The Heat had four days off between the first two and final three games of their road trip last week, and it was a much needed break seeing as those final three games were played on consecutive days.
They were victorious by a score of 4-2 over the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday, but lost the next two games to the Chicago Wolves by a combined score of 7-3. The Heat fell 5-3 in Saturday's contest before their offence was further stifled in a 2-0 loss to the Wolves on Monday.
The two teams will face each other again just over a week from now in Abbotsford.
Abbotsford was busy during the NHL's Olympic break, making multiple player transactions. The team re-called forwards Evan Trupp and Turner Elson from the ECHL's Alaska Aces while forward Lane MacDermid has been suspended for failing to report to Abbotsford following the AHL's All-Star Break. He has now decided to retire from professional hockey.
The Heat have also had to deal with some indecisiveness from the big club leading up to its return from the two-week break. The Flames briefly called up Ben Hanowski only to re-assign him to Abbotsford on Sunday, before deciding to give Markus Granlund, who was called up by the team in December, another shot.
Goalie Joni Ortio has also been recalled by the Heat to sub in for the still injured Karri Ramo, as has defenceman Derek Smith.
The aforementioned Markus Granlund has earned himself another go in the big league, and although his point production has slowed somewhat recently, he is still one of the most consistent scorers on his team. Granlund has two more assists in his past three games for a total of 23 goals and 44 points in 50 games, which officially makes him the Heat's scoring leader. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 0.88 points per game for the 23-year-old.
For the sake of comparison, his brother Mikael scored at a pace of 0.97 PPG when he spent 29 games with the Houston Aeros in 2012-13. Suffice to say he has not been back since.
Elsewhere, Sven Baertschi continues to alleviate himself from his slumping sophomore season. The forward had another goal in his team's 4-2 win over the Admirals on Friday, and now has five goals and 11 points in 26 games with the Heat this season.
The usual suspects continue to light the lamp for Abbotsford, as Max Reinhart and Ben Street also found the back of the net in Friday's game.
It seems that someone on Abbotsford's management team has finally realized that Trevor Gillies is a useless plug, because he hasn't played in the past three games. Forward Turner Elson was recalled from the Alaska Aces four days ago, but hasn't scored a point in the two games since re-joining the team.
The Heat have also decided to cut ties with goalie Aaron Dell only three days after signing him. The 24-year-old goalie played in just two games with the Heat over the weekend and put up impressive numbers with a 1.39 GAA and a .929SV%.
Two consecutive losses to the Chicago Wolves have bumped the Heat down to fourth place in the Western Conference and second place in their division. They now sit three points above the aforementioned Wolves in fourth place in the West, although Chicago has a game in hand leading up to a crucial back-to-back series at the AESC on March 8th and 9th.
The Texas Stars bumped the Heat out of first place with three straight wins over the Charlotte Checkers and the Lake Erie Monsters.
The Heat take on Cory Emmerton and the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday evening as they return home for an eight game homestand. Six of Abbotsford's next eight games at home are against conference rivals that sit in close proximity to the Heat in the standings, as they will see the Griffins, Stars and Wolves twice each over the course of the next 12 days. The Heat will then close out their homestand against the basement-dwelling Utica Comets on March 14th and 15.