Photo by Steven Christy
UPDATE: Kyle Platzer, recently signing an ELC with the Oilers, has been added to the ATO parade with the Barons. Likewise, Kevin Noble from the Tulsa Oilers has been signed to a PTO.
The Oklahoma City Barons host the San Antonio Rampage tonight. The team from the Alamo city has clinched a spot in the AHL postseason, and by golly tickets are already on sale. With that in mind, tonight’s game could be a tightly wound grudge match or an absolutely debilitating game for the Barons who are in desperate need of wins.
Let’s take a look at what we have to work with.
Healthy RW – C.J. Stretch, Matt Ford, Brad Winchester, Travis Ewanyk, Kyle Platzer (ATO today)
Healthy LW – Ryan Hamilton, Curtis Hamilton, Kellen Jones, Mitch Moroz
Health C – Josh Winquist, Jason Williams, Chase Scahber, Jackson Houck
Josh Winquist has gotten a push lately, and has been showing great signs of improvement. I like that. But I like wins much more. Yet the minutes of Moroz and Houck continue to be protected, but with totals increasing as the injury situation continues to darken. I think you jumble the lines just a bit tonight against the Rampage. Facing a high skill, quickened team means that you gotta win face-offs promptly, and you have to be responsible with the puck. This team is super duper young, yet entirely capable of playing smart.
Healthy RD – Nick Pageau, Jordan Oesterle, C.J. Ludwig
Healthy LD – Brad Hunt, Dillon Simpson, Joey LaLeggia, Kevin Noble (PTO today)
Ironically enough Nick Pageau, only playing his fifth AHL game ever, and C.J. Ludwig are the only true right-handed defenders left in the quiver. The ATO of Denver graduate, Joey LaLeggia, gives the Barons another healthy defensive option. They most recently only played with five healthy blue-liners in a rotation that certainly made Gerry Fleming’s eyes bulge out of his head like Roger Rabbit. He made it work, and he is a better coach for doing so.
LaLeggia, like a lot of players entering in to the pro ranks for the first time, will likely get thrown in to the fire just a bit. If he does stay “true” left than I expect a pairing with Oesterle. Regardless of my opinion, just having the extra skater will help the freshening of the legs in almost all circumstances.
Goaltending – Laurent Brossoit, Ty Rimmer, Tyler Bunz
Brossoit is still the go-to guy. With Bachman returning soon to Edmonton following the death of his brother (prayers for Richard and Devyn and family) the OKC Barons will ride three backstops. Why Rimmer? First of all, the Bako season ends this weekend. They want to give him reps. Bunz is probably still the runner up, but Rimmer, as we have come to find out, is a runner up part B. I’m not convinced Rimmer will play (he hasn’t since mid-January), but he certainly is practicing with the team. You will recall that Rimmer has missed the bulk of the season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer (which he soundly defeated!).
I was asked earlier this week, “Neal, can Richard Bachman make this OKC Barons team better?” My response, “Absolutely.” But he doesn’t solve the major problems the Barons have. Those are three-fold.
1) Defensive Sloppiness
The Barons are defensively sloppy both at the forward position and certainly on the blue line. This has caused Laurent Brossoit to be stung early and often. 2-6-2-0 over the last ten games is frightening to consider. They have been outscored 33 to 24 including a 7-3 spanking over a week ago via Adirondack. About half of those games, however, are a one-goal loss or defeat. This tells me that the Barons are either really bad or they are extremely close to winning, and you can flip a coin as to which it might be on a given night. I point mostly to defense for the goals allowed problem.
2) Lack Of Scoring
Again, the stats above show that scoring is a major issue, but one that can sort of resurrect itself. Ryan Hamilton has been adding points as a good long-in-the-tooth AHL player should at this point in his career. Yet the Barons are getting scoring from Josh Winquist and Mitch Moroz, but other than Hamilton it is hard to tie down a specific goal leader. Andrew Miller and yes, Anton Lander and Iiro Pakarinen continue to leave major holes in the lineup. Andrew Miller is still the team’s leading scoring and he hadn’t quite reached the 60 game mark upon leaving for Edmonton. Jason Williams (49 pts), Matthew Ford (47), and Brad Hunt (47) are the only players with 40+ points on the season. Who will the team turn to? I’ll get back to you on that.
Of course, injuries are killing this team. The list – Juhar Khaira, Steve Pinizzotto, Connor Jones, Kale Kessy, Akim Aliu, Tom Mele, Bogdan Yakimov, martin Gernat, Kellan Lain
The Rampage are just killing the averages, and lately seem unbeatable as they secured their spot as the West Division leader. Nine victories in a row, 43 wins on the season, one of the hottest teams in the league – you don’t want to face them in the playoffs. You also don’t want to face them if your team is skidding out of control heading in to the post season.
San Antonio is 8-1-2-0 against OKC this season. Six of the eleven games have been decided by at least a goal, but there have been some lopsided decisions of late including the February 28th win by OKC where the Barons scored four unanswered.
The game starts at 7pm central, and should be interesting given the newly added Houck and newly newly added Kyle Platzer. Go Barons!