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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

HGD 16: Stockton kicks off a back-to-back home series with San Diego (8:00 p.m. MT)

With Juuso Valimaki in the lineup, the Stockton Heat will look to bounce back from their 5–1 loss to the Colorado Eagles on Nov. 27 when they take on the San Diego Gulls at Stockton Arena on Friday night.

The Calgary Flames assigned Valimaki to the Heat on Thursday. The 23-year-old defenceman had only appeared in one National Hockey League contest since Oct. 28, sitting out the majority of November as a healthy scratch behind Nikita Zadorov. As a recent first-round draft pick, Valimaki will undoubtedly receive ample playing time in Stockton.

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The Heat went without two-thirds of their red-hot first line in the 5–1 setback in Colorado. No. 1 centre Adam Ruzicka has been up with the Flames since Nov. 25, although he has yet to appear in an NHL game this season; right wing Matthew Phillips missed the game while going through COVID-19 protocol. It remains unclear whether Phillips will be available to the Heat on Friday.

Stockton’s main task on Friday will be to shut down Gulls forward Brayden Tracey, who was named the American Hockey League’s Player of the Week for the period of Nov. 22–28. The 2019 first-round selection (29th overall) has five goals and 14 points in 15 games with the Gulls this season.

Dustin Wolf will likely get the start for Stockton on Friday. The 20-year-old goaltender still has yet to record a regulation loss this season, having posted a 7–0–2 record and a .932 save percentage in his first nine appearances.

Stockton and San Diego have already met once this year, way back on Oct. 22. Adam Werner made 20 saves as the Heat cruised to a 6–2 win, with Jakob Pelletier factoring in on half of Stockton’s goals.

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FlamesNation contributor Mike Gould will be in attendance at tonight’s Heat game and will provide live updates from Stockton Arena on Twitter. He’ll set the scene for the contest alongside Pat Steinberg on Sportsnet 960 at 2:30 p.m. MT.

Projected lineups

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

Stockton

Jakob PelletierGlenn GawdinLuke Philp
Martin PospisilConnor ZaryEmilio Pettersen
Justin KirklandByron FroeseWalker Duehr
Alex GallantRyan OlsenEetu Tuulola

Connor MackeyAndy Welinski
Juuso ValimakiColton Poolman
Kevin GravelNick DeSimone

Dustin Wolf
Adam Werner

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San Diego

Greg Printz – Danny O’Regan – Jacob Perreault
Alex LimogesBenoit-Olivier GroulxBryce Kindopp
Brayden TraceyVincent MarleauMaxim Golod
Morgan Adams-MoisanJack BadiniHunter Drew

Trevor CarrickGreg Pateryn
Brendan GuhleJacob Larsson
Nikolas BrouillardBrogan Rafferty

Lukas Dostal
Olle Eriksson Ek

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Scoring leaders

This section excludes players recalled to the NHL or on assignment to other leagues.

Stockton Jakob Pelletier (seven goals, 17 points); Glenn Gawdin (three goals, 14 points); Matthew Phillips (five goals, 13 points); Byron Froese (four goals, 11 points); Nick DeSimone (one goal, 10 points).

San Diego Jacob Perreault (seven goals, 15 points); Brayden Tracey (five goals, 14 points); Nikolas Brouillard (three goals, 12 points); Danny O’Regan (three goals, nine points); Bryce Kindopp (two goals, eight points).

Players to watch

Stockton — Martin Pospisil. Stockton’s living, breathing wrecking ball has six points in his last six games, including the only goal for the Heat in their 5–1 loss to Colorado on Nov. 27. Pospisil was held without a point in his first three contests of the season, which were also his first competitive regular-season games since he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Laval Rocket last March.

San Diego — Lukas Dostal. After stealing the show both in the Liiga and the AHL last season, Dostal has struggled to find his form with the Gulls early in the 2021–22 campaign. The 21-year-old goaltender has a .901 save percentage and a 5–3–0 record in his first eight appearances this season, a far cry from the 10–1–0/.941 he posted as Valimaki’s teammate with Ilves last year and his 15–9–0 record and .916 save percentage he recorded in his first 24 AHL contests.

How to watch

Saturday’s game will be broadcast on AHL TV (subscription required) and on Spreaker (audio only), with the opening puck-drop set for 8:00 p.m. MT.

FlamesNation contributor Paige Siewert will provide live game updates on her Twitter account; Mike Gould will be live on-scene at Stockton Arena posting updates and catching up with the players after the final buzzer. Additionally, you’ll be able to follow along at TheAHL.com.