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Heat battle Barons

by Kristi Hennessy / Calgary Flames

 The Abbotsford Heat, the Calgary Flames top affiliate in the American Hockey League, come to Calgary for a game February 18 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The Heat will take on the Oklahoma City Barons, the top affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.

See top Flames prospects like Leland Irving, Greg Nemisz, Matt Pelech and others up close.

And, from Feb. 15-18, leading up to the game, will have features on some of the top prospects.

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The Flames top affiliate Abbotsford Heat (AHL) will have their chance to strut their stuff in the Scotiabank Saddledome in front of the Flames organization and Flames fans on Friday night.

The Heat will face-off against the Edmonton Oilers top affiliate Oklahoma City Barons for the first time this season. The two teams will match up four times over the next two weeks as the AHL begin their countdown to the playoffs.

The Abbotsford squad arrived in Calgary Wednesday afternoon in time to watch the Flames take on the Dallas Stars. They gathered at the Saddledome for practice Thursday morning. Head Coach Jim Playfair had originally planned for the team to skate elsewhere; however, things didn't quite work out.

"The whole experience is great for our players,” said Playfair. "My original plan was to take them out; I have a place on Lake Chaparral in Calgary. I was going to take the kids out there and scrimmage this afternoon. All the kids are out of school and the lake was too full so we decided to practice here. I originally didn't want to skate the Saddledome, I wanted to go play outside and have our own outdoor game.

"I think going into this game is good," Playfair continued. "This is where we expect our players to develop and eventually play, so for them to have a look at what the environment is like, what the media is like, what the building is like- it's all excellent."

The Heat dressing room has brightened significantly since acting general manager Jay Feaster paid Abbotsford a little visit. Feaster shared some news with the team that opened their eyes and ears and helped show them that playing for the Flames was not just a far-fetched dream.

"You see Bouma get called up and you think, wow, this could be me- it could be anyone on this team," said Heat winger Jon Rheault. "Just the overall atmosphere in here changed the second that Jay came to visit. Before, it kind of felt like there wasn't an opportunity; we didn’t really have any call-ups. You can kind of sense that mood that people don't think that they have a chance but now that he came out and said that to our team, it's made a big difference."

Heat forward Stefan Meyer, a native of Medicine Hat, Alberta, played 16 games for the Flames this season before being assigned to the Abbotsford Heat. He has tallied 10 points (6g, 4a) in the 33 game played.

"I think it's great," said Meyer of the new light in the dressing room. "It's a little bit of an extra jump, a little boost, a kick in the butt I guess you could say. We're getting a chance to come up here and guys are getting a taste of what it's like to be an NHL player. Nothing really changes, everyone comes to play the same way but now it's good knowing that someone could get the call any minute on any night.

"They keep a pretty tight eye no matter what on a lot of the games but it's great for the young guys to get in here and see what it's about and get into Calgary and mingle with people they don't see during the year, have a good game and show them something they didn't see before."

The Heat are currently sitting tied for third spot in the Northern Division with 24 games remaining in the season. The Oklahoma Barons are two points up on the Heat in the Western Conference. With that said, Friday's game is a crucial one to say the least. The Heat will have to try to put the excitement and nerves behind them and focus on the task at hand.

"It's obviously a big game because it's rare that you're going to have everyone at your game from your organization so it's great that it's in Calgary," said Rheault. "Everyone is going to have an emotional edge to them but you have to just know to continue to play your game because that's what they are looking for.

"You're not going to try to do anything outside your game and your roll. But obviously we're going to be energized to play in front of them and it's a great opportunity for them to see us without having to travel."

Along with playing in front of Flames staff and management, the Heat are all looking forward to showing Flames fans what they have to offer.

"I assume with the following that Calgary has that they'd want to come out and see their prospects and it is important for us and fun for us to be able to show them the future of the Flames," said Rheault. "I'm really excited to play here. I got a taste of it playing in pre-season playing at this arena and it was unbelievable. Just being here last night [for the Dallas Stars game], makes me want to be out there playing.

"We're all really excited to show the people up here what we have and it's nice to be able to do it against an Edmonton team."

Author: Kristi Hennessy/
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