Heat at Barracuda preview: Red Hot

Two rivals. One hot, one...lukewarm. Which one will find that extra fire?

When the San Jose Barracuda and Stockton Heat meet for the fourth time this season at the SAP Center tonight, it’ll be a true litmus test for both teams. In the case of the ‘Cuda, it’s an opportunity to show their only regulation loss to this same Stockton squad two weeks ago was just an outlier. For the Heat, it’s a chance to prove their three wins in the last five games is a sign of things to come, and whether they can truly compete with the best in the West.

With San Jose coming off one of their most complete games of the season, 3-1 win over the San Antonio Rampage, and riding a three game win streak, the Barracuda are reaching levels of success that nobody saw coming. The club’s 8-1-1 record is the best ten-game start in franchise history, and they only seem to be getting better with time.

The ‘Cuda’s amazing start has been due in large part to a well-balanced offensive attack, and their victory on Friday was proof of that. Depth role wingers Evan Weinger and Jeffrey Viel each had a goal and an assist, while Czech newcomer Lukas Radil scored the first of his AHL career.

But the true MVP’s of San Jose’s season has been their stellar goaltending duo, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar. Bibeau, who’ll likely get the start tonight against the Heat, was recently named the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month, while the rookie Korenar remains undefeated through his first five starts.

When it comes to Stockton, the offense goes through two players; Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Graovac. The pairing have combined for 21 points in ten games, and were pivotal in the Heat’s 3-2 win over the Barracuda three Sundays ago. But the rest of the team’s forwards have started to hit their stride in recent games, like Spencer Foo, Kerby Rychel and Curtis Lazar.

The big question mark for the Heat remains in the defensive zone, with the team sitting second to last in the AHL for goals against with 50. But that could easily be shored up if Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons are able to find their game or blueliners like Oliver Kylington and Adam Ollas Mattsson keep taking charge in their own end.

When Roy Sommer fills out his lineup card today, he might have to go without the services of right winger Manny Wiederer, who was hurt in a first period collision with San Antonio’s Ryan Olsen last week. Wiederer has been one of the ‘Cuda’s most reliable scorers, with six points in ten games, but his health status is currently unknown. If Wiederer is unable to play, he’ll likely be replaced in the lineup by Filip Sandberg, who has one goal and four assists in his five games played.

Puck drop at the SAP Center will be 7:00 p.m. Pacific, with the game available to watch on AHLTV and to listen on AM 1220 KDOW or through the Sharks + SAP Center app.