Abbotsford, BC – The AHL All-Star break will soon be a distant memory for the Abbotsford Heat, who start a stretch of seven games in nine nights Friday night in Chicago.
The Heat will play five games in six days before returning home to host the Toronto Marlies next weekend.
“I just said they got to go out, they got to be professional, they have to be responsible and they have to recognize when they come back we’re going to be a real busy team – playing a lot of hockey in a short period of time,” said head coach Jim Playfair of the message prior to the break.
“For a player it’s an exciting time of the year because you’re in to February, you’re getting games in consistently and now you want to make a heavy push for the playoffs.”
In order to make the playoffs the Heat will have to make up some ground on upcoming 10-game segments. Playfair has a goal for his group that the team picks up at least 12 points in each of the 10-game segments throughout the season.
If they’re successful, Abbotsford would have 96 points come the end of the season and right in the thick of a playoff race; however, through the first five segments of the season, the Heat are a bit short of their target.
“After 50 games you want 60 points so we’re five points back of our target and we’ve got three segments to make it up,” Playfair said. “It’s an important individual goal for us because it sets us up to get closer to our target number of 96 points.”
Ales Kotalik will play in his first game with the Heat, since clearing waivers last week, on Friday night.
“His attitude is going to be a direct reflection of how much he plays, where he plays and how hard he plays,” said Playfair. “We’re hoping he comes in with an attitude that he wants to be a good player and wants to be ready to work.”
Kotalik had three goals in 20 games with the Flames before being sent down and will start Friday night on a line with Cam Cunning and Gaelan Patterson.
LANCE BOUMA RE-CALLED
With Niklas Hagman nursing an injury, the Calgary Flames recalled Lance Bouma from the Heat on Thursday afternoon – it’s Bouma’s first stint with the big club.
The 20-year-old native of Provost, Alberta, had 11 goals and 19 points to go along with 49 penalty minutes in 49 games with Abbotsford this season.
“I just told him not to come back,” Playfair said. “It’s an exciting time for a young player to get a chance to go to the National Hockey League and all of us are excited for Lance to get this opportunity.”
“It’s really important that he goes up there and has success with the NHL team because they’re expecting some energy and some hard play and Lance has certainly been a consistent player for us down here.”
REACTION TO CONROY'S RETIREMENT
As veteran Craig Conroy announced his retirement Friday, Playfair, who coached Conroy in Calgary during the 2006-07 season had this to say about the 39-year-old.
“He’s been a solid player for everybody he’s played for, he’s a good citizen, he’s a great player in the dressing room and I think he’s a real good family guy.
“Overall I would say Craig Conroy had a great, successful career and whatever he choses to do in the second half, I’m sure it’ll be in the media in some regards, and I think he’ll do a good job of that as well.”
John Negrin – Knee
Matt Keetley – Knee
Kris Chucko – Concussion
Carter Bancks – Concussion
Mitch Wahl - Neck
Josh Meyers – Neck
The Heat resume their season-high 10-game road trip Friday night in Chicago (AHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers).
Abbotsford plays in Rockford (AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks) on Saturday, in Lake Erie (AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) on Sunday before closing out the trip with games in Hamilton (AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens) on Tuesday and Rochester (AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers) on Wednesday.
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