One of my favorite aspects of my job is the travel.
I’ve always loved experiencing new areas, meeting new people, and seeing what each place has to offer; and you could ask me what my favorite thing to do, eat, or see in each city is and I’d have an answer for you.
However, the getting there part is not nearly as fun as yesterday was really a giant fiasco from the traffic heading to the airport in Oakland to the long, cross-country flights. Plus we lost three hours and ended up being done for the day at 1:45 a.m. local time, only to get back up in the morning for practice.
Like I said…not near as much fun.
In the end it does seem all worth it though as you try to soak in the city even if it’s a brief stay. I’m in a brand new arena, with folks that appear a bit more southern in speaking and certainly with their manners (lots of yes sir, yes ma’am already) and took a nice stop at a midwest staple in Waffle House for breakfast.
A waffle, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns covered and chunked later, it’s time for practice, and for the Heat, their last practice heading into an important weekend.
We know that it’s not been sunshine and rainbows around these parts recently, but here are a few notes heading into this weekends matchup.
- A lot of people have asked about Rasmus Andersson, and for good reason. He took a puck to the face in front of the Stockton faithful last Saturday and we got tweets, messages and even emails from people concerned for him. The bad news is that Rasmus is not on the trip. The good news is that Coach Huska has said that he doesn’t expect it to be a long term thing.
- While there are three extremely capable goalies that can come in to play this weekend, as of now, my guess is it’s Jon Gillies net to lose. He’s been spectacular, stopping 89 of his last 95 shots, and although losing efforts (the last one was an overtime loss), he’s kept the Heat in the game and given the team a chance to win.
- Interestingly enough, it’s been three-straight 2-1 games that the Heat have played, both signifying that scoring has dried up a lot (3 goals in their last five games) and that the defense/goaltending has been stout.
Let’s get to the offense. Unfortunately a lot of guys are on streaks they don’t want to be on
- Oliver Kylington hasn’t scored a goal in 13 games
- Linden Vey has gone 19 games without a goal and 5 games without a point
- Matt Frattin has gone 5 games without a point
- Emile Poirier has gone 10 games without a point
- Brandon Bollig has gone 5 games without a point
- Andrew Mangiapane has gone 5 games without a point
- And while I could elaborate on other guys, the point is that the top players for the Heat have been shut down recently. This is certainly strange territory for someone like Vey to be on that long of a streak without a goal, and Kylington will probably see some increased power-play time with Andersson on the shelf for now. However, the 10-game pointless streak from Poirier is a tough pill to swallow and for Mangiapane going without a point in five shows that teams are starting to wise up and put pressure on the young man. How he adjusts will be key!
- A lot of work on the power play for the Heat today in practice and rightfully so. I know there are peaks and valleys throughout a year on special teams, but I think what you are around the Christmas break tends to be how your team performs year round unless there’s a major shift in personnel. To see the Heat go 1 for 40 since the dawn of the New Year has been tough.
- The coaching staff seems to maintain a similar unit but with some small shakeups. Obviously one will be at the point with no Andersson. For me, Rasmus is what you want in a power-play quarterback…smart passer, quick decision maker, can shoot. However maybe with Kenney Morrison and Kylington getting a bulk of the load, perhaps a guy with a shoot first mentality that can get pucks through can get things kickstarted for the Heat.
- AHL Legend Michael Leighton is back on the Checkers and could be someone we see this weekend (I’d think it’s highly likely). Stockton has faced Leighton twice, both while he played for the Rockford IceHogs last season. The Heat chased him in just over 14 minutes during their first ever game, routing the IceHogs 7-0 but watched Leighton add to his tally of shutouts in January as the IceHogs took down Kevin Poulin and the Heat 3-0 (Poulin was just as good in that game too). Leighton has powered a team to a Stanley Cup, been named the AHL’s best goalie, a four-time AHL All-Star and is the AHL’s all-time leader in shutouts.
No logo this week but instead it’s a jersey and it’s the jersey the Checkers will wear this Saturday against the Heat.
First off I’ll tell you that the Heat will be wearing their black alternates all weekend because of the specialty jersey so the Heat will be bringing some heat, with their popular thirds.
Secondly, I think this is cool. I like the pink hurricane flag in the bear’s mouth and the subtle color changes to their secondary logo on the front here.
I have a feeling that the pink jerseys for the Heat may look a bit differently next year!
Brandon Kisker is the Heat’s Director of Broadcast & Media Relations and is in his fourth season as a broadcaster in Stockton and second for the Heat. He yells a lot when excited, but that yelling is genuine, and typically fist pumps when goals are scored or big saves are made. He thinks Rick Jenerette is really top shelf…..and that is where mama hides the cookies. He enjoys the fact that Tom McCollum and he can talk about all the great food in Buffalo, NY and give it back to the guys who love Rochester, NY so much and think it’s a better city. If you’ve never been to either and are only going by the words of others he wants you to ask yourself how many restaurants you’ve ordered Rochester Wings or a Rochester Chicken Salad. Then will you know which city is the better of the two. Follow him on Twitter @kiskerbc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.