After discussing their penalty killing woes for a number of weeks the Abbotsford Heat finally saw some results on their recent four-game home stand.
The Heat managed to kill off 20-of-23 penalties, which helped them to a 2-1-1 record.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on it obviously its’ the worst in the league,” said forward David Van Der Gulik. “We’ve definitely been way more aggressive on entry and trying not to let teams just walk in the zone.”
Abbotsford opened the home stand with a 3-2 regulation loss to the Chicago Wolves last Thursday night.
The following night Gold Baldwin picked up his first two goals of the season as the Heat snapped a six-game losing skid.
“Oh my god that's the best feeling about everything right now," said Baldwin the night of the win. "We won. I don't know it's been six games now, we've been playing better, but now we've got to get out of that slump."
The Heat continued to pick up points on the home stand Monday as they got to a shootout before dropping a 3-2 decision to the Marlies.
Abbotsford played comeback all night on Tuesday; after falling behind 3-0 to the Marlies half-way through the second, the Heat scored three unanswered goals on the power play to force overtime.
Van Der Gulik netted the winner in the eighth round of the shootout to seal a 4-3 win.
“We’re starting to climb out of the hole I guess,” said forward Jason Jaffray. We’re not quite out of it yet. I think we need to see a few more wins under our belt before we can be confident about that.”
“The guys are more confident about their game and hopefully we take that on the road with us.”Olympic Flame
Heat head coach Jim Playfair carried the Olympic torch through the city of Abbotsford Sunday evening and talked about how proud he was to have the opportunity.
“When it came time to actually getting the torch in my hand and going through the protocol of what was expected of us carrying the torch then it hit home a little bit closer,” Playfair said.
“When your standing there in the corner and they light the torch you start to understand that there’s only one person in the entire world carrying the Olympic flame at that given moment and that was neat for everyone of us who has done it.”The New Guys
Forward Shawn Weller (on loan from Anaheim), defenceman Mark Mitera (on loan from Anaheim) along with Olivier Latendresse (signed to a PTO) and Evan Barlow (signed to a PTO) have filled in nicely for the Heat.
Weller scored his first goal of the season in Tuesday’s win over Toronto while Barlow has a pair of assists in four games.
“I like all four of those guys,” said Playfair. “I think Weller and Mitera have done a good job coming in from other organizations.
“I think Barlow and Latendresse have come in and given us some energy and skill – they felt more comfortable after they played a few games.”By the Numbers
3 – Consecutive games that went into a shootout during the Heat’s recent four-game home stand.
4 – Consecutive starts for call-up David Shantz who posted a 1-2-1 record.
21 – The jersey number now worn by Evan Barlow. Veteran Jamie Lundmark previously wore the number, but as a result of injuries, the Heat ran out of numbers to assign and Barlow now has the number.
87 – The percentage rate of the Heat’s penalty kill during their four-game home stand. Abbotsford killed off 20 – of – 23 opponents chances. Just Visiting
With the Toronto Marlies in town earlier this week it meant the return of recently traded defenceman Keith Aulie, who was dealt in the trade that saw Dion Phaneuff go to the Maple Leafs.
The Regina native admits the trade came as a surprise.
“I’ve actually never been traded in my life so it was definitely a new experience for me,” Aulie said. “It was a big shock. Jim Playfair told me in the morning in Austin on the Sunday.
“At first my heart just started pumping pretty hard. I didn’t expect that at all. I just thought I was going to be told to start playing better,” chuckled Aulie. “All of a sudden he told me I was traded – it was obviously a big shock.”
There’s no good news on the injury front for the Heat, Abbotsford hits the road with seven regulars still out of the line up.
Defenceman Matt Pelech and centre John Armstrong are recovering from shoulder injuries.
Forwards Chris Chucko and Carsen Gerymn along with defenceman Brett Palin continue to recover from their respective concussions.
John Negrin is nursing a wrist injury.
The only bright spot could by Riley Armstrong, who Playfair says could be in the line-up next week when the Heat visit Toronto.
Abbotsford kicks off their season-high, nine-game, 16 - day road trip Friday in Rochester taking on the Americans (NHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens).
The season-high trip sees the Heat visit four states and a province and has the Heat away from the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre for the remainder of February.
Preparing for a trip so long has left players with a dilemma when it comes to packing.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” said Jaffray chuckling. “I’ve never been on something like this.
“I’ll likely pack a couple suitcases and probably go shopping halfway through and throw out the suit when I’m done.”
According to Watt, Playfair has guidelines in place for the team on the road, which makes packing easier.
“Its’ the longest road trip for me so I don’t know if I packed right,” laughed Watt. “I think Jim makes it pretty easy for us, he has some pretty strict rules about dress on the road and it’s pretty business every where you go.
“There’s not much room for jeans or t-shirts or anything like that. So you just pack the suit holder put a couple suits in there, a lot of shirts and you should be good.”
The trip also sees Abbotsford in Hamilton, Toronto, Providence, Bridgeport and Worcester.
“We’re four games into our new (10-game) segment and we’re 2-1-1 so we’re gathering points and when you look at our roster and recognize it’s a light roster as far as what we started the season with,” said Playfair.
“To still maintain points before we’re on the road is obviously huge.”