On Thursday evening, the Stockton Heat will take on the Manitoba Moose—this time, with the goal of becoming « les Stockton Huit. »
Stockton will look to extend its winning streak to huit—er, eight—games in Thursday’s contest, which will serve as the second part of a back-to-back for both teams and the third of four consecutive meetings between the Moose and Heat.
Thursday’s match-up will represent the first time this season the Heat will have gone without Connor Zary. The Flames have assigned their 2020 first round pick to the Kamloops Blazers, allowing him to complete the quarantine process and join the team before its season-opener on Mar. 26.
The Moose are coming off overtime losses to the Heat on Monday and Wednesday, with Glenn Gawdin and Matthew Phillips serving as the heroes to this point at Winnipeg’s BellMTS Iceplex.
Halfway through this scheduled four-game series between Stockton and Manitoba, the home side is still searching for its first victory but has managed to take two points out of the first two games.
Meanwhile, the Heat have yet to lose on the road this season (5-0-0) and boast five players currently scoring at or better than a point-per-game pace. Phillips and Adam Ruzicka both have 13 points in nine games to lead the Heat; Alex Petrovic, Emilio Pettersen, and Martin Pospisil round out the quintet.
Heat goaltender Artyom Zagidulin has started both games in Manitoba thus far but, with the back-to-back situation, it looks likely the team will opt to return to Garret Sparks for Thursday’s game. In five games this season, Sparks has a 3-1-0 record to go along with a .916 save percentage.
Conversely, Mikhail Berdin has started all but one of Manitoba’s games this season. The 23-year-old netminder owns a 6-5-2 record and a .909 save percentage. His backup has been Arturs Silovs, a 19-year-old Canucks prospect on loan to the Moose. Silovs lost his only start this season but allowed just two goals on 23 shots.
Emilio Pettersen got things started for the Heat on Wednesday, scoring the opening goal and setting up Phillips’ game-tying effort. The Norwegian rookie earned a promotion to the team’s top line in the third period and, with Connor Zary returned to the Western Hockey League, it could be a permanent change.
The Heat will need Pettersen, Phillips, Ruzicka, and the rest of the team to put a good foot forward on Thursday to have a good chance at securing its eighth win in as many games.

Projected lineups

These combinations are based on those used in these teams’ respective previous games.
Emilio Pettersen – Adam Ruzicka – Matthew Phillips
Justin Kirkland – Glenn Gawdin – Luke Philp
Colton Beck – Martin Pospisil – Dmitry Zavgorodniy
Giorgio Estephan – Mark Simpson – Eetu Tuulola
Connor Mackey – Alex Petrovic
Colton Poolman – Alexander Yelesin
CJ Lerby – Zac Leslie
Garret Sparks
Artyom Zagidulin
Heat forward Alex Gallant has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury and is day-to-day.
Jeff Malott – David Gustafsson – Nathan Todd
Marko Dano – CJ Suess – Kristian Reichel
Skyler McKenzie – Cole Maier – Nick Jones
Wes Michaud – Cole Perfetti – Haralds Egle
Ville Heinola – Jimmy Oligny
Dylan Samberg – Jonathan Kovacevic
Trent Bourque – Declan Chisholm
Arturs Silovs
Mikhail Berdin

Scoring leaders

Stockton — Adam Ruzicka (seven goals, 13 points in nine games); Matthew Phillips (four goals, 13 points in nine games); Alex Petrovic (two goals, 11 points in nine games).
Manitoba — Nathan Todd (seven goals, 16 points in 14 games); Tyler Graovac (two goals, nine points in nine games); Jeff Malott (seven goals, eight points in 12 games).

Players to watch

Stockton — Alex Petrovic. The wily vet has been used by the Heat coaching staff in all situations this year, including big minutes on the power play. Petrovic has responded by playing some of the most productive hockey of his career, pushing past a point-per-game pace and into contention for the team’s scoring crown. The 29-year-old defenseman recorded 20 points in 54 AHL games with the Providence Bruins last year but is already over halfway to that total in just nine contests this year. His pairing with Connor Mackey serves as the team’s top unit and has earned praise from head coach Cail MacLean.
Manitoba — CJ Suess. The 26-year-old winger was Mackey’s teammate on the 2017-18 Minnesota State Mavericks NCAA team. Suess turned professional with the Jets’ organization the following year and has improved steadily with each passing season, finally becoming a solid contributor over a full season in 2019-20. He scored 14 goals and 27 points in 57 games and looks to be bettering that pace in 2020-21, having posted seven points (three goals, four assists) in his team’s first 14 contests. Suess is a confident puck-carrier with good skating ability and a predisposition to drive towards the net.

How to watch

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