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Barracuda at Heat preview: Battle of fire and water

An undefeated season might be out of the question, but a 68-game point streak isn’t!

Bryan Del Fava, Fear the Fin

After dropping their first game of the season on Wednesday, the San Jose Barracuda will look to get back on the winning track today as they head across the interstate to face their Northern California rivals, the Stockton Heat.

For a team that had most of its roster overhauled in the off-season, the Barracuda couldn’t have asked for a better start to their 2018-19 campaign. With a 2-0-1 record and five points out of a possible six, Roy Sommer’s crew has the opportunity to build on their early lead in the AHL’s Pacific Division when they play their first of 12 matchups against the Heat on Saturday.

Stockton enters the game having finally notched their first win of the season last night in Ontario, a 5-4 come-from-behind victory in overtime over the Reign. Their 1-1-1 record might not show it, but the Heat have had no trouble scoring so far. Tyler Graovac leads the way with four points, while top Calgary Flames prospects like Spencer Foo, Oliver Kylington and Morgan Klimchuk have each picked up three in the club’s first trio of games.

The same can be said about the Barracuda, who already have 14 different point-scorers this season, led by Francis Perron and Nick DeSimone with four apiece. Since Dylan Gambrell is still touring out east with the Sharks, his spot centering Perron and Vincent Praplan will likely stay filled by Matt Fonteyne, while Tim Clifton draws in on the fourth line between Jeffrey Viel and Jon Martin.

Much like San Jose, the Heat saw a lot of changes during the summer, particularly behind the bench. With Ryan Huska being promoted to Flames assistant coach, Calgary chose Cail MacLean to take over the role of Stockton head coach. Prior to getting his first AHL win on Friday, MacLean served two seasons as the bench boss of the Flames’ former ECHL affiliate, the Adriondack Thunder, from 2015 to 2017. Once the two teams ended their affiliation before last season, Calgary brought the 42 year-old to Stockton as an assistant coach.

In the goaltending department, Antoine Bibeau has started the season red hot and will likely get his third start of the season tonight. Bibeau put up 30-plus saves in both of his first two games against Ontario and Bakersfield, and boasts the AHL’s second best save percentage among netminders with multiple games played so far.

On the flip side, no netminding tandem has struggled to keep the puck out of their nets more than Stockton’s Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons. The duo have combined to let in a whopping 18 goals in three games, the most of any team in the league.

With Gillies playing last night’s game in Ontario, expect Parsons to get the nod against the ‘Cuda. Parsons’ only appearance so far was an opening night start against the Reign, during which he let in five goals on 20 shots before being hooked in favor of Gilles midway through the second period.

Puck drop in Stockton is at 6 p.m. Pacific, and you can watch live on AHLTV or listen through the Sharks and SAP Center App.