THE TEAM TODAY: Target Practice
Barons head into stretch of five home games in nine days aware they have targets on their backs
TARGET PRACTICEOKLAHOMA CITY - The Barons practiced one final time on Thursday before a busy stretch that will see them play five games in nine nights -- all at the Cox Convention Center in OKC.
It figures to be an important stretch for these Barons as they try and find their game at this early point in the season.
"Teams are going to be gunning for us," said Chris VandeVelde. "We have four or five guys down here from the NHL so every night is going to be tough for us and I think we can handle it as long as we get a good start we'll be fine."
Barons forward Mark Arcobello added that the players down from Edmonton have really made other teams key on them.
"With the guys we've got from Edmonton and making the conference finals last year, we've got a little bit of a target on our back. There's going to be no easy nights. All teams are going to play us hard no matter what so we've got to be ready for that," Arcobello remarked.
Head coach Todd Nelson agreed.
"I think that having 16 guys returning from last year's team, everybody looked at us and said 'we have to go through Oklahoma City' and now that we have these guys here (from Edmonton) it's even more so," he began. "Every night we're going to get a team's A-game, which is great because our guys are going to have to play their A-game.
"We want that competitiveness night in and night out so I think it's good for all our players."
Coach Nelson also talked about having to divvy up ice time among his group of talented forwards.
"There's advantages and disadvantages of this lockout happening for us. For the advantages, throughout the league we get to see players that normally would not play here so it's great for the fans and makes for an exciting league.
"The disadvantages are that it's just a matter of trying to find ice time for everybody. That's the hardest thing. Right now, we're just rotating guys in and out of the lineup and we only play two games a week so the thing is that we have to do our best to manage ice time."
VandeVelde -- a healthy scratch on Saturday added his thoughts on the division of ice time.
"There's guys that usually play on the second line that are on the fourth line. There's a little change but it's good and it's healthy competition. There's a lot of battling and guys are working hard. It's good to see," he said.
VandeVelde was quick to add that Nelson has been straight forward with the team in terms of who was going to play.
"Those guys are going to be in every night, they're going to be first-line guys. We've got a lot of guys and only four lines. There's a little anxiety but the coach has done a good job getting everyone in and being straight forward."
For the third straight day of practice, Josh Green was skating on the top line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It's a combination that Coach Nelson says he likes.
"Josh is always a hard worker, that's why he's wearing our 'C'," he said. "We just feel that Josh is very good at puck retrieval, working the corners so it should free up those two guys and maybe give them some more room."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com