PREVIEW: Barons vs. Milwaukee
OKC opens back-to-back set against the Milwaukee Admirals tonight
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PUCK DROP: 6:05 p.m. MST
AT THE MORNING SKATEOKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Barons took part in the morning skate Friday at the Cox Convention Center. It was an optional practice with all players choosing to participate with the exception of Magnus Paajarvi but the Swedish winger will be in the lineup tonight for the Barons.
Tonight marks the final game in a three-game homestand for OKC as the team heads out on a seven-game road trip starting Wednesday in Austin against the Texas Stars.
"Right now we're focusing game-by-game and we're just focusing on tonight. We want to have a good hockey game and hopefully get two points," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "It'd be nice for us to finish our home stand here on a positive note before going out on the road because we have some pretty tough games on the road coming up."
Finishing on that positive note will involve defeating the Milwaukee Admirals, a team that has given the Barons some troubles in the past. Last season, the two teams split their four games with two wins apiece.
"Every year, Milwaukee puts a pretty good team on the ice. They have a great knack for finding talent and they're always a skilled bunch -- they're a dangerous bunch," said Nelson. "They put seven goals up against Chicago so the thing is, we have to be ready to play against a very good hockey team. It would be really ignorant on our part if we took these guys lightly because I think they're a really good hockey team."
It's expected the healthy scratches will be Curtis Hamilton up front and Teigan Zahn on defence. Yann Danis will start in goal.
IMPROVING THE PK
The Barons have been outstanding this season on the power play, with a 37.5% success rate on home ice to lead the AHL. However, they also have the worst penalty kill in the AHL at 72.1% and that success rate is even worse on home ice at 68.8%. Coach Nelson talked about getting better on the PK.
"Through video, through working on things in practice we just have to keep on working at it. Lately it seems like every shot that gets through is finding the back of the net. We've got to do a better job of fronting shots, paying the price. Get pucks down," Nelson began. "Any time guys have second or third whacks at the puck in front of the net, that's not a very good thing so we need to make sure we play stronger in front of our net."
The team has also had struggles scoring in five-on-five situations with the last five-on-five goal coming on November 3 at home against Houston. Nelson attributed that to the need for more scoring from a line other than the top unit of Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins.
"I hope that we get some scoring from every line. The guys that are on the other lines are definitely capable. It's just one of those things where it's not going their way right now. They've just got to stick with it. Put pucks on net," Nelson remarked. "When things are going that way for guys, basically what it comes down to is working hard in front of the net, working hard for second chances and getting some greasy goals."
Tyler Pitlick, who has 0 goals so far this year but a multitude of chances, agreed that the team needs further contributions.
"We've got to be better five-on-five in both ends of the ice. We've got to find a way to get some secondary scoring and just be better defensively," he said. "We're getting chances, we're creating opportunities in the offensive zone. I'd be more concerned if we weren't getting opportunities but we are. We just need to start bearing down."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
LAST 10: Oklahoma City 4-4-1-1; Milwaukee 5-5-0-0
Season Series: This is the first regular season meeting of the season between Milwaukee and Oklahoma City. The two sides split their four meetings last year with each team winning once at home and once on the road.
Big Story: The Barons open a two-game set against the Milwaukee Admirals looking to start moving up in the AHL's Western Conference
"We've got back-to-back games so it's pretty important that we look at some of the things that we have to do to win those games," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "Milwaukee's a skilled hockey team. They apply a lot of pressure. I expect it to be a fast-paced game."
Barons: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the AHL in power play points with 10 on the year. Eberle and Justin Schultz are tied for secone with nine. Eberle, Schultz and Nugent-Hopkins are tied for first in the AHL in power play assists with seven. ... Oklahoma City has only won one of its last five games as they try and find their way. They did manage to salvage a point against Toronto, coming back from a 5-2 deficit with just over three minutes to play, however.
Admirals: Milwaukee comes into this game having won each of their last two games and three of their last four. With a record of 6-6-1-0 they sit just behind Oklahoma City in the Western Conference (10th) with a game in hand. ... RW Taylor Beck is Milwaukee's leading scorer with 12 points (3g, 9a) in 12 games. Patrick Cehlin is second with five goals and 10 points in 10 games.
Who's Hot: Jordan Eberle has moved his way into second in AHL scoring on the heels of a four-point performance on Tuesday against Toronto. Eberle now has 16 points in 12 games this season.
Injury Report: Josh Green (ribs) is out. Ryan Martindale (knee) is out. Admirals defenceman Jeff Foss is out indefinitely and Ryan Ellis (wrist) is doubtful.
Puck Drop: On the heels of five power play goals on Tuesday, the Barons now have the second-best power play in the AHL at 24.6%. It's even more deadly at home with an impressive 37.5% rating (8-for-32). That should contrast with Milwaukee's penalty kill which is fifth best in the AHL at 88.9% overall and 92.3% on the road.
- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com