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Edmonton Journal article (Barons OK opening AHL series on the road)

April 19 2012 at 7:11 AM
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N. W. Bruin  (Login NW_Bruin_GM)

 
Barons OK opening AHL series on the road

By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com

April 18, 2012

Josh Green here playing the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place in Edmonton centres a line with Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi in Oklahoma City.

Photograph by: Shaughn Butts , edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - Is it really the slings and Aeros of outrageous misfortune that the Oklahoma City Barons, the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, are opening their AHL playoff series in Houston on Thursday and Friday night rather than at home?

Or is it much ado about nothing?

“No big deal. I don’t mind it at all ... less pressure on the road and you don’t really know what to expect when a series starts,” said Josh Green, who centres a line with Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi on his wings.

The Barons are not the only American Hockey League high-end team opening on the road in the best-of-five first-round series. Craig MacTavish’s No. 3 West seed Chicago Wolves open in San Antonio, and St. John’s (No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference) opens in Syracuse.

The Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, handled the Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s farm club, in eight league games this season, losing just one and that was in a shootout, so obviously they didn’t have a problem playing at home or away.

They outscored the Aeros 26 to 12, and Houston only made it into the post-season on the last day of the regular season after goalie Matt Hackett stopped two short-handed breakaways.

The Aeros used 57 different players this season because of call-ups to the Wild, who had an injury-riddled season. They have a good goalie in Hackett, who played 12 games for the Wild this season. Nate Prosser, a semi-regular on the blue-line in Minnesota, is also in Houston, along with Marco Scandella on defence, if Scandella recovers from his upper-body injury.

But this is a far cry from last year’s Aeros team, the Calder Cup finalists who lost to Binghamton, the Ottawa Senators farm club.

The Barons, who finished 13 points ahead of the Aeros, will get Games 3, 4 and 5 at home, if the series goes that far.

Green has been a longtime AHLer, playing in Fredericton, Springfield, Lowell, Manitoba, Iowa and Syracuse through 376 games.

He said he has a really good vibe about the Barons.

“This is best chance I’ve had to win a Calder Cup.”

The Barons finished with 99 points to win their conference, second most in the league to Norfolk’s 113 after they somehow won their last 29 games of the season to pull away in the Eastern Conference.

Thirteen teams had more than the Barons’ 213 goals in 2011-12, but Oklahoma City scored by committee and won plenty of games that way.

Ryan Keller, with 49 points, finished in 56th spot in AHL scoring. Teammate Mark Arcobello was 86th with 43 points. They were the only Barons in the top 120.

Philippe Cornet had 24 goals, but slowed to three goals in his last 28 games. Green, who played seven NHL games in January, had 37 points in just 51 games.

“Lots of teams rely on one or two lines, with forwards playing 20 minutes a game. Our guys play 16 or 17,” said Green.

The Barons gave up just 176 goals this season. They had plenty of 2-1, 3-2 games with goalies Yann Danis and David LeNeveu not giving much away.

Paajarvi gets an ‘A’ on Green’s report card after going to Oklahoma City for good in late February. He was on a roller-coaster for much of the season, with the Oilers recalling him and then sending him back down to the minors several times.

“Maggie’s been really good, came back with a great attitude,” said Green. “Some guys who get a demotion go the other way, but he took it the right way. He comes to the rink every day with a smile on his face.

“He’s been a major contributor. He’s scoring every game. He’s also killing penalties. I know how it is (in the NHL) sometimes. You lose your confidence and it’s hard to get it back. Every day you’re not scoring, it’s always brought up. He’s still young.”

Green also likes forward Tyler Pitlick, even if he only had 23 points in his first AHL season.

“I didn’t know much about him when he first got here, but he played in Medicine Hat like I did, so I wanted to keep an eye on him.

“I’ve never seen a guy work so hard, the drive he has going into the corners. He comes out with the puck a lot,” said Green.

ON THE BENCH: The Barons signed Tyler Bunz to an amateur tryout after his season ended with the Tigers in Medicine Hat. He’ll be in the playoffs as a third goalie ... Defenceman Taylor Chorney and forward Curtis Hamilton probably won’t be ready to start the series due to injuries. Draft pick Martin Marancin, who finished the season with the WHL’s Regina Pats after being traded from the Prince George Cougars, played six games on the defence down the stretch.

jmatheson@edmontonjournal.com

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 
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