THE TEAM TODAY: Power Players
POWER PLAYERSOKLAHOMA CITY - For a top power play unit that features Justin Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and Teemu Hartikainen, it is easy to assume the group is just racking up points with the man advantage.
But, that is not exactly how it started out. In fact, the Barons were just 1-for-17 on the power play in the team’s first four games. As he always does, Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson took a chance on making a change. This one has paid off for the Barons in a big way.
“We just made one slight adjustment,” said Nelson. “We basically flipped Jordan and Magnus. Magnus is working that back-end well. He has a left-handed shot so he can feed Schultz that quick shot. Jordan is playing down low to support Nugent-Hopkins. He can also go to the other side to support Magnus. He’s kind of hovering around. We went from an overload situation to a 1-3-1. It seems to free up Nugent-Hopkins to get that puck back to Schultz.”
The Barons are 7-for-17 in the last three games on the power play. That equates to an astonishing 41.2 percent. Oklahoma City went 2-for-4 Sunday afternoon against Texas and only got one power play goal against Houston the previous Friday, but the Barons were 4-for-7 against the Lake Erie Monsters on Oct. 23.
“We’re just getting some chemistry out there now,” Schultz said. “We are getting comfortable with each other. We’re getting shots on net which is big. That’s why we’re getting better. All I have to do is find a lane to get it through. Teemu is doing a great job of taking the goalie’s eyes away. That’s how you’re going to score goals.”
That top unit of Schultz, Nugent-Hopkins, Paajarvi, Eberle and Hartikainen has been on the ice for six of the seven goals. Anton Lander was on for Hartikainen for Nugent-Hopkins’ first period goal against Lake Erie.
The breakdown during the current steak has Schultz and Nugent-Hopkins with a pair of goals each. Paajarvi, Eberle and Hartikainen have the others. Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle have four assists each, while Schultz has three, Paajarvi two and Hartikainen one.
Thanks to the switch, a left-shooting Paajarvi is now feeding Schultz. Even though the extra time can be measured in seconds, it’s made a big impact on Schultz getting the puck to the net. All those goals have moved Schultz into the league lead for points.
“It helps me get more width in the offensive zone,” Paajarvi said of the move. “Justin gets more time. It does open up a little bit. If you get the puck to Schultz, he will hit the net.”
Impressive, yes. But, the group knows they can’t get too complacent with the recent success.
“At the end of the day, the power play is all about work,” Eberle said. “If you out-work the other team, you’ll have chances to score. We’ve been keeping it simple. A lot of those goals are just grinding, shooting the puck through screens. We just need to get the puck to the net and get rebounds. Justin’s good at getting pucks through to the net. The goalies are having a tough time seeing it. I’m just trying to give a helping hand if there’s a rebound. It’s been good so far."
-- Cassie Gage, OKCBarons.com
FEDUN READY TO PLAY
After a freak play on Sunday, Taylor Fedun missed practice Monday but was back on the ice in a full face shield Wednesday and will play this weekend.
"It was kind of a weird play. I don't think very often you break your own stick with your face," said Fedun. "When I got hit, my stick kind of tented against the wall and then my face went into the stick and it broke."
The freak play caused Fedun to miss the rest of the second period but he did return for the third.
"I ended up with a facial fracture due to that so I've got to wear the 'bubble' for a little while now."
Fedun added that he will likely have to wear the cage for six to eight weeks, making him the second Baron to have to do so after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put one on Sunday.
"It's definitely different. You lose a little bit of visibility, especially because of the chin piece when you're looking down at your feet," Fedun began. "I wore a cage for four years in college so I don't think it should be too much of an adjustment."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
ZAHN, ABNEY RECALLED; PELSS SENT DOWN
The Oklahoma City Barons were involved in player transactions with their ECHL affiliate in Stockton, Calif. The Edmonton Oilers assigned forward Kristians Pelss to Stockton. The Barons recalled defenseman Teigan Zahn and the Oilers re-assigned forward Cameron Abney to Oklahoma City. Pelss, a 5-11, 191-pounder from Preili, Latvia has played two games with Oklahoma City this season, registering two assists. The Oilers 7th round choice (181st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has played the last two seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. Zahn attended training camp with the Barons before being assigned to Stockton on October 8. With Stockton, the 6-2, 220-pounder from Bethune, Sask. has recorded five points (2-3-5) and served 13 penalty minutes.
Abney, a 6-5, 200-pounder from Aldergrove, B.C. was assigned to Stockton on October 22 where he has played one game and served five penalty minutes. Last season, the Oilers 3rd round draft choice (81st overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft split time between Stockton and Oklahoma City. In 46 games, he recorded five points (2-3-5) while serving 156 penalty minutes.
-- OKC Barons Press Release