GAME 3 PREVIEW: Barons at Marlies
With the best-of-seven series knotted at 1-1, we look ahead to Monday's Game 3
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PUCK DROP: 1:05 p.m. MDT
AT BARONS PRACTICEEtobicoke, ON - After arriving in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, the Oklahoma City were back on the ice for practice on Sunday in preparation for Monday afternoon's Game 3 against the Marlies (1:00 p.m. MDT).
The team will be forced to make some lineup adjustments as Triston Grant will be forced to sit out the game after being suspended for being the third man into an altercation late in Game 2. Marlies defenceman Korbinian Holzer received the same punishment.
"It's just one game. We're going to have to insert a forward. We have good depth there, so we should be all set with that," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson.
Because of the suspension, Curtis Hamilton likely draws back into the game. Hamilton played Game 1 -- his first on-ice action since February -- but did not play in Game 2, instead having Cam Abney play his first playoff game. On Monday, Abney and Hamilton will both play on the fourth line, centred by Tanner House.
"He's probably the guy that's going in. I thought he played very strong in Game 1. He was a bit sore for Game 2 but now he's back and ready. I think it would be a good opportunity for him to go in," Nelson remarked.
The head coach added that with so many penalties, the fourth line didn't see a lot of ice on Friday night.
"It was a game where Cam and Triston didn't get a lot of ice time. There was penalties and the way the lines were being ran it was basically a three-line game," he began. "They didn't get an opportunity to play a whole lot but when they did get an opportunity, they stepped up and played well. All we're looking for from those guys is to play a hard forechecking game and play the system well."
The fourth-line centre, Tanner House, has embraced that role in these playoffs.
"Nellie's been really good at rolling the lines and getting us time when we need to. Both Hammie and Abney have only played one game so just keeping it simple, playing physical, bringing that energy when we do get out there and then being strong on the penalty kill when I get out there," said House.
As was the case in the second game, if the game gets physical the Barons' fourth line will be asked to respond.
"We don't play each other very often throughout the year -- we only played them twice -- but once playoffs come around you see them more. Maybe having both our parent clubs Canadian maybe adds a little bit to that. But that's playoff hockey in general, you'll have hostility with whoever you're playing," said House.
House has also spent a lot of time killing penalties for OKC. Injuries and call-ups have given him an opportunity to play in every game so far in this postseason.
"As the stretch went on I wanted to put myself in a position to play in the playoffs," House stated. "We were having success so it's hard to change things when you're having success. I just want to play physical, be really good defensively out there and take a lot of pride in my penalty killing. That's been a strength of ours throughout the last couple of series and hopefully we can keep it going.
SERIES NOW A BEST OF FIVE
The Barons find themselves in the same position they were in last round. The two teams split the first two games in Oklahoma City and now with Games 3, 4 and 5 all in Toronto the series is a best of five.
"Now it's down to a best-of-five," said Nelson. "I don't think it matters if we play home or on the road, same with Toronto. We're very comfortable on the road. It's a best of five and the next team that wins the next three games, wins the series."
House figures that, similar to the San Antonio series, the defence will tighten up beginning with Game 3.
"I expect these next few games to be closer scoring than that. That happened in our San Antonio games where the first two games were a little more higher scoring then it tightened up after that," said House, adding that the team can't look past Monday afternoon's third game.
"We don't want to look too far ahead. All year, our team, we've liked playing on the road. For whatever reason, we play better on the road it seems like."
Despite only playing twice during the regular season, it didn't take long for the Marlies and Barons to develop a strong dislike for one another. A staggering 154 penalty minutes were called in the second game of the series.
"They're a proud group over there, as are we. When the scores get out of range there tempers get going a little bit and stuff like that is going to happen," House remarked.
Coach Nelson added that it wasn't too big of a deal and doesn't necessarily indicate how the series is going to go from here on out.
"Boys will be boys. That's hockey. Toronto is a proud group, so are we. The game was over so some emotion was let out and that stuff happens. You see it in a playoff series, how it evolves. Both teams addressed it, we're moving on to Game 3."
Teemu Hartikainen felt that the team playing with more of an edge contributed to the animosity and physicality.
"It was a big bounce back for us. Every guy played hard. Our PK was very good," Hartikainen said.
"First game we didn't hit, we didn't go into the corners. We went into a war and in a war you have to win the small battles in all areas."
Coach Todd Nelson was happy to see how well his team responded in Game 2.
"I felt that Toronto played an excellent game in Game 1. We had to match their intensity. They played a very strong game. We knew we had to come into Game 2 and play harder. Our guys did that and it worked out for us."
With no players during the regular season with more than 50 points, the Barons have relied on a consistent team effort all season long.
"Puck management is key to any team. If our team turns over the puck against Toronto we're going to be in a lot of hurt. Our team has to keep it simple. If that's a dump-and-chase game or managing the puck well, that's what we have to do."
Scoring five goals was also a plus, certainly giving the team some confidence against a very tough team to score on as it heads into enemy territory.
"It was nice to score one goal," Nelson chuckled. "When you get shut out it's nice to get one goal on him. He's a solid goaltender, he's going to be very strong tomorrow -- we know that. It's the playoffs. Game 2 is done, game 1 is done. Now it's on to Game 3.
"We have to do things as a team. We had five different goal scorers on that night. That's who we are, we have to have contributions from everybody."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com