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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

HGD 26: Starting a five-game set in Manitoba (5 pm MT, AHL TV)

After losing 13 of their last 15 games, the Stockton Heat now occupy the last-place spot in the AHL’s Canadian Division and will look to get back on track in their season-ending five-game road series against the Manitoba Moose.

Stockton boasts a 3-1-0 record against the Moose this season but lost its most recent game against the Moose, falling by a 4-2 margin on Mar. 13. That setback ended Stockton’s eight-game winning streak and sent them spiralling down the American Hockey League standings.

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Who will play for the Heat on Thursday evening, and who will remain at the Scotiabank Saddledome with the Calgary Flames? After a brief NHL promotion, leading scorer Adam Ruzicka returned to Stockton’s lineup for its Apr. 17 game against the Belleville Senators. The Flames still have four AHL recalls at their disposal for the rest of the season (and recalls to the taxi squad, which has two open spots as of this writing, don’t count.)

Will Tyler Parsons get the nod in goal for the Heat on Thursday? The 23-year-old goaltender has yet to draw into any game action this season after spending multiple months recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the off-season. He spent last Saturday’s game as Garret Sparks’ backup but Sparks allowed three goals on just 13 shots.

Manitoba hasn’t played a game since Apr. 12 and has added a former Heat player to its lineup since its last contest. Stockton loaned 21-year-old defenseman Noah King to the Moose on Apr. 19; the left-shot rearguard had played just one AHL game for his former club this season.

Projected lineups

These combinations are based, in part, on those used in these teams’ respective previous games.

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Stockton

Dmitry Zavgorodniy – Adam Ruzicka – Matthew Phillips
Emilio Pettersen – Glenn Gawdin – Luke Philp
Colton Beck – Byron Froese – Eetu Tuulola
Alex Gallant – Mark Simpson – Giorgio Estephan

Connor Mackey – Alex Petrovic
Yan Kuznetsov – Alexander Yelesin
CJ Lerby – Zac Leslie

Garret Sparks
Tyler Parsons

Manitoba

Jeff Malott – C.J. Suess – Nathan Todd
Marko Dano – Cole Perfetti – Skyler McKenzie
Peter Krieger – Kristian Reichel – Haralds Egle
Bobby Lynch – Cole Maier – Nicholas Jones

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Declan Chisholm – Johnathan Kovacevik
Adam Brubacher – Hayden Shaw
Noah King – Leon Gawanke

Mikhail Berdin
Cole Kehler

Scoring leaders

This listing excludes players on NHL call-ups or assignments to various other leagues.

Stockton — Adam Ruzicka (10 goals, 19 points in 23 games); Matthew Phillips (seven goals, 19 points in 25 games); Luke Philp (eight goals, 16 points in 25 games); Connor Mackey (three goals, 15 points in 25 games); Alex Petrovic (two goals, 12 points in 12 games).

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Manitoba — Nathan Todd (eight goals, 20 points in 24 games); Cole Perfetti (six goals, 17 points in 24 games); Jeff Malott (11 goals, 15 points in 22 games); C.J. Suess (six goals, 12 points in 24 games); Declan Chisholm (two goals, 11 points in 24 games).

Players to watch

Stockton — Alex Petrovic. At this point in the season, the Stockton Heat have exactly one player chugging along at a point-per-game pace. That’s Alex Petrovic, who returned to the AHL lineup on Saturday after spending exactly a month on the Flames’ roster (but not playing a game).

Petrovic has two goals and 12 points in 12 games with the Heat this season. He’s been a consistent power play threat, with eight of his points coming on the man-advantage.

Manitoba — Cole Perfetti. Selected 14 spots ahead of Connor Zary in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Cole Perfetti has already established himself as an impact player at the AHL level despite only having turned 19 in January.

Like Petrovic, Perfetti has been a dangerous threat with the extra man. He leads the entire AHL with 11 power play points this season and has scored four of his six goals in that situation.

Owing to his 2002 birthdate (Jan. 1, no less), Perfetti will likely be forced to return to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit when that league resumes play in the 2021-22 season; that is, unless he makes the Winnipeg Jets out of training camp, which is also possible. Either way, Perfetti has shown he is more than capable of playing professional hockey at a very young age.

How to watch

This game will be broadcast on AHLTV.com (subscription required), with the opening puck-drop set for 5:00 pm MT. Live game updates can be found on Twitter at @miketgould or online at TheAHL.com.