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Buonassisi enjoying the ride -- so far

The evolution of Nick Buonassisi has necessitated a few adaptations. First off, he's healthy. This time last year he'd already missed seven games with a broken hand.

The evolution of Nick Buonassisi has necessitated a few adaptations.

First off, he's healthy. This time last year he'd already missed seven games with a broken hand.

He's also made the switch from centre to left wing on a new line with centre Greg Fraser and right winger Troy Bourke and so far that trio has been generating some points. Through 12 games, the 19-year-old Buonassisi has 14 points, four of them goals.

But the biggest adjustment for Buonassisi is the fact his Prince George Cougars are winning hockey games. Unlike his second season in the WHL, when they went 12-56-1-3, the Cougars are off to a 7-5-1-0 start and have climbed into a tie with Kamloops for second place. They trail the first-place Vancouver Giants by three points, with two games in hand.

"I thought we played exceptionally well in both (Tri-City) games," Buonassisi said. "(Friday night) we didn't get the bounces we deserved but (on Saturday) the tables turned a little bit. We got a couple of quick ones and we just never looked back.

"Last year was tough on everyone and it wasn't much fun. This year we're having fun and winning games and what more can you ask for."

The Cougars are coming off a split with the Tri-City Americans after losing 7-3 Friday, followed by an 8-3 win Saturday. Buonassisi had one assist in Saturday's game. Coming off a 31-point sophomore season, the native of Coquitlam is on track to finish the 72-game season with 84 points.

"My confidence is just boosting me right now, I feel like the game has slowed down for me so I have time to make plays and I just feel like myself," he said.

"My line of Fraser and Bourke has been playing good and we've built some chemistry. At first we didn't really know where each other were on the ice and where to go but after a couple of games playing together things really turned out good and we're playing well.

"The biggest difference from this year to last year is the first pass out of our own end. (The defencemen) can really put it on our tape and we're getting it out of our defensive zone. They're also contributing in the offensive zone and that's a big help. All four lines are contributing and you can't ask for anything more."

The Cats left town Monday night healthy, with no debilitating injuries to deal with after their weekend series. They play tonight in Spokane (7 p.m., 99.3 FM The Drive), then visit Seattle on Friday, and Tri-City on Saturday, ending the trip in Kelowna on Tuesday.

"It's going to be good to see how we face up against Portland, Spokane, and those teams," said Cougars defenceman Daniel Gibb. "We've been really good on the road lately. You have to beat those teams to be a good team in this league and we showed (Saturday) we can do that."

Gibb, a native of Prince George, is still waiting for fans to board the Cougars bandwagon. With the exception of opening night, when 5,095 showed up, CN Centre was only been about one-third full for the next five games.

"I remember that playoff run in 2006-07 and to get that atmosphere back again here would be unreal," said Gibb.

In seven games on the road, the Cougars have a 4-2-1-0 record, and that .643 winning percentage will be put to the test this week. With the exception of the Kelowna Rockets, all of the other teams they'll face have won more than they've lost this season.

"We expect to have success every time we go out," said Clark.

"We seem to have played very well on the road so far. It's another week-long trip and it should be a good one for us."