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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

HGD 30: Wrapping up the regular season (3:00 pm MT, AHL TV)

Welcome to the final Stockton Heat game-day preview of the 2020-21 American Hockey League regular season.

The Heat enter Thursday’s game sitting in last place in the AHL’s Canadian Division. Their opponent in the season finale will be the Manitoba Moose, a team Stockton has faced eight times this season and beaten on four occasions.

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Goaltending is likely to play a big factor in Thursday’s game. Eric Comrie has started each of Manitoba’s last three games but was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets on Apr. 27, paving the way for Mikhail Berdin to get the start on Apr. 29.

Comrie posted a sparkling .959 save percentage in those three appearances. Berdin, on the other hand, has a 10-10-2 record with a .900 save percentage in the AHL this season.

Manitoba also recalled Dominic Toninato, David Gustafsson, Marko Dano, and Ville Heinola on Tuesday. The Moose will be forced to roll out with a much different lineup in Thursday’s game.

Tyler Parsons could return to the lineup for Stockton. He sat out of the last three games with a non-COVID illness after allowing five goals in 25 shots on Apr. 22. Andrew Shortridge has completed Stockton’s tandem with Garret Sparks in Parsons’ absence.

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It remains unclear how the AHL will construct a potential playoff schedule—or whether the Heat would even qualify—at this time. For now, this is it.

Projected lineups

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

Stockton

Emilio Pettersen – Adam Ruzicka – Eetu Tuulola
Walker Duehr – Luke Philp – Matthew Phillips
Colton Beck – Giorgio Estephan – Dmitry Zavgorodniy
Alex Gallant – Mark Simpson – Navrin Mutter

Zac Leslie – Alex Petrovic
Colton Poolman – Alexander Yelesin
Yan Kuznetsov – Rob Hamilton

Tyler Parsons
Garret Sparks

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Manitoba

Jeff Malott – Cole Perfetti – Nathan Todd
Joona Luoto – Cole Maier – Kristian Reichel
Skyler McKenzie – Ty Pelton-Byce – Nick Jones
Peter Krieger – Wes Michaud – Haralds Egle

Dylan Samberg – Johnathan Kovacevic
Jimmy Oligny – Declan Chisholm
Trent Bourque – Nelson Nogier

Mikhail Berdin
Cole Kehler

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Scoring leaders

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

Stockton — Adam Ruzicka (11 goals, 21 points in 27 games); Matthew Phillips (eight goals, 21 points in 29 games); Luke Philp (eight goals, 16 points in 29 games); Emilio Pettersen (six goals, 14 points in 28 games); Alex Petrovic (two goals, 12 points in 16 games).

Manitoba — Nathan Todd (nine goals, 25 points in 28 games); Cole Perfetti (eight goals, 23 points in 28 games); Jeff Malott (12 goals, 17 points in 26 games); Declan Chisholm (two goals, 13 points in 27 games); Cole Maier (six goals, 11 points in 23 games).

Players to watch

Stockton Matthew Phillips. Despite his production decreasing in the second half of the season, Phillips has remained Stockton’s most important offensive player and makes his presence felt almost every time he hits the ice.

The 5’7″ winger has collected eight goals and 13 helpers in 29 games this year but has yet to earn a call-up to Calgary. He turned 23 earlier this month and is a pending restricted free agent.

Eric Duhatschek, of The Athletic, has Seattle selecting Phillips in this summer’s expansion draft. Could this be the final time we see him in Stockton silks?

Manitoba — Johnathan Kovacevic. The Jets selected this lanky defenseman in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He’s since turned into a very competent two-way AHL defenseman and has racked up four points in his last four games (all against the Heat).

With Ville Heinola up with the Jets, look for Kovacevic to be relied upon even more heavily by Moose coach Pascal Vincent. Kovacevic, who previously starred at Merrimack College, has two goals and 10 points in 26 games this season. Among Moose blue-liners, only Declan Chisholm and Heinola have scored at a better rate.

How to watch

This game will be broadcast on AHLTV.com (subscription required), with the opening puck-drop set for 3:00 pm MT. Live game updates can be found on Twitter at @miketgould or online at TheAHL.com.