PREVIEW: Barons at Lake Erie
Oklahoma City Barons open the regular season with a two-game set in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters
|ONLINE TV: AHL Live (PPV)
RADIO: 630 CHED (Listen Online)
PUCK DROP: 5:35 p.m. MDT
(5:05 p.m. pre-game show
with Dan Tencer and Jack Michaels)
LAST 10: Lake Erie 1-1-0-0; Oklahoma City 1-1-0-0
Season Series: Last season, the Barons and Lake Erie Monsters played four closely-contested match-ups. Oklahoma City came out on top three out of the four times and picked up at least a point on all four occasions. Lake Erie's lone victory came in the final meeting of the season between the two sides, a 3-2 overtime win in OKC.
Big Story: The highly-anticipated AHL regular season opens on Friday night around the league. It will mark the Barons debut of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz as the trio complement a lineup that finished atop the AHL's Western Conference last season with 99 points.
"This is something everybody wanted to see last year," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson of the Paajarvi-Eberle-RNH combination. "We talked about it and that left-wing side is interchangeable. If we run into a situation where teams are taking liberties on Jordan or Ryan, I can throw Dane Byers there on the left side so we have a lot of combinations."
Monsters: Unlike Edmonton, the Colorado Avalanche elected to not have 2011 first-round draft choice Gabriel Landeskog join the club's AHL squad but the Lake Erie Monsters still possess a number of weapons. They have seven players who spent some time in the NHL last season in Mike Connolly, Bill Thomas, Mark Olver, Tyson Barrie, Brad Malone and Stefan Elliott.
Defenceman Elliott scored his first career NHL goal in his first career NHL game last season against the Oilers. Thomas and former Oilers prospect Bryan Lerg are both dangerous AHLers. The 30-year-old Thomas put up 27 goals and 52 points last season with San Antonio in 65 games. Lerg had 27 goals and 53 points in 70 games for Wilkes-Barre.
Barons: For Friday, the Barons will be going with Paajarvi, RNH and Eberle as their top line, Martindale, Green and Pitlick as line two, Hartikainen, Lander and Arcobello as line three and Byers, VandeVelde and Hamilton as line four.
On defence, Justin Schultz will be paired with Martin Marincin, Taylor Fedun with Alex Plante and Brandon Davidson with Colten Teubert. Yann Danis is expected to get the start in goal.
Who's Hot: Ryan Martindale had two goals and an assist last weekend during the Barons' two exhibition games against Houston. He will have some offensive opportunities Friday with power play time and playing on the second line with Josh Green and Tyler Pitlick.
Injury Report: Martin Marincin (shoulder) has been cleared to play after missing last weekend's pre-season games. Antti Tyrvainen (back) did not make the trip.
Puck Drop: After not playing in either pre-season game last weekend, both Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are ready to finally get into their first game action since the Oilers season ended last April.
"I'm pretty excited going into this weekend," said Eberle. "I've been waiting for awhile here to start playing some games. We have a good team. With the success they had last year with the additions this year we should have a lot of pressure on us. Sometimes you need to go into games expecting to win and we definitely have that mentality."
- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com