Heat to Play First Playoff Game, Flames Junior Prospect Update

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GAME NIGHT - HEAT @ AMERICANS
2010 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS
GAME ONE - NORTH DIVISON SEMI FINAL
BLUE CROSS ARENA - ROCHESTER NY

 

The Abbotsford Heat have earned their first playoff birth in as many seasons after finishing third in their division with ninety points and a record of 39-29-5-7, and will face first round opponent Rochester (44-23-2-1) tonight, starting the series on the road. The Heat wrapped up their regular season on Sunday with a win over the Toronto Marlies, and took three of four games from their division rival the Americans this season. 

For Abbotsford, the most important thing is getting healthy in time for the playoffs:

Defenders Matt Pelech and Brett Palin, who have both missed significant time due to injury, have been back on the d-line over the past couple of weeks and will boost an already solid back line.  Up front, the Heat will present a balanced line up that has been getting timely goals...and they get Mikael Backlund and Brett Sutter back in the mix as well.  Backlund and Sutter were both returned to the Heat from the Calgary Flames after the Flames season ended this past weekend.  Add to that that Matt Keetley is back as well to provide insurance in goal behind Leland Irving and David Shantz, and the Heat may very well be as healthy as they've been all season.  Even with those additions, the Heat is missing key personnel.  Jason Jaffray, Carsen Germyn, Kris Chucko, John Negrin, John Armstrong, and Andy Delmore are all on the mend right now.  Head Coach Jim Playfair is hopeful in getting all but Armstrong back at some point in the playoffs, but how soon is still a question that has yet to be answered.

 

Then of course there's recent addition Mitch Wahl, who has one goal and three assists in four games with the Heat thus far. 

Head Coach Jim Playfair had this to say when asked about the Heat's goaltending situation:

David (Shantz), Leland (Irving) and Matt Keetley have all proven that they can win games at this level.  If you look at Irving's numbers and Shantz's numbers, they are remarkably similar.  It would be easy for anyone outside the organization to anoint Shantz as the #1 guy.  But if you look at it, David Shantz has been real solid in the second half of the season.  Leland Irving has had big blocks of the season where he has been really good and of course Matt Keetley has come in and won us some games.  To say that David is going to carry the load isn't fair to the other guys.  We are still in a development phase of this organization and we are not going to get away from that.  If we need to get Leland in there to win us some games, then that is what we are going to do.  To say that we are going to need to be solid in that position is accurate.  To say that one guy is light years ahead of the other guy is wrong.

Playfair went on to say that he's very impressed by the progress of AHL rookies like Mikael Backlund and Keith Seabrook and that he feels the Heat will have an advantage over the Americans because they've traveled so much already this season, so going back and forth across the continent won't be a big issue. One of the things the Heat will surely have to improve upon is team discipline; they were the most penalized team in the AHL with 1796PIM this season with a PK unit operating at 80.1%, good for 25th in the AHL. Rochester's PK isn't much better, chugging along at 80.8% (22nd). The Americans have the eighth-ranked powerplay in the league while Abbostford's PP is 22nd. The parent club's offensive struggles this season appear to have tricked down to the farm squad, as the Heat only found the back of the net 217 times this season while allowing 231 opposition tallies, although both are likely partially a function of the injuries suffered by some of their key scorers and defencemen, along with losing Backlund to the Flames for a quarter of the season. The Heat have been getting by alright even without some of their better offensive players, but getting some of them back from injury would certainly be a huge boost and would give them a better chance to go further in their quest for the Calder Cup. 

Elsewhere...

  • The third round of the CHL playoffs is underway, with Greg Nemisz's Windsor Spitfires taking on the Kitchener Rangers. Since coming back from injury, Nemisz has one goal and four points in four playoff games. 
  • T.J. Brodie's Barrie Colts beat Missasauga 3-0 last night to take a 1-0 series lead. Brodie has 8 assists and is +10 in nine playoff games this season. 
  • In the WHL, Lance Bouma and the Vancouver Giants start their third round series against the Tri-City Americans tomorrow. Bouma has 3-11-14 in 10 playoff games and is +6. 
  • The Hitmen kick off their third round series tomorrow against the Brandon Wheat Kings (7PM, Shaw Channel 10 and possibly the FAN 960)
  • Other Flames prospects eliminated from the playoffs are Spencer Bennett (Portland), Gaelan Patterson (Saskatoon), Mitch Wahl (Abbotsford), and Ryan Howse (Chiliwhack).  

Tonight's NHL Playoff Schedule:

CBC:

(3)Buffalo vs. (6)Boston (5PM MT, 7ET)

(3)Vancouver vs. (6)Los Angeles (8PM MT, 10ET) 

TSN:

(1)Washington vs. (8)Montreal (5PM MT, 7ET) 

(2)Chicago vs. (7)Nashville (6:30PM MT, 8:30 ET TSN2) 

Enjoy the games everyone and cheer for the L.A. Kings in the comments. 

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