Location: Allstate Arena, Chicago
Broadcast: teamradio.ca, SNET ONE
Abbotsford gets a chance to end a rough month on a high note with a pair of games starting tonight against the Chicago Wolves. The Heat have only won 2 of their last 10 contests and have fallen to 4th in the Western Conference as a result (although they are now just 3 points out of 11th thanks to a high level of parity in the AHL this year).
The Wolves are the Canucks affiliate and sit another 3 points back of 11th with 30 overall. Although their mediocrity isn’t a big surprise, the struggles of Eddie Lack to date certainly are. The 24 year old is coming off back-to-back better than .925 SV% seasons and was roundly considered to be one of the best goalie prospects in the game prior to the start of the season. To date, however, he has managed just a .899 save rate in 13 games played. As a result, veteran Matt Climie has split time with Lack and actually put up better numbers (15 games, .921 SV%).
As for the Heat, their issues are obvious – they can’t score. A lack of shots on net plus a miserable shooting percentage dry spell has sunk their record in December. Abbotsford now has 69 goals in 29 games, which is tied for the lowest scoring rate in the entire league with the Hamilton Bulldogs (who currently sit last in the Conference).
Related, it’s still unknown when Sven Baertschi will return to the line-up. He has been working out and practicing for awhile, but the team remains tight-lipped about announcing a definite return date.
Michael Ferland is back in junior and David Eddy was called up by the club a few days ago. If Baertschi is still on the sidelines, here’s how the lines may end up:
- Kolanos – Byron – Walter
- Horak – Street – Sylvester
- Olson – Reinhart – Nemisz
- Bancks – Laing – Aliu
- Brodie – Piskula
- Breen – Callahan
- McKelvie – Tuzzolino
Greg Nemisz has now gone 10 games without a point. It will be interesting to see when he can finally crack the goose egg. He only has 11 shots on net over that same period.
Steve McCarthy has been out with an injury for the last 5 games. His departure leaves the team a little thin on the back-end in terms of mobility and puck moving – only TJ Brodie of the remaining bodies is above average in those areas.
The Wolves continue to be led in scoring by AHL vet Brett Sterling. Zack Kassian is second on the team, although his 16 points in 25 games is fairly underwhelming considering the expectations of him iven his draft position and as the anchor piece in the Cody Hodgson trade.
- Ebbett – Sterling – Kassian
- Gordon – Schroeder – Haydar
- Sweatt – Pinnizotto – Rodin
- Longpre – Miller- Desbiens
- Tanev – Connauton
- Matheson – Koslin
- Hunt – Andersson
Chris Tanev is the Wolves version of TJ Brodie, albeit a bit older and probably with less offensive upside. Nevertheless, he’s a solid all around defender who uses skating and vision more than brawn to get things done.
Sum It Up
The Heat would really like to find a way to end their December slide before the new year rolls around. They have scored 3 or more goals in a game just once this month (3-2 win over the Toronto Marlies) and that was back on December the ninth, nearly 3 weeks ago. As long as the offense is stuck in neutral, it will be tough to put a few more "W’s" on the board.