PREVIEW: Barons vs. Lake Erie #2
Barons face Lake Erie for fourth time in five games on Tuesday
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PUCK DROP: 6:05 p.m. MDT
AT THE MORNING SKATEOKLAHOMA CITY - For the fourth time in five games, the Oklahoma City Barons face off against the Lake Erie Monsters. Barons head coach Todd Nelson will be glad to move on to other opposition following the game.
"It kind of gets a little old, especially this early in the season but I'm sure that they feel the same way," he said.
Lake Erie has taken two of the previous three meetings as the Monsters' high level of play has caused the Barons some trouble.
"Tonight's game is going to be a high-tempo game like we've seen in the previous three. They're a good hockey team, they're a fast hockey team and so are we," Nelson stated. "So it's going to be a pretty exciting game and we have to make sure that we come ready to play."
Tonight is the final meeting of the season between the two teams which is unfortunate when you consider the amount of intensity that has been built up in these fast-paced games.
"It's kind of weird playing them so many times. It's almost like a playoff series," noted defenceman Justin Schultz. "They know us now and we know them so it's going to be a battle out there. We've just got to be ready to come out quickly tonight and it should be a good game."
For the first time this season, the Barons will be playing a game not on a Friday or a Saturday. Mid-week games are rare early in the season but Coach Nelson remarked that it shouldn't affect the team's preparation or performance.
"The only thing that's going to be a bit different is I gave the guys a day off on Sunday and we just had a practice yesterday. The only thing different is a quicker turnaround than normal but this is typical when you get into games in March," Nelson began.
"Instead of just practicing all week and playing on weekends, having a mid-week game certainly helps out the guys."
On Saturday, the Barons were on the second half of back-to-back games with the Monsters not having played since the previous Sunday. The tables have turned as Lake Erie travelled to Austin immediately after Saturday's game -- a match-up which they won 4-0 with a 5:00 p.m. CDT start.
"Possibly," chuckled Nelson when asked if the more-rested Barons have an advantage tonight. "But I've seen some weird things in this league where we're playing three games in three nights and we play a team that had Friday and Saturday off and we go in there and just from playing we have an edge because we don't have to kick off the rust."
Nelson said he expected to see nothing less than the best possible Monsters squad this evening.
"I expect both teams to be coming hard tonight. I think they had a travel day yesterday so they had a day off to rest their legs and they'll get things going in the pre-game skate. I expect a high-tempo game just like we saw on Saturday."
SCHULTZ PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Coach Nelson praised the play of rookie defenceman Justin Schultz over the weekend, winning the AHL Player of the Week award with four points and a +6 rating.
"Tremendous accomplishment. It's tough enough for a defenceman to win Player of the Week in this league and for Justin to do it, that compliments him well," said Nelson. "Right now he's playing very good hockey for us and we need him to be playing good hockey. Hopefully that continues."
Schultz was humble when commenting on his award.
"It's a little bit of a surprise. I started out hot, I guess," Schultz began. "I'm playing with a lot of great players out there who are giving me nice passes and getting open for me so it makes it real easy for me."
ODDS AND ENDS
Alex Plante will sit this one out tonight as the extra defenceman, which means Dan Ringwald draws back in and will be paired with Brandon Davidson.
As mentioned yesterday, the forward line combinations will be shaken up. Teemu Hartikainen skated with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but the other three lines will have a different look.
Chris VandeVelde will be playing with Dane Byers and Tyler Pitlick, Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Martindale and Mark Arcobello will make up another unit and Antti Tyrvainen, Anton Lander and Curtis Hamilton will be a line.
Yann Danis gets the start in goal for the Barons and Calvin Pickard -- coming off back-to-back shutouts -- starts for Lake Erie.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
LAST 10: Lake Erie 4-1-0-0; Oklahoma City 2-2-0-0
Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between Lake Erie and Oklahoma City and it comes in the Barons' fifth game of the season and Lake Erie's sixth. The two teams split a pair of games to open the season in Cleveland and on Saturday, the Monsters defeated OKC 5-3.
Big Story: Lake Erie has shown themselves to be a dangerous opponent so far this season. In addition to taking two of three against the Barons, the Monsters also have a pair of 4-0 wins -- Oct. 14 in Toronto and this past Sunday in Texas.
"Right now Lake Erie is at the top of our conference. People expected us to be there. I expect us to be there as well, as the season goes on," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "Right now we have to chase them down. We have an opportunity to play against them tomorrow night to rectify that."
Monsters: Lake Erie comes into this game with the second-best record in the entire AHL. Leading the way is defenceman Thomas Pock, who has six points and two goals with a +3 rating in five games. Team captain Mark Olver has a goal and five assists for six points while Tyson Barrie has three goals and five points. Barrie has picked up four of his five points against the Barons.
Barons: Looking for a spark, the Barons have shaken up their lines once again prior to tonight's game. The top line remains the same with Teemu Hartikainen on the left side, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the middle and Jordan Eberle on the right but after that there was a pretty big shake-up in practice on Monday.
Magnus Paajarvi skated with Ryan Martindale and Mark Arcobello, Antti Tyrvainen with Anton Lander and Curtis Hamilton and Dane Byers with Chris VandeVelde and Tyler Pitlick. .
Who's Hot: Justin Schultz was named AHL Player of the Week with three goals, an assist and a +6 rating through a pair of games last weekend. ... Teemu Hartikainen has four points in four games so far this season. ... Monsters goaltender Calvin Pickard has notched a shutout in each of this last two appearances. ... Martin Marincin enters this week with a season rating of +7, tying him for the league lead with Norfolk’s Nate Guenin. Marincin has points in 3 straight games.
Injury Report: Josh Green (ribs) is out.
Puck Drop: Following Monday's practice, Barons head coach Todd Nelson talked about his decision to shake up the lines a bit but he also added that he wasn't worried by the team's slower-than-expected start out of the gate.
"It's still a work in progress," said Nelson. "We have different lines once again, and we're just trying to find that chemistry. It's going to work out. At the start of the year with every team you kind of go through this but with the added bodies the chemistry isn't going to be set in stone because we're trying to get guys in and out of the lineup."
- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com