Heat Host San Jose Looking to Continue Their Home Winning Streak
The Stockton Heat look to bounce back from a midweek setback in Ontario with back-to-back home tilts against the San Jose Barracuda tonight and Sunday respectively.
As mentioned, Stockton enters tonight's game off a loss in Ontario this past Wednesday, but the Heat have won their last nine games at Stockton Arena.
To extend that streak into double digits, the Heat will have to get past San Jose - a team that is also looking to bounce back from a loss of their own to Bakersfield back on Valentine's Day.
LAST TIME VS. SAN JOSE
On January 6th in San Jose, the Heat gave up a 3-1 lead after two periods and ultimately fell in the overtime period 4-3 to the Baracuda.
A fluky bounce off a defender's stick tied the game for San Jose in the closing seconds of the third and they carried that momentum into the overtime period, where yet another bad bounce hurt the Heat, springing Nikolay Goldobin on a breakaway that ended the game.
The loss was not only the Heat's first-ever game decided in overtime, but to this day represents the only non-win on Stockton's record when they lead after two periods.
WHO TO WATCH
It's been an eventful couple weeks for defensemen within the Calgary Flames organization. Whether it's injuries up top with the Flames, call-ups for reinforcements to Calgary from Stockton, or even injuries here in Stockton - it's been a turbulent February for the boys patrolling the blueline.
That being said, someone has to step up here in Stockton and fill minutes that have been more evenly split for most of the season.
It's safe to assume that Aaron Johnson and Brett Kulak will be relied upon heavily tonight, Kenney Morrison must also step up and fill the role of a top-four defenseman.
Morrison has played well of late, registering two points in his last five games and earning a plus-four rating over his last four home games.
Morrison has gotten fairly consistent minutes on the power play recently and will likely be more heavily relied on for even strength and penalty kill minutes as well, as much of the Heat blueline heals in the stands.
Watch for #7 get plenty of shifts in all situations and try to make his presence felt in the lineup tonight.
TWO BLUELINERS SIGN PTOs
With Stockton so shorthanded on the blueline, the Heat signed two defensemen to professional tryouts today - Gabriel Verpaelst and Mike Vernace.
Verpaelst, wearing #14 tonight, should be relatively familiar to the Stockton Arena crowd after he spent his first season as a pro with the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL during the 2014-15 season.
In 66 games with the Condors, Verpaelst scored 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and registered 141 penalty minutes as a rookie. He's played 51 games with the Norfolk Admirals this season and has scored 30 points to add to 132 penalty minutes.
Tonight will be his AHL debut.
Vernace, wearing #29 tonight, returns to the AHL for the first time since the 2012-13 season when he was a member of the Connecticut Whale.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, Vernace has 438 games of AHL experience and even 22 games of NHL experience on his resume.
His best season as a pro in North America came in his last, scoring 35 points (8 goals, 27 assists) in 69 games as a member of the Whale. He then went to Europe to play in Germany and Sweden respectively for two seasons before returning to North America to play with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL.
Vernace has scored 28 points (4 goals, 24 assists) through 43 games thus far with Brampton and has earned himself a call to Stockton on a PTO as a result.
KLIMCHUK SEEING TEAL
Morgan Klimchuk has had an up and down start to his pro career in the AHL, but one thing is for sure - the kid finds his stride against San Jose.
In five games this season against the Barracuda, Klimchuk has scored two of his three goals and four of his seven points on the season, tying him for third on Stockton's roster in scoring against San Jose.
He has also registered at least one point in his last three contests against the Barracuda.
The 21-year-old rookie finds himself in a bit of a cold patch during February, going his last six games without a point.
A game opposite a team like San Jose, against which he's had so much success, could be the jumpstart Klimchuk needs to finish his rookie season strong.
With one more victory, Kevin Poulin can tie Joni Ortio for the team-lead in wins with nine. The other goaltender's with wins are Jon Gillies (2) and Kent Simpson (1).
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Arena: Stockton Arena
Date: February 20, 2016
Time: 7:30 p.m. PST (Doors at 6:30 p.m. PST)
Broadcast: AHL Live, Spreaker & iHeartRadio beginning at 7:15 p.m. PST
Leading Scorer: STOCKTON: F Derek Grant (30GP, 23-15-38)
SAN JOSE: F Ryan Carpenter (44GP, 10-26-36)
Giveaway: First 1000 fans ages 13 & over receive a Heat equipment bag
For the live, in-game tweets, follow @AHLHeatPR. Stay tuned at the end of the game for the Chase Chevrolet Big Moment of the Game with your chance to win an autographed Bill Arnold puck.
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