Now the Aeros will play 12 of its next 14 at home, where they are 14-8-2-2 overall and has points (six wins) in its last 10 games at Toyota Center. The time is now to put the foot on the pedal and take aim at the Charlotte Checkers, who are one spot ahead of them in the division standings.
The Aeros got Darcy Keumper back, who missed a few games in St. Paul with the groin injury. He did well with the Wild, and comes back to the Aeros to get more playing time, while Matt Hackett gets a turn up in the NHL.
Mikael Granlund was also re-assigned to work on his game, and if he comes down here with the right mentality ... look out. He had one really bad game in December (minus-5 at Lake Erie) but in his last five games with the Aeros, he was a stud. He just could not parlay they success at the NHL level.
Currently the Aeros are No. 6 in the conference, but can jump back ahead of red-hot Rochester with a win tonight over the Heat. Abbotsford has been well below average since Thanksgiving fell to No. 9 with OKC's win at San Antonio last night and the Heat's regulation loss at Texas.
With just two games this weekend, the Aeros need at least a split to stay in the top six. Here is more from the Aeros press office. See you at the rink tonight.
Abbotsford Heat (28-26-3-6, 65 points) at Houston Aeros (30-21-4-4, 68 points)
The Houston Aeros and the Abbotsford Heat meet for the fourth and final meeting this season. Houston visited Abbotsford the weekend of Mar. 1 and 2, with the Aeros splitting the series by taking the last meeting on Mar. 1 and the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre with 5-1 victory. In the only meeting this season at Toyota Center, Houston claimed a 3-2 overtime win on Nov. 25.
Starting on Thursday, Houston will play 12 of its next 14 games at the Toyota Center. This comes after the team played 12 out of 13 games on the road from Feb. 6 to Mar. 10. Houston posted an 8-4-0-1 mark over that stretch. Houston is 14-8-2-2 at home this season and 6-3-0-1 over the last ten games.
Abbotsford’s fortune has changed since the last time the Heat came to Houston. On Nov. 25, the team was 12-2-1-2 and on top of the AHL’s Western Conference. Since Nov. 25, the team is 16-23-2-4 and in third place of the North Division. Abbotsford is 9-16-1-5 on the road this season and 2-6-0-2 over the last ten games.
Houston is 9-6-1-3 in 19 all-time meetings between the two teams, including a 5-2-1-1 record at home. Abbotsford has a 10-4-2-3 record all-time against the Aeros, including a 4-2-1-2 mark in Houston. The Heat is 6-2-1-1 at home, while the Aeros are 4-4-0-2 in Abbotsford. Abbotsford and Houston met eight times each of the last two years, with the Heat owning a 5-1-0-2 record last year against Houston’s 3-4-0-1 mark during the 2011-12 season against Abbotsford.
Charlotte goalie John Muse stopped 18 of 23 in defeat, as the Checkers slipped to 15-11-0-1 at home this season.
The Houston Aeros –
With Jason Zucker in Minnesota, right wing Justin Fontaine is the team’s leading scorer with 37 points in 47 games played. He is first among active skaters with 16 goals and he is second in assists with 21. Fontaine has three goals in his last five games. Johan Larsson is ranked second in overall scoring with 34 points in 55 games played. His 15 goals are second overall among active skaters for Houston. Larsson has two goals and five assists for seven points over his last five games.
Defenseman Brian Connelly and forward David McIntyre are tied for third among the team leaders in points with 26. McIntyre leads the team with a +19 rating in 56 games played. He is also the team’s active leader in shots on goal with 122. Connelly has 26 points, off two goals and he is first on the club with 24 assists in 37 games played. Connelly has a team-high 15 power-play assists. He has four assists in his first four games back from injury.
With Matt Hackett in the NHL with the Wild, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Reichard man the pipes for Houston. Kuemper is 10-6-0 with a 1.79 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Reichard made his first career AHL start on Sunday in Charlotte. He is 1-0-0 with a 2.01 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. John Curry is out with an injury.
The Aeros rank 13th in the AHL on the power play converting 44 out of 250 chances (17.6 %). As far the penalty kill goes, Houston sits 23rd out of 30 teams, stopping 179 of 220 attempts (81.4 %). The Aeros rank 29 out of 30 teams in penalty minutes, averaging just 12.47 minutes a game. Houston is averaging 2.71 goals per game, while allowing 2.59 goals per game.
The Abbotsford HeatVeteran Ben Walter is first on the team’s scoring list with 35 points in 55 games played. Walter leads the team with eight power-play goals, is tied for third with 12 goals and he is first with 23 assists. He also leads the team with 15 power-play points this season. Center Ben Street is second in scoring with 32 points in 57 games played. His 12 goals rank tied third best on the team and his 20 assists sit second best. He also leads the club with 194 shots on goal. Former Aero Krys Kolanos is third overall in scoring with 31 points in 44 games played. Kolanos is second on the team with 153 shots on goal and he has scored the first goal of the game six times this season. Centers Roman Horak and Dustin Sylvester round out the top scorers for the Heat. Horak has a team-high 14 goals and is fourth overall in scoring with 25 points in 52 games played. He is tied for second on the team with six power-play goals. Sylvester is fifth on the team in scoring with 21 points in 52 games played. He has 11 goals and 10 assists on the season. Rookie Sven Baertschi has spent significant time in Calgary this season. He has 18 points off six goals and 12 assists in only 23 games played. Defenseman Brett Carson is the team’s leading producer from the blueline. He has five goals and five assists four ten points in 23 games played.
The Heat’s strength this season has been in net, led Barry Brust, Danny Taylor and Leland Irving. Brust, the former Aeros goalie, is 11-13-2 with a 2.31 GAA and .916 save percentage. He also has five shutouts this season, ranking third best in the AHL. After spending a good portion of the season in Calgary, Leland Irving is 3-6-2 with a 3.00 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. Danny Taylor is 14-10-2, with two shutouts and a 1.96 GAA and .924 save percentage this season.
The Heat rank 22nd in the AHL on the power play, converting 38 out of 251 chances (15.1%). As far the penalty kill goes, Abbotsford sits fifth out of 30 teams, stopping 219 of 255 attempts at 85.9%. The Heat rank 24th out of 30 teams in penalty minutes, averaging just 14.11 minutes a game. Abbotsford is averaging 2.16 goals per game, while allowing 2.46 goals per game.