As the Abbotsford Heat prepared for Game 3 against the Toronto Marlies, head coach Troy Ward kept his cards close to his chest.
The Heat will make lineup changes in the wake of Thursday’s 5-1 loss in Toronto that leveled the series at one victory apiece, Ward confirmed.
But he declined to delve into specifics – most notably, his choice of starting goalie.
Danny Taylor was between the pipes for the first five games of the playoffs, but Leland Irving might be in line to make his first appearance after the Heat’s first post-season defeat.
“We’ll find out,” Ward said with a grin after Saturday’s morning skate, when quizzed as to who will be in the Heat crease in the evening at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
“Not that I really think it’s going to give anybody any ammo. If they wanted to play (No.) 40 (backup goalie Jussi Rynnas) instead of 30 (Ben Scrivens), it wouldn’t change my approach to the game.”
A team’s starting goalie can generally be deciphered at morning skate – the first keeper off the ice usually gets the start at night. But Taylor and Irving departed almost simultaneously – Irving was stretching at the Heat bench when Taylor went off, and Irving followed directly behind him.
Prior to Thursday, the Heat hadn’t tasted defeat in over a month – they’d won 11 games in a row dating back to the regular season. As to how his team would respond to a rare dose of adversity, Ward wasn’t overly concerned.
“I look at it the same way I look at coaching – you never become a good coach until you’re fired,” he said with a chuckle. “You never win a Calder Cup until you lose. We’ve got that monkey off our back.”
Levity aside, Ward said he wasn’t overly pleased with his team’s performances in either Game 1 (a 3-1 Heat victory) or Game 2 in Toronto.
“We’ve had inconsistent performances from player to player,” he said. “At this time of year, it’s still a development phase. If you’re going to be considered a guy who’s going to move into next fall (with the Flames/Heat organization), you’ve got to have more consistency to your game. We have guys in our lineup who haven’t been very consistent.”
Of particular concern is the power play, which went 0-for-9 in Game 2. Ward said he’ll make some tweaks.
“We have to make some adjustments here and there,” he said. “We’d like to execute better.
“(The penalty kill) is their their bread and butter, and they should feel good about what they did.”