Monsters, Heat In Division Battle


As winners in five of their last six games, the Lake Erie Monsters (9-4-0-0) are set to hit the ice on the road against the Abbotsford Heat (7-1-1-2) in the Monsters fifth consecutive road game.  It's never too early to magnify a big series of games, and the fact that the Monsters and Heat are set to begin a pair of games on consecutive nights with the two teams holding the top two spots in the North Division adds importance to this week's matchups.  The teams played on 10/26 and 10/27 at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Monsters going 1-1-0-0 over that weekend.  The Monsters hold a one-point lead over the Heat atop the division, while the Heat- one of just two teams (Springfield) in the AHL with just one regulation loss- have two games in hand on Lake Erie.

Saturday night, the Monsters won by a 5-4 score in a shootout over the Texas Stars; the team's second straight game decided by that exact score.  The Monsters improved to 4-0 in shootouts, 4-1-0-0 on their current seven-game road trip, and won their fifth game in their last six tries with the victory.  Mike Sgarbossa, who leads the Monsters with 13 points through 13 games, had a goal and an assist for his fifth two-point game of the season.  Bryan Lerg registered a goal and an assist, and Mark Olver extended his assist streak to three games.  Calvin Pickard stopped a Monsters season-high 45 shots in goal, and set a Monsters season-best for saves in a period with 20 in the opening frame on Saturday night.

Several Monsters have pieced together some nice individual runs during the team's current stretch of winning hockey, and Luke Walker's name is one that has quietly graced the scoresheet very frequently.  Walker is riding a four-game point streak in which he has two goals and three assists over the last four games; the Monsters are 3-1-0-0 over that time.  Walker- a third-year Monster- has increased his point total during each of his professional seasons.  Walker earned 18 points as a first-year player in 2010-11, 27 points last season, and with nine points through 10 games played this season, he looks to be continuing his offensive progress.  Walker's speed has allowed him to make plays in all facets of the game.

Sven Baertschi, a 20-year old who was the Calgary Flames first round pick (13th overall) in 2011, was held off the scoresheet in Abbotsford's last game, but he remains their most dangerous offensive player.  Despite his lack of experience at the pro level, his raw skill can't be ignored.  Baertschi has 12 points through 11 games this season, which is tied for Abbotsford's team lead with former Monsters forward Ben Walter.  Before being held without a point in the Heat's 2-1 overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday, the rookie had four points over his previous three contests.  Roman Horak is another name to listen for; his 10 goals in 11 games is tied for the AHL lead.

The Monsters and Heat will meet Tonight and Wednesday night at 10:00 PM Eastern on ESPN 850 WKNR, with Doug Plagens on the play-by-play.  Fans can also watch and listen on

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