Preview: Heat battle Griffins this weekend
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- The Abbotsford Heat open their final home stand of the regular season this weekend with a pair of games against the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings). The Heat have just six games remaining in their regular season schedule, with the next four at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre (AESC) against the Midwest Division leading Griffins and the North Division leading Toronto Marlies.
The Heat enter play this week in 11th spot in the Western Conference, three points behind the eighth and final playoff spot. All three teams above them hold a combined nine games in hand. After missing the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, the Griffins hold a nine-point cushion atop the Midwest Division Standings and are fighting for the second seed in the Conference.
Ben Walter enters play this week riding a four-game point streak. Walter has scored two goals and added four assists over the stretch that has seen the Heat earn five of eight possible points (2-1-1-0). The 28-year-old centre needs just seven points in his last six games to reach the 50-point plateau for the seventh consecutive AHL season.
Rookie forward Sven Baertschi and third year pro Ben Street are also playing well. Baertschi has posted seven points in the last six games, while Street has scored a goal in each of his last three games and is riding a four-game point streak. The Heat power play has helped offensive production with four goals on the last eight man advantages.
Abbotsford has been strong on home ice this season posting 20 wins, second only to the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference. The Griffins are the third best road team in the Conference with 19 wins in 34 games away from home.
Former NHL All Star Ray Ferraro and his wife, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Cammi Granato will be signing autographs at section 113 in the concourse for the first intermission of Friday’s game. Ray is an 18-year NHL veteran and current hockey analyst with TSN while Cammi is an Olympic Gold Medalist and one of the first women ever inducted Hockey Hall of Fame. Ray’s son Landon has posted 38 points in 65 games for the Griffins this season and will be making his only visit to Abbotsford this season.
Next weekend the Heat host the Toronto Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) for their final two home games of the season. An appearance by hockey legend Darryl Sittler, the 2012-13 Heat Team Awards, and Fan Appreciation Night will highlight the final home weekend of the season.