THE TEAM TODAY: Getting Familiar
After four games in five vs. Lake Erie, Barons now get set for three in four vs. Houston
GETTING FAMILIAROKLAHOMA CITY - After a win on Tuesday night over Lake Erie, the Oklahoma City Barons were back at it on Wednesday in preparation for a pair of weekend games Friday and Sunday against Houston and Texas respectively.
Four of OKC's last five games were against the Lake Erie Monsters and in the end the two teams split their four matches with two regulation wins apiece.
"I thought, first of all, it was a good test for us," said Barons assistant coach Gerry Fleming. "They're a pretty good hockey club. We split the season series 2-2. They came at us pretty hard all four games but I liked the way we responded and it was nice for our power play to start clicking last night."
After finally getting over the four-in-five with Lake Erie, the Barons now have a three-games-in-four coming up with the Houston Aeros starting Friday.
"A lot of the way the schedule is set up is almost like playoff series, especially against the Texas teams. We seem to play them in bunches at a time," said Fleming.
And, in fact, 19 of their next 27 games will be against a Texas-based opponent including each of the next five.
"It's the same for every team, it's the way the scheduling is made up," Fleming continued. "Either we play them five times in a row or once every 10 games, it doesn't matter. You've got to go out and prepare to give yourself the best chance to win."
There was some minor tinkering done to the lines at practice today. Two of the lines were unchanged: Magnus Paajarvi with Ryan Martindale and Mark Arcobello and Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Teemu Hartikainen.
The third line had Tyler Pitlick skating with Anton Lander and Curtis Hamilton and line four was Dane Byers, Chris VandeVelde and Tanner House.
The extra skaters were Antti Tyrvainen, who was tossed early from Tuesday's game due to a spearing penalty and Kristians Pelss. For practice purposes, the pair was centred by Taylor Hall.
With four power play goals in seven attempts last game, the Barons improved from just over 5% success rate to over 20%. Coach Fleming remarked that the newcomers are starting to adjust to the more-scrambly AHL style of play.
"It's a little bit tougher to play in the American Hockey League. The execution isn't quite what it's like in the NHL so it took a little bit of adjusting for that. I think guys are getting used to it, adapting to their surroundings and fitting in just fine," said Fleming, commenting also that it's been good that the Barons opponents to this point in the season have really been gunning for them.
"I think it's a good thing. It makes you bring your best every night. You have to come prepared, knowing that teams are gunning for you. You're not the hunter anymore, you're the hunted. Guys relish that challenge. Like every night, you have to get focused and you have to get prepared to bring your A-game. It just makes you better in the long run."
Overall, the transition to the team has been a seamless one which is aided by the fact that there's a lot of familiarity in the room.
"A lot of these guys have known each other from camps and past seasons so I don't think that's been a problem. Some of them have played junior together," Fleming stated. "Those guys have fit in perfectly. They've been accepted as part of the team and they've bought in to what we're trying to do here so it's been an easy transition."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com