PREVIEW: Barons vs. Houston
OKC plays first of three-in-four set against the Aeros tonight
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PUCK DROP: 6:05 p.m. MDT
AT THE MORNING SKATEOKLAHOMA CITY - After playing four games in five against the Lake Erie Monsters, the Oklahoma City Barons play the first of three-in-four against the Houston Aeros tonight. In total, the Barons will play the Aeros 12 times this season.
"We play these guys 12 times and we want to have the success that we had last year against them," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "We can make some hay here against a lot of the Texas teams. I think we play them 27 times before January so it's a good opportunity for our team to create some space between other teams and I'm sure that they're thinking the same thing."
Oklahoma and Texas have a very large rivalry. Having 36 of OKC's 76 games against the Texas squads (San Antonio, Texas, Houston) and that should only stoke the fires.
"I know the fans are pretty edgy when it comes to the games and they enjoy watching the Texas teams against us," Nelson remarked.
In the Barons' first season, they lost nine of 10 against Houston but last year went 7-1 with the one loss coming in overtime.
"The first year against Houston we didn't fare very well and last year we turned the tables. I think both teams are going to want to establish themselves," Nelson continued. "They have a good hockey team, a lot of the same guys as last year."
One player who has made himself known to the Barons already is Mikael Granlund, who had four goals and an assist in the second pre-season game between the two sides.
"We're going to need to be aware of Granlund out there. He's a very talented hockey player. We need to make sure we can try to contain him."
Defenceman Taylor Fedun agreed.
"First and foremost, we need to stay out of the box," Fedun said. "Just about all the points he did get were on the power play. If we can eliminate that right off the bat, I think that goes a long way. But also, he's a skilled player. We need to take away his time and space and not give him the time to do those miraculous things he was doing the other game."
With both the Barons and Aeros sporting some high-end prospects, there could be some fireworks out there tonight.
"They do have a lot of smaller, skilled guys up front so it's something that we have to pay a little bit of attention to but we don't really have to change anything that we do," Fedun said. "We've really only played two teams (San Antonio and Lake Erie) but there are a lot of skilled forwards in this league so it's a test we got to see a lot of from Lake Erie as well."
Coach Nelson talked further about the offensive firepower on the Aeros -- including such names as Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and defenceman Marco Scandella.
"There is firepower on both teams," said Nelson. "I think the goalies have to be ready. We fired almost 50 shots on Hackett in the playoffs in the first game and he played outstanding. We have to make sure we're ready to go. I'm sure special teams are going to come into play. Houston exposed us with their power play in exhibition so we have to make sure we're ready."
EBERLE A GAME-TIME DECISION
Jordan Eberle left the morning skate early, looking hurt. He is reported to be a game-time decision on whether he will play tonight or not. If he doesn't, Kristians Pelss will likely draw in.
Antti Tyrvainen and Dan Ringwald should be the other scratches and Yann Danis will get the start in goal. Josh Green (ribs) remains out.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
LAST 10: Houston 2-2-1-0; Oklahoma City 3-2-0-0
Season Series: This is the first regular season meeting of the season between Houston and Oklahoma City. The two sides met for a pair of pre-season games in OKC earlier in October. The Barons won the first game 4-0 and lost the second 6-2. The Barons and Aeros will be meeting 12 times this season and three times in the next four games.
Big Story: The Barons play their fourth game in this seven-game homestand with a chance to jump into top spot in the AHL's South Division.
Aeros: Houston's Mikael Granlund is off to a good start this season, leading the Aeros with seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in five games. In the second pre-season game between the Aeros and Barons, Granlund had four goals and an assist.
After losing their first two games, the Aeros won a pair decisively against Texas. Their most recent game was an overtime loss against Milwaukee by a score of 5-4 on Sunday.
Barons: Oklahoma City's power play finally came alive on Tuesday against Lake Erie, going 4-for-7. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finally broke out with four- and three-point performances respectively.
This is only Oklahoma City's second game of the season against a team that's not Lake Erie. Their only other outing was a 5-2 win over San Antonio on home ice.
Who's Hot: Justin Schultz leads the Barons in goals (4) and points (8) through the first 5 games. Schultz is the only Baron to register a point in each contest. His 5-game point streak is tied for the best in the AHL in 2012-13. Schultz leads all rookies in points with 8 and is tied with Rochester’s T.J. Brennan for the lead in defence scoring. ... Teemu Hartikainen brings a 4-game point streak into tonight’s game, during which he has 2 goals and 4 assists. ... Aeros defenceman Marco Scandella has six points in five games.
Injury Report: Josh Green (ribs) is out.
Puck Drop: The Barons have fired at least 30 shots on goal in each of their 5 games this season. Their average of 32.8 per game is fourth in the AHL The Barons have out-shot the opposition in 4 of 5 games and are 2-2-0-0 when collected more shots than the opponent.
- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com