However, Milwaukee has three games in hand on Oklahoma City. Which means the Barons are also trying to catch the Rockford IceHogs, who sit at 7th with 68 points, two ahead of OKC. The Barons have a game in hand on Rockford.
Milwaukee and Rockford play each other on Friday night, meaning the Oilers affiliate can gain some ground on one of them with a win or two this weekend. However, Milwaukee plays tonight as well, meaning they can continue to push the pace in the playoff race.
OKC hosts the Grand Rapids Griffins (affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings) for two games this weekend. The Griffins are 2nd in the Western Conference with 79 points this season.
Oklahoma City is on fire right now. They are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 and are on a 6-0-0-1 streak. The Barons are 13-2-0-2 in their last 17 games overall and undefeated at home (8-0-0-1) in that stretch.
What had once been seen as a surety that the Oilers development team would go without the playoffs this season, has now been thrown into positive doubt. For young players like Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Oscar Klefbom (should he return to OKC), Roman Horak, Travis Ewanyk, David Musil and more, making the playoffs could be an invaluable step in their development process.
The Barons have 15 games left on their schedule, including the two this weekend.
Current AHL Western Conference Standings as of Wednesday March 12, at 3:30 p.m. MDT:
|1. TEXAS STARS||60||80|
|2. GRAND RAPIDS||60||79|
|5. ABBOTSFORD HEAT||61||73|
|8. MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS||58||66|
|9. OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS||61||66|
The Oilers have recalled centre Anton Lander from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
From the team's press release:
OILERS RECALL LANDER
The Edmonton Oilers have recalled centre Anton Lander from the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons on an emergency recall basis.
Lander, 22, has appeared in 43 games with the Barons this season, posting 48 points (18G, 30A), 28 penalty minutes and a plus five rating.
The Sundsvall, Sweden native has played 12 games for the Oilers this season.
The 6’0”, 194-pound centre leads the Barons in points and has accumulated six points (1G, 5A) in five games in March, including a three point (1G, 2A) night on March 11th against San Antonio.
After practice on Wednesday, Dallas Eakins was asked about the decision to make Taylor Hall the fourth shooter in Tuesday’s shootout win.
“Sometimes it’s how the guy’s playing. We thought he was really going, he was trying to create, we thought he was feeling pretty good about himself and we’ve got our three shooters that we like there (Eberle, Perron, Gagner),” Eakins began.
“And then it turns into a competition. Kelly Buchberger just said ‘go with Hallsy.’ He had a good feeling about Hallsy and as the shootout was going on, you start talking yourself out of things sometimes. We had just worked on the shootout the day before and I started looking to a couple of other guys and then Kelly talked me back into it and I’m glad that I did. Hallsy was able to go in and do his thing.”
It was Hall’s first shootout attempt of the season. The team has struck very tightly to their shootout lineup this year with only five shooters participating: Eberle, Perron, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner.
“I think that’s good for players. Eyes are on them and it’s one of the parts of the games where there’s two players totally exposed and everybody’s watching. There’s some pressure that comes with that and it’s important for Taylor to feel that pressure.”
In a bit of a lineup twist, Philip Larsen was playing forward at practice today as Sam Gagner missed practice. Gagner went down with an injury late in the third period during the game on Wednesday against Minnesota but returned to play in overtime and take a shot in the shootout.
“He tweaked his ankle last night,” said Eakins. “The encouraging thing is that he returned to the game but we didn’t feel it was necessary for him to skate. We’d rather let him rest it and let it heal. So we just put Larsen up front because we only have the one extra player.”
Eakins was asked whether the team might end up emergency recalling a player as a result of Gagner’s injury.
“We’ll check in with Sam a little bit later today and see how he’s doing but we may have to recall somebody again but that’s not a big deal, it’s easy to do.”
David Perron will be making his return to the city where he played the first six years of his NHL career. Following practice on Wednesday, head coach Dallas Eakins talked about what the addition of Perron has meant to the team this season.
“That was an excellent move by Craig,” Eakins stated. “David's come in both feet in and done everything we've asked of him. And he's producing points and scoring goals.”
With the Oilers, Perron is enjoying a career year. He has a career-high 24 goals and his 46 points is only four off of his career high of 50 set in his sophomore season with the Blues in 2008-09. Perron’s 24th of the season came in the third period last night, drawing the Oilers to within a goal of the Wild in a game they eventually won in a shootout — a shootout which Perron himself also scored in.
“As soon as you get enough of those guys, it infests your whole team. Last night in the third period was a fine example of it. David was scraping and clawing,” Eakins continued. “That's what transforms your team from one that loses to one that wins “
Perron talked about his improvement this year, still on pace for his first 30-goal campaign.
“As a player you want to improve every year and I'm glad I did that. I look to do the same next year,” he said. “In Edmonton I'm more of a leader off the ice too, trying to teach these young guys to play the right way.”
One of those young players, Taylor Hall, talked about the influence Perron has had in the dressing room.
“He's been great. His play on the ice has been awesome. He's so strong down low. It's been a lot of fun playing with him. Hopefully we can get a win for him.”
After the Edmonton Oilers overtime win in Minnesota last night, the team is now 8-3-2 in their last 13. Despite being outshot in all 13 of those games, the Oilers have managed to come out on top in the win column.
A big reason for the team’s success has clearly been the play of Edmonton’s goaltenders. In each of their eight wins in that 13-game span, Oilers goalies have allowed an average of 1.62 goals against on an average of just under 38 shots per game by their opponents.
While the Oilers still rank at the bottom of the Western Conference, it would appear that there have been strides made. Overall, they have accumulated the fourth-most points in the standings since January 26.
Oilers have accumulated 4th-most points in the standings since Jan. 26, trailing only St. Louis (tomorrow's opponent), Colorado, & Boston.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) March 12, 2014
They rank just behind tomorrow’s opponent, St. Louis, and Colorado and Boston in that category. St. Louis is the top team in the NHL with 95 points while Boston is second in the East (89) and Colorado is fifth in the West (89).
Lines, according to jersey colour, are:
Sam Gagner is absent.
Oscar Klefbom overcame some early nerves in his NHL debut on Tuesday to finish with a strong performance. He had one assist in 15:19 of ice time along with an even rating.
“It was very fun out there. It was a special feeling. Huge night for me,” the 21-year-old defenceman said after the game.
Coach Dallas Eakins talked about Klefbom and said that he felt the rookie got better as the game went on.
“He struggled a little bit early. I think it was a case of nerves. By the third he looked like an NHL defencemen. That's encouraging,” Eakins stated.
Klefbom was paired with Oilers captain Andrew Ference. He said that Ference helped him along the way.
“Andrew is unbelievably good. He was talking to me between shifts,” said Klefbom.
In a series of coincidences, Klefbom ended up making his NHL debut in the same arena and city in which he was drafted. He also went head-to-head with his best friend, Jonas Brodin.
“I talked to him about it but didn't think about it too much. But it's always good to play against your best buddy. But it felt a little weird.”
It looked like it might be a long night for Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth in his debut with the team. He allowed three goals late in the opening period to get behind the eight ball.
“That is a tough start. He hasn't played a whole lot this year. I talked to Viktor after the game and told him that he battled hard,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins after the game.
Fasth recovered nicely, stopping every shot the rest of the way and making enough saves in the shootout to lead the Oilers to victory.
Eakins said that after the Oilers acquired Fasth, his phone lit up with text messages from people saying that he was going to love the Swedish goaltender’s compete and battle level.
Fasth talked after the game about that fighting attitude.
“Some days the pucks go in and some days you can't make the save,” he began. “I had three goals early in the game and it couldn't get worse than that. You've got to fight your way through the game.”