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Heat Report: 07.10.10

Abbotsford Heat open their second season Friday in Grand Rapids

Thursday, 07.10.2010 / 3:52 PM / Features
By Dhiren Mahiban
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Heat Report: 07.10.10
Abbotsford, BC - The inaugural season for the Abbotsford Heat was crippled by injuries throughout the line-up – in all the Flames top farm club lost nearly 400 man games. Among those hardest hit were defenceman John Negrin and forward Kris Chucko who combined missed more than the entire season worth of games.

Negrin was initially sidelined by a fractured wrist in late January and as he was attempting to make a comeback in February the West Vancouver native was told he had a broke kneecap an injury that he had reportedly been playing with since November.

The 21-year-old says he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent until mid-summer.

“I wasn’t walking on it till mid-June, then I moved to Calgary and started training there,” said Negrin.  “I didn’t really start training till mid-summer, but I feel good now.

“Its’ been a bit of an adjustment being away from the game for quite a while now, but I’ve got these exhibition games under my belt and I’m starting to feel really confident.”

The six-foot-three, 200-pound blue liner was sporting a non-contact jersey this week at practice for pre-cautionary reasons after taking an awkward hit during last Saturday’s pre-season loss to Manitoba.

“I just got rubbed out on the boards and I had a little strain in my shoulder so I think its’ just cautionary,” Negrin said. “You got to be smart and its’ your body and you know everyone here is trying to make the team, but you also got to be smart and you don’t want a nagging injury.”

The former third-rounder (70th overall, 2007) is part of a solid group of blue liners returning to Abbotsford including: Keith Seabrook, Josh Meyers and Matt Pelech.

Up front, Chucko, a former first-rounder (24th overall, 2004) is hoping to have a bounce back year after missing 39 regular season games with both a concussion and whiplash.

“Its’ nice to be on the ice and not have to worry about that stuff,” said the Burnaby, B.C. native. “Obviously its’ been a long time, I’m a little rusty, but each day I feel better and better so I’m excited for the season.”

At 24-years-old, Chucko is now one of the older players in the Heat room along with Cam Cunning (25-years-old) and Meyers (25-years-old), and is ready to embrace more of a leadership role – already lending a hand to the rookies on their recent pre-season road trip in Manitoba.

“I remember when we were in Winnipeg they asked things like ‘when’s dinner?’ or ‘what’s going on?’ its’ not as much of a team meal all the time. You get out on your own, going out and eating on your own and living on your own,” said Chucko.

“When you’ve been in the league long enough you think its’ simple, but you got to remember when you were 20-years-old how hard it was.”

The six-foot-two, 200-pounder is hoping to regain the form had two seasons ago when he picked up a career-high 28 goals and 51 points in 74 games while with the Quad City Flames.

Youth Movement

As a result of the aforementioned injuries, five rookies were able to suite up for at least one game down the stretch last season for the Heat including: Chris Breen, Lance Bouma and Mitch Wahl.

It was an opportunity that head coach Jim Playfair believes will pay of big time this season.

“I think you’ll see the results of that hopefully early in the season now,” Playfair said. “They probably all upgraded their intensity in there training, that will help them be more aware of their surroundings both on the ice and off the ice.

“I think as an organization it was a big asset to have those kids exposed to that.”

Carter Bancks and Gaelan Patterson also time with Abbotsford late last season due to the injuries to veterans.

Quotable

Jim Playfair on the Heat’s goaltending situation:

“I think (both) of them have to lay it on the line. The big thing for me now is we need a number three goaltender in Calgary – obviously Mikka (Kiprusoff) and (Henrik) Karlsson are clearly defined as one and two – someone’s got to step up and be the number three.”

By the Numbers

19 – Players on current Heat roster who played at least one game last season in Abbotsford.
12 – Calgary Flames draft picks on Heat roster
8 – Rookies in Heat line-up

Injury Update

Gord Baldwin (D) – Knee
John Negrin (D) – Shoulder
Re-assigned
Prior to departing for their first road trip of the 2010-11 season the Abbotsford Heat re-assigned six players to Utah of the ECHL. Gone are goaltender J.P. Lamoureux, defenceman Matt Clarke and forwards Ryley Grantham, Hugo Carpentier, Brad Snetsinger and Riley Emmerson.

Look ahead

The Heat start their second season on the road Friday when they visit the Grand Rapid Griffins (AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings). On Saturday Abbotsford visits Milwaukee (AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators) before concluding the three-game trip in Toronto (AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs) Thanksgiving Monday.

Author: Dhiren Mahiban