PREVIEW: Barons vs. Lake Erie
Barons look for third straight win tonight when they face Lake Erie
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PUCK DROP: 6:05 p.m. MDT
AT THE MORNING SKATEOKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Barons skated in an optional morning skate on Saturday prior to tonight's match-up with the Lake Erie Monsters. The entire team opted in to the skate with the exception of Teemu Hartikainen, Magnus Paajarvi and Josh Green.
Green remains out with a rib injury, which he suffered last night.
"It wasn't an actual hit, he just kind of twisted it and he felt something in there. It wasn't a big jolt, it was a typical battle and he twisted it and it just didn't feel right."
"He's more than day-to-day. Right now we have to get the radiologist to confirm some of the x-rays they took. It doesn't appear anything's broken it's just one of those things where he's experiencing soreness."
"He's a lot better today than he was last night but I don't foresee him playing for a week."
Paajarvi and Hartikainen will play tonight. Hartikainen is expected to skate on the top line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins while Paajarvi will skate with Chris VandeVelde and Kristians Pelss. Taylor Hall skated in Hartikainen's spot with Eberle and RNH.
"It's an optional practice," Nelson remarked on Paajarvi and Hartikainen not skating this morning. "It was their option and when I call an option it doesn't matter if you're a veteran or a rookie. If they didn't play the night before obviously they'd be skating today."
Also drawing into the lineup up front is Ryan Martindale and Anton Lander. Lander is centring Antti Tyrvainen and Tyler Pitlick and Martindale is centring Dane Byers and Curtis Hamilton.
"They're really good hockey players," said Lander of Tyrvainen and Pitlick. "They work hard on the boards so I'll try and make some plays with them and hopefully Antti can score tonight."
Tanner House and Mark Arcobello are also sitting this one out. On D, Dan Ringwald draws out and Brandon Davidson slots in on the third pairing with Alex Plante. Olivier Roy gets the start in goal.
"He had a great camp for us and he played a really strong game against Lake Erie last Saturday. He made a fantastic save with about 20 seconds left, otherwise they tie up the game," Nelson stated. "He was tested a lot, especially in the second half of the game and early in the game."
MY FAVOURITE MARTIN
Lost in the shuffle of Justin Schultz picking up three points and a +5 rating on Friday night, Martin Marincin scored a highlight-reel goal and a +5 rating of his own as the defence pairing now hold a spot in the Barons record books for highest plus/minus in a single game.
"We liked him when he played the games that he played for us in the last couple of years at the end of the season but this year he has a lot of confidence and I think the work that he did over the summer really paid off. He's grown more confident day-by-day," Nelson remarked.
The head coach added that Marincin's defensive abilities are underrated and overshadowed by his early offensive exploits.
"Besides firing the puck and making good plays, he sees the ice very well. When you look at him defensively, he has a good long stick -- because he's a tall guy -- and rarely gets himself out of position."
Marincin and Justin Schultz are an interesting defensive combo with both blueliners liking the pinch-in.
"There's not a downside, as long as they understand that their defensive responsibilities are first and foremost," Nelson said. "We encourage all our defencemen to jump up ice but I think the best thing with those two guys is they have good instincts: when to jump, when not to jump."
Marincin remarked that he enjoyed playing with Schultz on the top pairing.
"We have good communication and we play good in the offensive zone," he said. "He's a great player."
Nelson added that having defenders that can move the puck has a cascading effect on the team's performance.
"I've always believed in puck-moving defencemen. You're very efficient in your own end and with that, you don't spend as much time there. The pieces that we have this year certainly helps out with us getting out of our own end and we're able to attack off the rush."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
LAST 10: Lake Erie 2-1-0-0; Oklahoma City 2-1-0-0
Season Series: Oklahoma City and Lake Erie opened the AHL regular season last weekend with a split of two games. Lake Erie won 2-1 on Friday and OKC returned the favour with a 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon ... 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: Oklahoma City meets Lake Erie for the third time in four games this season. After Tuesday's final meeting of the year between the two clubs, the Barons will have played four of their first five games against the Monsters. Both teams have taken two out of three games to open the season and will look to build on that.
Monsters: Lake Erie had a difficult start to the season when it came to the schedule but pulled through it very well. They opened the year at home with two games against the Barons and managed a split. They then completed a stretch of three games in three nights on the Sunday with an impressive 4-0 win over the Toronto Marlies.
Goaltender Sami Aittokallio was spectacular in Lake Erie's 2-1 win over OKC last Friday and is expected to get the start again tonight.
Barons: The Monsters will be a little fresher than the Barons as Oklahoma City played on Friday night against San Antonio. The Barons finally found their offensive stride with five goals, despite only one power play on the night. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two assists and Jordan Eberle scored a goal as both players got on the scoresheet for the first time this season.
Who's Hot: Through three games, Thomas Pock has four points for the Monsters (1 goal, 3 assists) ... Lake Erie's penalty kill has gone 12 for its last 12 opportunities against ... Justin Schultz has five points in three games for OKC with a +5 rating ... Martin Marincin has two goals in three games and is +6.
Injury Report: Josh Green (ribs) is doubtful.
Puck Drop: Lake Erie comes into this game having not played since Sunday. Despite a lineup that is not star-studded at all and arguably wouldn't be much different if there was no lockout, they've more than held their own with two wins and a loss to this point in the season. Arguably, they played well enough to win on Saturday against the Barons also.
"I was pleasantly surprised," said Monsters head coach Dean Chynoweth of his team's effort last weekend. "Obviously the first game's a big one to get under our belt. A tremendous crowd (12,000+) a great atmosphere in the building and the guys competed hard. I think the quick turnaround affected us a bit in the second game and we had a few bad bounces.
"Then you get on a bus right away, go to Toronto -- this is a team that went to the finals last year. We challenged our guys on it and I was really impressed. We did a lot of really good things in the game and came away with a 4-0 win."
- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com