OKC Hosts San Antonio, Must Win An Understatement

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy

What a wild and wacky week it has been for the Oklahoma City Barons. Just when you thought winning six out of seven made them a lock for the postseason, they rattle off four straight loses, and emerge with one extra standing point. It isn’t all their fault, the harvesting of players, and injured status of some key ingredients has forced the team to soul search just a bit. Todd Nelson unveiled some, *cough* interesting line combos in the most recent losses against the Texas Stars, and they looked like this:

Ben Eager – Will Acton – Kale Kessy
Austin Fyten – C.J. Stretch – Andrew Miller
Jack Combs – Alex Lavoie – Matt Ford
Curtis Hamilton – Travis Ewanyk – Steve Pinizzotto

The first game got pushed into OT, where the Stars just outlasted the less skillful Barons. Down the stretch hockey can be a struggle, and for this group that has been the case. In that game, your goal scorers were C.J. Stretch, Alex Lavoie, and Matt Ford. All scoring coming from the 2nd and 3rd lines. Before I collapse the building on the E-A-K line, they were solid. Just about pushed their anger over the edge, as you can imagine, but danced the canyon lip beautifully. They just can’t score.

The same lineup appeared in game number two, and the goal scoring came from Matt Ford, Travis Ewanyk, and Andrew Miller. Again, the top line isn’t scoring. A two goal lead early was erased by three straight and then some from the Texas Stars. But there is some good news. After giving away 50% of their PK goals in game one, they stifled Texas in seven straight chances. That’s HUGE, and it kinda shows the defensive tendencies of the forward lineup.

In the end, I was impressed with the Barons young defense. It seemed less hammy than usual, was able to curtail the sadness of mistakes, and at times emerged as a legit force. Playing good defense against the Texas Stars is difficult, but the Barons did some good things those nights.

Here were the pairings:

Martin Gernat – Taylor Fedun
Brandon Davidson – Brad Hunt
Denis Grebeshkov – David Musil

Joey Leach was the lone fish out of water in game one, and gave up two penalties that led to two Stars goals. Not good. So Grebeshkov came in for him on night two, and I think that’s what we see on Tuesday night.

To confirm my suspicion is Todd Nelson. On Monday’s radio show he mentioned that the lineup would remain unchanged from the weekend. Okay. Which also pointed to Mark Arcobello and Roman Horak continuing to be absent from the lineup. Arcobello has headed to Edmonton where he will get a second opinion on an upper-body injury situation rumored to be in the shoulder area. Horak also nursing an undisclosed injury.

To complicate matters, the OKC Barons will face off against the San Antonio Rampage with a recently recalled goaltender in Ty Rimmer. Rimmer, who was prepping a Quad City playoff first round, will now take the co-pilot chair next to Richard Bachman. The Oilers elected to send Laurent Brossoit to Edmonton over Bachman simply because it effects the Barons less. That’s good news. That’s also giving them a ton of credit, and forgetting the gong show they’ve blessed OKC with in recent months. I digress. Bachman needs to be strong, Rimmer needs to be ready. As the fight to the Calder Cup postseason continues, angry faces emerge, and people do strange things. A Texas rival like San Antonio would love to make cranky anyone wearing the home whites this evening.

The playoff scene looks rather bleak when you consider how the Barons have lost games recently. Nonetheless, here is the playoff race as of today:

playoff-primer-3-25

There’s Charlotte just hanging around. Oh, they’ll play the Barons four of the next five games. Getting ahead now instead of trying to eek out a few more standing points in head-to-head matchups is important. Lose now, and the mojo might just be souring.

Check out Eric’s post from earlier today where he looked at the matchup and stat lines. Interesting things.