PREVIEW: Barons vs. Houston
Tough decisions ahead for Barons head coach Todd Nelson heading into OKC's final pre-season game
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PUCK DROP: 6:05 p.m. MDT
AT THE MORNING SKATEOKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Barons wrap up their brief two-game pre-season schedule tonight against the Houston Aeros. The club will be adding 10 fresh faces to the lineup who did not play on Friday.
"I thought some guys had some great efforts out there and moving forward to tonight, it's the last opportunity for guys to showcase what they're able to do and then we have to make some tough decisions," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson.
The Aeros roster was already down to 24 players heading into this series so expect Houston to have much the same lineup tonight. Given how chippy Friday's game got at times, it should be more of the same this evening.
"Possibly some more pushback," said Nelson when asked what he expected from the Aeros tonight. "We talked about how each team wants to have a mental edge going into the season. We play these guys 12 times this year in the regular season and, who knows, we could end up playing them in the playoffs.
"Both coaches want to try to get that edge where we know going into a game against Houston that we have the ability to win those games and tonight's no different."
The Barons should have some fresher legs than Houston simply because they have some more players inserted into the lineup. Coming into the game tonight is Cam Abney, Dane Byers, Josh Green, Tanner House, Magnus Paajarvi, Tyler Pitlick and Chris VandeVelde up front. On defence, Trevor Ludwig and Alex Plante draw in.
"We want a fresh group of guys to come in and give us a boost and the guys that are playing the second game, once again it's an opportunity for them to showcase themselves."
ROY GETS THE BACK-UP SPOT
Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz combined to blank the Aeros last night with Roy making eight saves and Bunz making seven.
Following the game, the team assigned Bunz to Stockton of the ECHL.
"The thought process with that is Roy played last year in Stockton, played a lot of games and played really well for them. That's the same kind of program that we want to put Tyler Bunz through where he goes down there and plays a lot of games. For the first year of his development it's no good for us to have him play 25 games here," Nelson explain.
"Roy played well and earned the right to be here. Both guys played fantastic last night. We feel very comfortable with both guys. At this stage of development, it's the right thing for Tyler and Tyler knows that. We talked to him and he's good about it and excited to play a lot of games."
The original plan was for Bunz to be the backup tonight but Yann Danis was going to go the distance no matter what.
"Yann was playing tonight regardless. We wanted him to get a full game in there. We were going to have Bunzie back-up but we decided to get him out of here today so he could go get his vehicle and make his way to Stockton so it works well for both parties."
Justin Maylan and Eric Hunter were also released from their tryouts after playing on Friday. That puts the Barons roster down to 29 players. Originally, Nelson had planned to get the team down to numbers by tomorrow but that may prove to be difficult given how competitive camp has been.
"I think the decisions that we have to make are tough. They're a lot tougher than we expected so we might take until Monday to make that decision," stated the coach. "It makes for a lengthy night after the game if we're moving five guys or six guys or whatever it is."
Big performances from some of the bubble players this evening could make things even more difficult as the Barons try and find the right mix heading into next Friday's season opener.
"The process is that we're going to have discussions after the game tonight as an organization and go from there."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
LAST 10: Houston 0-2-0-0; Oklahoma City 1-0-0-0
Season Series: Last night, the Barons defeated Houston by a score of 4-0 ... The Barons had Houston's number last season. In the eight regular season meetings, OKC picked up at least a point in every game with seven wins and a shootout loss. The two sides also met in the Calder Cup Playoffs last April with the Barons winning the best-of-five series three games to one.
Big Story: Oklahoma City wraps up its brief pre-season schedule tonight with the second game of back-to-back sets against the Houston Aeros. Coach Todd Nelson has stated that following tonight's game he wants to get down to numbers as the team has less than week before their season opener next Friday night in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters.
"We want to get down to numbers so it's a pretty important couple days here for these guys," Nelson said prior to last night's game.
Aeros: Houston did not fare particularly well on Friday night, dropping a 4-0 decision to the Barons. It was Houston's second loss thie pre-season and second by a large margin after a 7-2 loss to Texas on Wednesday.
Barons: The Barons are going with 10 skaters tonight who also played on Friday night but are mixing up the lines quite a bit. The top line tonight is Magnus Paajarvi, Josh Green and Tyler Pitlick. Dane Byers, Ryan Martindale and Toni Rajala make up the second unit. Third line is Curits Hamilton, Chris VandeVelde and Kristians Pelss and fourth line is Antti Tyrvainen, Tanner House and Cam Abney.
On defence, the team has only nine defencemen in camp and only eight healthy so four of the blueliners who played last night will also play tonight. Justin Schultz is paired with Brandon Davidson, Trevor Ludwig with Alex Plante and Tiegan Zahn with Taylor Fedun.
Yann Danis gets the start in goal and he's expected to go the distance.
Injury Report: Martin Marincin (shoulder) wore a non-contact jersey on Wednesday but did participate in Thursday's scrimmage. He did not play Friday and will not play tonight.
Puck Drop: Justin Schultz and Taylor Fedun both draw back into the lineup tonight after successful Barons debuts on Friday. Schultz, who scored a goal, felt comfortable after he got his legs under him in the opening period last night.
“After the first couple of shifts, I started getting used to the pace and felt really good after that,” Schultz, who was named the game's first star, said. “Everyone played really well out there. We did well without everyone out there. It just shows how deep our team is.”
After a year out of action, Taylor Fedun looked good in his return with an assist.
“It felt great,” Fedun remarked. “It was nice to get rid of the cobwebs there at the beginning. I had a blast out there. It was awesome to be back into it.”
- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com