After winning three straight games to close out 2013, the Abbotsford Heat are currently on a three-game losing streak.
The Flames' farm club lost back-to-back games to the Hamilton Bulldogs on January 3rd and 4th, and lost 5-1 last night to the San Antonio Rampage. The Heat have scored just three goals in those three losses, and much like the big club, they find themselves mired in something of a scoring slump.
In an attempt to shake things up, the Heat have called up forward Jordan Kremyr from the Alaska Aces and re-assigned forward David Eddy. Kremyr has 12 points in 29 games with the Aces this season while Eddy has struggled with the Heat, recording no points in five AHL games.
Sven Baertschi, who was omitted from Switzerland's Olympic roster on Monday, has a goal and an assist in those three games, and is using his lack of an invitation to Sochi as motivation to perform better in Abbotsford and earn a one-way ticket back to the big league (via the Calgary Sun):
"...It might have been different if I played in Calgary and was doing well in Calgary or playing well here in Abbotsford, but I wasn't."
"My job now is to prove a lot of people wrong. I hope not, but I think there's people out there that have maybe given up on me already, but I"m pretty sure I'll turn things around pretty quickly here...and come back strong and do what I do best."
Baertschi has two goals and an assist in eight games with the Heat so far this season, and if the Flames continue their current slump (the big club is 1-5-0 in their past six games), perhaps he will get another shot at the NHL level in the second half of the season. For now, he seems to have the right attitude, albeit a slight flair for the dramatic, which is a good sign that he is moving in the right direction in terms of both his physical and mental development.
Other players who have been fueling the Heat's limited offensive output of late are Mark Cundari and Markus Granlund.
Defenceman Cundari has a goal and an assist in his past three games for three goals and nine points in 28 games so far this season, while Granlund has one goal in as many games. The Finnish forward is tied for third in scoring on the team with 14 goals and 25 points in 26 games. Granlund was briefly called up by the Flames on December 29th, but was re-assigned three days later without seeing any ice time.
In net, it's been a rough go for Joni Ortio recently, who was on the hook for the 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs last Thursday and was pulled from the team's 5-1 loss to the Rampage on Tuesday night after San Antonio scored four times on 23 shots, including three goals in just over seven minutes in the third period. Joey MacDonald took his place and didn't fare much better, allowing one goal on seven shots.
Ortio leads the Heat with 15 wins this season, a .921 SV%, and one shutout.
The Heat are still first place in their division, but are holding on to their lead by a narrow one-point margin over the Texas Stars, who they happen to play on Friday. The Heat sit atop the West division with 48 points and 23 wins in 37 games, and have fallen one point back of the Grand Rapids Griffins for first overall in the Western Conference, although the Griffins have two games in hand.
The Heat face the Texas Stars Friday in a crucial divisional game at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. Their previous two games against the Stars this season have both been barn burners--the Heat lost 9-3 to Dallas' AHL affiliate back on October 20th and won 7-3 on November 13th.
The Heat then face San Antonio again on Saturday. The Rampage are in last place in the West Division with 13 wins and 29 points in 36 games.