Workin’ For The Weekend (Tues. Edition): Rivs at Barons “Lean On Me”

Lean On Me, Because I’ll Need To Lean On You.

Club Nouveau, an R&B group fabricated in the 80’s, represented a throwback to a better decade. A foursome which would feature a rotating bunch of performers before and after its highly successful couple of albums released almost 30 years ago. They had a sound that was reminiscent of the good old doo wop days. And despite the propensity to embrace a changing sound of hip-hop and would music, they always sounded best when they stayed in the wheelhouse of rhythm and blues. 1986’s Life, Love, And Pain was a great example of a new group showing the best of both worlds. The albums spawned several memorable dance tracks, but none more memorable than the Bill Withers classic “Lean On Me”. A song that instantly conjures up friends swaying with their arms wrapped tightly around one another’s shoulders, it was an anthem of the 60’s that never demanded a remake. As a matter of fact, I prefer the original. But Nouveau made it their own. A drum bear there, a synthesize here, it was subtle, but the group changed enough for the song to be 100% an homage to the original and 100% an introduction to first timers who’d never heard the memorable chorus.

Of course the lyrics sell the song:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need, somebody to lean on

Sure, it’s a song about leaning on others we know when we are needing a lift, but that last line. The chorus oomph, where is says, “‘Till I’m gonna need, somebody to lean on.” And see, that’s how life works. Lean on me, but prepare to be leant(?) on in the future. It’s a two way street.

Our Oklahoma City Barons have been leaning on a handful of players to carry them through the first portion of the season. It’s worked fine, but it’s a team sport. Four people can’t carry a roster of 20+. So, in the words of our R&B friends of Club Nouveau, the time has come, the moment is now, it’s time for the leaning to be reciprocated. For the Barons to succeed everyone needs to give a little, or the leaning is one sided. We be jammin’, We be jammin’.

The Peoria Rivermen darken the doors of the Cox Center tonight as they face the road warrior Barons whom are coming off a seven game away schedule that started beautifully and ended badly. Oklahoma City won the first three, lost the last four. Peoria, in a five game road trip of their own, has ping-ponged through games, winning one here, losing one there, then winning one here. So I’d recent history repeats itself, the Rivs are due a loss against OKC. But tap the brakes quickly, because of late they’ve bear really good teams. Grand Rapids twice, Rockford once, Houston on Sunday. As the second to last team in the Western Conference they only are five standing points behind the Barons, whom are ninth in that same conference. You have a good week, and suddenly your team is squeezing into the final playoff spot. Have a bad one, and your in the basement. It’s highly competitive in the West.

The Rivermen and Barons really aren’t all that different. Sure, Ian Cole is no Justin Schultz, and Derek Nesbitt is no Jordan Eberle, but these two teams have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tendency that is maddening for fans.

Let’s start with the scoring for the Rivermen. A trio of right wingers lead the charge offensively. Derek Nesbitt and rookie Jaden Schwartz both have 13 points. Not too far behind is Anthony Peluso. But the real point gobbler and play maker is centerman, T.J. Hensick. T.J. is a two time AHL All Star with 69 and 70 points each of the last two seasons. He currently has 21.

Defensively, the Rivermen lean on Ian Cole, Mark Cundari, and the familiar face of Taylor Chorney. Chorney, of note, is a whopping -20 in 23 games played. This shows a lot of the ineptitude on this squad. Sure it has scoring problems, but it also has defending problems. That’s not a good combination.

Peoria special teams are lowly in the league. PK and PP are hovering near the bottom, compared to OKC who owns one of the best PP percentages but one of the worst PK percentages. That polar opposite, over the first 20+ games has killed the Barons.

Goaltender Jake Allen is having a mind altering bad start. The big bodied pipe protector is 5-10-2. Meanwhile, backup Mike McKenna is 3-3-0. Allen, normally better than this, allows nearly three and a half goals per game. Not good if you’re a Peoria fan.

When these two teams play, which isn’t often, they usually get angsty. Peoria also owns the to-date wins 7-4. Could things get sour in a hurry? They do in the AHL among teams that don’t see each other often enough to play nice. Hang on, it might be bumpy.

Expected Lineup For Oklahoma City:

Taylor Hall – Mark Arcobello – Jordan Eberle
Magnus Paajarvi – Anton Lander – Teemu Hartikainen
Tyler Pitlick – Josh Green – Curtis Hamilton
Dane Byers – Chris VandeVelde – Cameron Abney

Martin Marincin – Justin Schultz
Taylor Fedun – Colten Teubert
Alex Plante – Jordan Henry

Olivier Roy

Note: I think Danis needs a blow, so against a soggy Peoria team might be a chance for Olivier Roy to get some PT. Also, swap Cornet for Abney – given the history, you’ll want some girth in the lineup.