The Heat have not fared well since returning home to the AESC. They have lost four straight games, two in a shootout and two in regulation, against divisional and conference rivals, the Grand Rapids Griffins and Texas Stars.
Abbotsford lost their first game 4-3 in a shootout to the Griffins back on February 28 and lost 5-2 to the same team on Saturday.
Two days later, the Heat would go on to lose 3-1 to the Texas Stars, the team that has perhaps been their biggest rival this season. Abbotsford also fell 4-3 in a shootout to the Stars the next day.
The Heat have earned just two of a possible eight points on their eight-game homestand thus far, and have fallen five points back of the Stars for the lead in the West division. This is disappointing for fans who had hoped that the Heat could use this homestand to their advantage to gain some leverage in their division against teams like the Stars, whom they have been neck-and-neck with through 59 games so far.
The NHL trade deadline yesterday meant that there were some roster transactions in Abbotsford as well. Max Reinhart, Corban Knight and Ben Hanowski were called up yesterday by the Flames, while the Heat re-called defeceman Zach Davies and re-assigned forward Zach McKelvie to Alaska (ECHL).
Before being called up by the Flames, Max Reinhart scored four times in back-to-back games against the Griffins, which is especially impressive because the Heat only scored five times total in those two contests. Reinhart now leads the team in scoring with 45 points in 51 games.
Sven Baertschi has delivered the most consistent and impressive performance of any Heat player of late, however. Baertschi has scored three goals and six points in his past four games, and could possibly find himself wearing a Flames jersey again before the end of the season.
Here is what Brian Burke had to say about Baertschi on Tuesday (via the Calgary Sun):
"His goal totals are disappointing for a player with his skill level, but he's learning to do things that are vital if he wants to play here in terms of playing in all three zones and for 60 minutes. He's made dramatic improvement. His offensive production has not kept pace with what we had hoped for. But you might well see him."
Burke goes on to say that the limit on the number of recalls each team is allowed to make after the trade deadline means that he can't look at as many as many AHL prospects as he'd like to. The Flames have already called up Reinhart, Knight and Hanowski after trading Lee Stempniak to the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday.
I still have no idea how Ben Hanowski earned a call-up to the Flames with only one point in his past four games, but anyhow...I've probably picked on him enough.
The Heat's goalie tandem of Olivier Roy and Joey MacDonald has struggled since losing Joni Ortio, who looks to be up for the long haul with the Flames after the big club traded Reto Berra to the Colorado Avalanche yesterday.
The pair has allowed 13 goals in their past four games in regulation time, good for a GAA of just over three goals against per game. The Heat have allowed a lot of shots in some of those games to be fair, and they haven't been scoring a lot in those games either, with just nine goals to their name in that span--a whole goal less than they're giving up.
The Heat's four-game slide now has them in second place in the West division with 73 points in 59 games; the Stars are in first place with 78 points. Abbotsford now has quite a bit of to make up in their division, and are now sitting just one point ahead of the Chicago Wolves in the Western conference, the team they just happen to play back-to-back games against this weekend.
Chicago has 72 points and two games in hand on the Heat.
The Heat take on the Wolves twice this weekend in high stakes games on Saturday and Sunday at the AESC before wrapping up their homestand against the Utica Comets next weekend on March 14th and 15th.