Time: 6:00 pm MST
Location: AT&T Center
Broadcast: abbotsfordheat.com, teamradio.ca
Although Abbotsford outshot Texas 29-19 last night it took until overtime for the Heat to break the scoreless tie and emerge victorious. Danny Taylor’s shut-out was the fifth of the season (!) for the team so far and the win moved them to second overall in the Western Conference with 25 points.
The Heat have a good chance to jump into first place this evening in San Antonio. The Rampage are the worst team in the AHL currently (four wins and 10 points in 15 games). They have lost five of their last six games and managed just two victories in their last 10.
The Florida Panthers are said to have some good prospects in the system, but apparently a lot of them aren’t playing for their AHL afiiliate this season. The team is lead in scoring by former Heat player and journeyman AHLer Jon Rheault. I personally liked Rheault when he was in the Flames system – he had a "little engine that could" kind of feel to him – but he shouldn’t be leading your AHL team in scoring during a lock-out year.
Is it possible this is the game Greg Nemisz finally makes his debut? I talked about Leland Irving’s narrowing window of opportunity recently, but one can probably say the same of young Greg as well. He turns 23 years old this upcoming June and his entry level contract expires as well. If he can’t take a very real step forward, he risks falling into the "replacement level player" category. As such, he needs to get back into the line-up and start making an impact sooner rather than later.
- Baertschi – Walter – Nemisz
- Kolanos – Street – Olson
- Horak – Byron – Sylvester
- Ferland – Reinhart – Estoclet
- Brodie – Piskula
- Breen – McCarthy
- Callahan – Lamb
Kolanos was the veteran who sat out last night, but he may re-enter the rotation at the expense of someone like Laing this evening. I’ve assumed Nemisz will land on the top line, particularly since Horak has been shut-out in six of his last seven games, but that’s just a guess.
Ward has shown a willingness to go back to goalies who played well in their previous game, even on back-to-backs, so I expect Taylor to start again tonight.
Aside from Rheault, other recognizable names on this roster are Casey Welmman (former Wild), Quinton Howden (first rounder), and veteran NHL journeymen Nolan Yonkman and Tyson Strachan.
- Rallo – Wellman – Howden
- Wright – Shore – Rheault
- Selleck – Timmins – Vaive
- Deveaux – Gomes – McFarland
- Robak – Yonkman
- Petrovic – Strachan
- DeSantis – Caruso
That blueline is completely underwhelming.
Goaltending was supposed to be a strength entering the season with high-end prospect Jacob Markstrom set to follow-up on his impressive season last year (.927 SV% in 32 games), but instead the third year pro has stumbled out of the gate with just two wins in his first eight starts and a save percentage of .886. As a result, 30 year old AHL veteran Grumet-Morris has split time evenly with Markstrom, managing much better numbers (.927).
Sum it up
The Rampage also played last night (a 2-1L) so neither team will be fresh heading into action this evening. The Heat are the better team by most measures (even though goals have suddenly become hard to come by) so there’s a better than even chance they will be in first place in the West come tomorrow morning.