Hanging on by their fingernails in the playoff race, the Abbotsford Heat received some welcome reinforcements from the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Rookie forwards Lance Bouma and Greg Nemisz were reassigned to the Heat by the NHL parent club.
Bouma has suited up for 16 games during a pair of call-ups with the Flames this season, posting one assist, two penalty minutes and a -1 rating.
Nemisz got into six games with Calgary after being recalled on March 22, and picked up his first NHL point – an assist – in the Flames’ 6-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
The Flames, having been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks also won on Monday, elected to send the young forwards back to the Heat to bolster their lineup as they battle for a post-season berth.
Abbotsford (37-30-4-6, 84 points) needs help to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs, as they must overtake three teams – the Oklahoma City Barons (87 points), Chicago Wolves (86) and San Antonio Rampage (85) – in order to claim the Western Conference’s crossover playoff spot.
Each team has just three games remaining in the regular season, and the Heat finish up on the road – Friday at Grand Rapids, Saturday at Lake Erie, and Sunday at Toronto.
HOWSE NURSING SHOULDER INJURY
It was anticipated that Chilliwack Bruins sniper Ryan Howse, one of the Flames’ top prospects, would join the Heat for the stretch drive after his WHL team was eliminated from the playoffs last week.
Howse’s presence in Abbotsford has not materialized, due to a shoulder injury. The 19-year-old left winger battled through the injury in the WHL playoffs, but mustered just one goal and a -2 rating as the Bruins were dismissed by the Spokane Chiefs in five games.
Howse’s 51 goals during the regular season were second-most in the WHL, trailing only Spokane’s Tyler Johnson, who had 53.
Duane Sutter, the Flames’ director of player personnel, said Howse could conceivably join the Heat at some point if the team manages to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs, and if his shoulder heals sufficiently.