OKLAHOMA CITY - Following a disappointing 4-2 loss at home to the Peoria Rivermen on Tuesday night, the Oklahoma City Barons had a bit of a shake-up at practice on Wednesday in an effort to not only generate more scoring but also try and prevent defensive breakdowns.
"With the way we have the lines set up now we have at least one or two responsible guys with a guy that is maybe a bit more creative. We had to do something. We changed the lines up and swapped some partners out on defence," stated head coach Todd Nelson.
The team went with the following four lines:
Hall - Lander - Paajarvi
Hamilton - Arcobello - Eberle
Hartikainen - Green - Cornet
Byers - VandeVelde - Pitlick
"It happens every year," Nelson continued. "Over the course of the season if your scoring goes stale and if you're not winning, sometimes it's a breath of fresh air for guys to get away from the guys they've been playing with.
"It doesn't mean that they can't reunite but it's a fresh start and sometimes you need to shuffle the deck a bit."
Barons captain Josh Green talked about the attempt to find some secondary scoring.
"We need some more scoring from different areas. That's how you win games, you have different lines chipping in. Right now we're getting production from only a select few guys. And I think guys understand that. They realize that the important thing is to not press too hard, just try and stay loose and make sure you're working your way through it," said Green. "The worst thing you can do is complain and try and take short cuts."
Pelss is currently in the middle of serving a 21-game suspension from his actions during a game with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder. The suspension carries over to the AHL. Following practice, Abney was assigned by the Oilers to Stockton.
Nelson added that the team sometimes needs to play a little bit more defensive late in games and that could hopefully lead to preventing a breakdown.
"You know what, I was pretty fired up and I was watching the game and we played pretty good. It wasn't something where I was looking at clips saying 'how many times have we talked about this?' and there wasn't really a lot on the game that I could really hammer home with the guys," he said. "We did a lot of good things but when it comes to the third period, we have to start understanding that if it's a tie game and in the last five to seven minutes maybe we play for that tie in certain situations and if we have an opportunity to score obviously we go after it but the goal last night was just a flipped puck up in the air and our defenceman was playing the puck versus reading the speed coming into the outside lane. If he reads the speed, that play is squashed. Those are learning curves that we have to go through. It seems to be happening to us in the third period when maybe we're a bit fatigued and all of a sudden mentally you start making mistakes."
HOUSE CLEARED FOR CONTACT
On the good news front, Tanner House was back on the ice for a full practice for the first time since suffering an injury nearly a month ago in a game against Milwaukee.
"It's feeling really good. This was obviously my first practice with the team but it felt pretty good out there. I think I'm just going to take it day-by-day right now and see how it feels in practice tomorrow and hopefully get back soon."
House said that the hardest part was the fact that the team was away from OKC for much of this stretch.
"It was tough sitting out for almost a month now, especially with the guys on the road so much it was tough to feel part of the team but it's nice to be back out there and I'm feeling good."
As for when he's ready to play, he's hopeful that will be soon although it is certainly unlikely he plays in all three games this weekend.
"We'll have to talk to Brando (Barons athletic therapist Brandon Dionne) after I'm done talking to you guys about how I felt after practice today but it felt pretty good out there. If he lets me go, I might be ready to go but it's tough coming back to a three-in-three as well so I'm sure they'll be cautious and make sure I'm ready to go."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
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