The Lake Erie Monsters are battling for first place in the North Division. The Abbotsford Heat are, too.
In fact, four teams—Lake Erie, Abbotsford, Toronto Marlies and Rochester Americans—are all within a few points of each other in the standings. Only the lonely Hamilton Bulldogs are out of this fight. Alas, this weekend's back-to-back is very important to both teams.
Unfortunately for the Monsters, the Heat have had their number this season, taking nine of a possible twelve points (4-1-0-1) in the teams' six meetings. Adding to that is a hot goalie for Abbotsford in Barry Brust. According to the Heat's website,
The 29-year-old Kelowna native ranks in the top three in the AHL in Goals Against Average, Save Percentage and Shutouts. On November 24th, Brust set a new AHL record for consecutive shutout minutes at 268 minutes and 17 seconds, breaking Johnny Bower’s record set in 1957 with the Cleveland Barons.
With all of the injuries to the Colorado Avalanche, the Monsters have watched a few players head to the big club, necessitating the addition of some new faces. Center Harrison Reed and defensemen Daniel Maggio and Chris Reed have all signed PTOs in the past week. At least one familiar face has returned, though, with David van der Gulik clearing wavers and rejoining the team on February 7.
With Michael Sgarbossa in Denver, Lake Erie's leading scorer continues to be C Andrew Aggozino, followed closely by RW Bill Thomas and D Thomas Pock. But Paul Carey is the guy to watch tonight as he's been on a roll lately. Per the Monster's website:
Carey has six goals over his last 11 games for the Monsters, and in 13 games since the calendar flipped to 2013, Carey has had a minus rating in a game just once.
Although the Monsters lost the last two games, they have continued to garner points as they have collected at least one in seven of their last eight games (2-1-0-2).
Puck drop is 6 pm MT and can be heard live on ESPN 850 WKNR.