Workin’ For The Weekend – The Barons Welcome Their First Three In Three “1-2-3”

The Miami Sound Machine circa 1988

The end of Miami Sound Machine was supposedly bitter. Gloria Estefan, the famed frontwoman for the group, stole the show. Her voice. Her knack for writing pop tunes. Her heavy-handed and direct nature. Her famous husband. It was inevitable that the group would disband bitterly, and in fragmented pieces. Somewhere around 1988, when the band took off, the band changed names to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Was this a power move? A PR stunt? A marketing ploy? Yes to all. And just as the Latin sound began to really gel with late 80’s pop, things got dicey for several members of the band. Not all was lost, the band would surge on, and the group as a whole would overcome a lot of obstacles (tour bus accident being the most difficult) to launch a great career of a solo artist, thus leaving the world with some memorable music.

One of my personal favorites has always been “1-2-3”, the happy go lucky, come hithery tune that is an ear worm of the greatest proportions. It’s the group at it’s finest, and Estefan at her most sparkly. It also ties in nicely to a minor league hockey post about taking three steps, 1-2-3, in a weekend full of games.

Houston. Houston. San Antonio. Each and every off-season the American Hockey League does it’s best with scheduling. Like any pro, but minor league, it’s difficult to hard wire a schedule when you share space with higher level pro teams, and live in communities where rodeo circuits and Disney On Ice are better money makers for the city. And so the scheduling matrix is heavy on weekend games, as equally as heavy on close, divisional opponents, and often featuring a handful of three games in three nights. And so the Oklahoma City Barons will embark on their first three-in-three this weekend as they host Houston on Friday and Saturday, and travel to San Antonio on Sunday.

The Friday/Saturday turnaround isn’t all that bad. The two games are on home ice, and separated by 24 hours. That’s doable. What’s difficult is the Saturday/Sunday travel with less than a full day to travel, recover, and prepare for an eight hour (+) bus trip to San Antonio, Texas. All three are important games despite only being a baby step into November. Doug Sauter, former Oklahoma City Blazers coach, always had a saying that went something like, “It isn’t how many games you win before Christmas, but how many you win after.” This year, in this league, with this team, I couldn’t disagree more. Seize the opportunities now. Who knows what’s on the other side of Christmas.

The double dose of Houston should be palpable matchup worth watching. Bad blood has been brewing between these two since the preseason where Mikael Granlund obliterated the Barons goaltenders and defensemen. And last Friday night, the brewing turned to boiling as the Aeros again destroyed OKC defensive players, and was highlighted by a Colten Teubert fight with an unsuspecting Brett Bulmer. Coach Nelson was sullied by the team’s performance, roused them to play better, and they did. But the anger remains, and the memories are fresh.

Houston is, as I type, a 4-2-1 team with the two regulation losses coming from South Div opponents (Charlotte, San Antonio). They are a team that likes to take advantage of your mistakes, all while unceremoniously making many mistakes themselves. And they are fine with that, especially out of the gate. They don’t back down, and are notoriously chancy in front of opposing nets. This causes headaches for goaltenders, and it’s all a part of the game plan.

The Aeros have had really sound power play units the last two seasons, and early on the near 26% completion rate is fourth in the entire league. This will be key for Oklahoma City – to stay level headed.

Then there’s the trip to San Antonio. Eight hours on a bus (or other mode of transportation) gives a team time to rest and also think about what’s to come. The Rampage are nearly polar opposite of the Houston Aeros in the man advantage/disadvantage categories. They are really strong on the kill, and pretty bad with an extra skater. But it’s not all the fault of coaching or execution – they are built to defend from the net out. With only two wins under their belt, they’ve had difficulty scoring, yet own one of the lowest goals allowed totals in the league (20). That is, in part, due to the play of Dov Grumet-Morris and his .953 save percentage. He’s tough to get around.

The last time the Barons met the Rampage Justin Schultz scored twice en route to a 5-2 OKC victory. But expect the Rampage, and the likes of Drew Shore, to heat up. There is enough fire power on this team to score. But can they OUTscore the Barons. This remains to be seen.

Random Thoughts

Mike Baldwin at the Oklahoman has the details on the “NHL guys” and when they’ll play this weekend:

With three games in three days this weekend, Nelson won’t play the Oilers’ young stars three consecutive days.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, probably won’t play Friday. Jordan Eberle, a first-round pick in 2009, probably won’t play at San Antonio on Sunday. Hall won’t play back-to-back days as a precaution.

Brandon Davidson, whom was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer, will be replaced in the lineup by Teigan Zahn. Zahn is a player that, in a non-lockout season, likely is a full-time Baron instead of a part-time one. He’ll bring another edge defensively to OKC that might be needed this weekend.

Cam Abney, too, is available. This, again, adds some toughness to the lineup just in case things get sideways with Hall, Nuge, Eberle, etc. Should we see him in the lineup, he’ll play deep, and be used in limited minutes.

The practice lines were interesting leading up to today (thanks Eric). Here is how they looked:

Teemu Hartikainen – Mark Arcobello – Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall – Chris VandeVelde – Magnus Paajarvi
Tyler Pitlick – Ryan Martindale – Antti Tyrvainen
Dane Byers – Tanner House – Cameron Abney

Scratched: Anton Lander, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Curtis Hamilton

Justin Schultz – Martin Marincin
Teigan Zahn – Colten Teubert
Taylor Fedun – Alex Plante

Lander, Nuge, Hamilton area all scratched in favor of a lineup with some “bite”. That Byers-House-Abney line is a force of nature. CVV centering MPS and Hall is a safe way to go. Chris is a good setup man that rarely hangs his wingers out to dry, or forces them to play hard on the boards. All the play slides down the middle, which perfectly compliments Hall’s cannonball style.

I can’t imagine that Zahn squeezes in anywhere but with Teubert or Plante. He’s a hard player to simply swap out with Davidson, but it might just work. The Teubert-Zahn pair could be something we see more of in the future.