Everett is 4-8-2 over its past 14 games, but Constantine thinks it's a stretch that could pay dividends later because so many different players have gained valuable experience.

"We'll be more versatile come crunchtime," Constantine said. "The sacrifice is we've lost ground to Seattle, but there have been both costs and benefits."

One bright spot has been the increased production of forward Alex Leavitt, who had two goals and an assist in a 3-1 win against Spokane last Sunday to end the losing streak.

Leavitt, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, who came to the Silvertips in a trade with Swift Current on Nov. 12, now has 23 points in 25 games with Everett and is tied with Torrie Wheat for the team scoring lead with 37 points.

"I've definitely been unhappy with my offensive output since I got here," Leavitt said. "It's really been bothering me. I've tried to keep doing what I've been doing and blame it on luck or fate. Now I'm starting to get the bounces, and hopefully, I can get on a hot streak. We need a lot of guys to step up and produce more offensively."

Leavitt, a clever passer especially adept at running the power play, also volunteered to kill penalties with so many other forwards unavailable.

"We don't care who we have out of the lineup we feel the guys we have out on the ice should be able to win hockey games," Leavitt said. "We really haven't been playing that bad, but we haven't been getting the bounces, and sometimes that comes with fatigue."

The Silvertips expect to field a deeper lineup when they play in Spokane on Friday.

Center Mark Kress will return from a fractured arm, and center Jeremy Creurer (illness), center Zach Hamill (eye infection) and left wing Tyler Dietrich (concussion) also might be cleared to play. It will be at least another week before center Brennan Zasitko (shoulder) will be ready to play.