Time: 8:00 pm MST
Location: Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Center
Broadcast: abbotsfordheat.com, teamradio.ca
The Heat have had four days to recuperate after their difficult back-to-back-to-back schedule from last weekend. Now they face another B2B series with the Marlies, starting tonight in Abbostford.The Marlies are 3-2-1 in six games so far and have scored as many goals (17) as they have given up. The Heat, on the other hand, have a goal differential +9 and despite a mediocre .500 weekend, remain tied for third in the Western Conference with 10 points.
Abby’s record is a good one, but they have nevertheless been outshot in five of their seven contests this year, including each of the last three. The overall differential isn’t terrible (-7) because they ran away with a couple of games, but overall it’s a trend the team will want to reverse if they want to stay on top of the standings. After all, the goaltending and the PK aren’t going to be outlandishly good forever.
As always, we can’t be sure which veteran is going to draw the short straw so it’s tough to accurately predict the heat’s depth chart.
- Baertschi – Walter – Sylvester
- Street – Kolanos – Ruesegger
- Horak – Reinhart – Aliu
- Estoclet – Laing – Bancks
- Brodie – Piskula
- McCarthy – Breen
- Callahan – Lamb
The Baertschi line was fairly quiet last game, so it’s possible they might be broken up in favor of some other combination. On the other hand, Aliu and Horak led the way with five and eights shots each against Hamilton, which was about 44% of the Heat’s total shots on goal for that game.
No word on when Nemisz and Byron will be poised to return to the active roster. Taylor remains the incumbent starter, so is likely the guy to go tonight.
I don’t know much about the Marlies, but luckily Gus Katsaros of McKeen’s Hockey and LeafsNation does. Here’s what he had to say about the Heat’s foe tonight:
Marlies are (what should be) a high scoring team that isn’t scoring goals. They’ve improved their movement on the power play, but have only had marginal success. It’s a real strange phenomenon. Penalty killing has really suffered too, in the mid-20’s now after leading the AHL for two straight seasons.
Following was the lineup from last game as Blacker and Korbinian Holzer were out. I would assume Holzer draws back in for Ranger or Gysbers:
- Deschamps – Aucoin – McKegg
- Ashton – Colborne – Komarov
- Hamilton – Kadri – Zigomanis
- D’Amigo – Acton – Ryan
- Fraser – Ranger
- Gardiner – Kostka
- Yeo – Gysber
Players to Watch for
– Nazem Kadri – the obvious choice, a legitimate offensive threat who has struggled to put up points (6-0-3-3), although not for the lack of creativity and a level of feistiness.
– Keith Aucoin – Burke made the claim he could get games at the NHL level, and that’s likely so for small call ups, but brought in as a skilled addition at the AHL level. Yet to score and his six assists are evenly split three apiece in two separate games, with four scoreless games. Started off with Kadri but separated lately with the lack of production as a line-wide issue.
– Joe Colborne – hasn’t found that pre-injury form yet, but glimpses of distribution ability and vision. Has to get to the net more often and goals will come. I felt he’s been a been too heavy in the perimeter, advancing the play, rather than creating offense.
– Leo Komarov – pest that will get under your skin and drive you nuts. The Heat will hate him.
– Greg McKegg – good engine and consistent work ethic has shown a little touch around the goal.
– Jake Gardiner – cornerstone rushing blueliner that changes the tempo of a game moving the puck up ice and controls the power play at the top of the umbrella.
– Mike Kostka – a feel good story of how he’s ascended to this point in his career, that now includes a Calder Cup Championship, and the fluky goal against the Marlies in Game 3 of the Finals (off a stanchion into an open net).
Sum It Up
Toronto is a middling, .500 team so far this season, but were the club who eliminated the Heat from the Calder cup playoffs last year and ended up going all the way to the finals before bowing out to the Norfolk Admirals. They also have several high level players in Kadri, Aucoin, Colborne and Gardiner so they can’t be taken lightly.
The Heat, on the other hand, have survived recently thanks to a near perfect PK, very good goaltending and the red hot stick of Roman Horak. Fundamentally, however, they’ve been underwhelming, surrendering more shots on goal and penalties than their opponents. Perhaps tonight they can start turning that around.