GDB: Battle of Alberta, AHL-Style

 

Time: 8:00pm

Location: Abbotsford Entertainment Sports Complex

Broadcast: SNET

Edmonton/Baron view (courtesy Jonathan Willis)

The Oklahoma City Barons enter tonight’s contest reeling from consecutive shutout losses, most recently on Friday at the hands of the Abbotsford Heat.

Todd Nelson entered Friday’s game attempting to diversify his attack – splitting the trio of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall over three separate lines. Ultimately, rather than diversifying he diluted; Hall’s still well back of his form from previous years, Nugent-Hopkins proved unable to turn Tyler Pitlick and Antti Tyrvainen into scorers, and even Eberle’s line struggled to generate offence depsite strong efforts from himself and Teemu Hartikainen.

Special teams, as they have been all season, were a problem for the Barons. They allowed three power play goals in nine shorthanded situations, while failing to tally a single goal in five attempts of their own with the man advantage. It’s been a trend this year; the Barons’ penalty kill ranks 29th of 30 AHL clubs, and despite a wealth of talent, their power play has been just average.

There’s no questioning the team’s talent, but it hasn’t clicked yet this season. Tonight would be a good night for them to find their rhythm; it’s the first televised game of the year, and the opponent is Calgary’s farm team. They should be plenty motivated anyway: they are on a season-worst three game losing streak, and doubtless they will be looking to even the score against Abbotsford after last night’s humiliating loss.

Lines are unavailable at this point in time but will be posted later.

Update: Lines, as per the Barons Twitter feed:

  • Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
  • Paajarvi – Lander – Hartikainen
  • Hamilton – Arcobello – Pitlick
  • Byers – VandeVelde – House
  • Fedun – Schultz
  • Zahn – Teubert
  • Plante – Henry
  • Danis

The Fedun/Schultz pairing is a new one, and one that makes a good deal of sense; it will be interesting to see how they work together tonight. The VandeVelde line is likely to get defensive zone work.

Calgary/Heat view (courtesy Kent Wilson)

The Abbotsford Heat’s season has been the exact inverse of the Barons so far: despite entering the year with only moderate expectations, their goaltending has been above average and their special teams are the best in the league. Last night’s victory was a microcosm of their first 10-games: a shut-out from current incumbent starter Danny Taylor, three power play goals and a perfect 5-for-5 on the PK.

Abby has been paced by a couple of the Flames more notable prospects in Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak, who are currently 1-2 in Heat scoring. Baertschi’s performance isn’t terribly unexpected given his break-out season in the WHL last year, but Horak’s goal per game output is a pleasant surprise for the club.

Line-up

Troy Ward never tips his hand before the game, but we can guess at the Heat’s possible lines based on past contests.

  • Baertschi – Horak – Walter
  • Kolanos – Byron – Sylvester
  • Ferland – Reinhart – Street
  • Olson – Laing – Bancks
  • Brodie – Piskula
  • Breen – McCarthy
  • McKelvie – Lamb
  • Brust

It’s probable Barry Brust will be the Heat’s starter tonight. The Flames former first rounder Leland Irving has only played two of the Heat’s first ten contests and has the worst SV% of any of the Abbotsford puck stoppers so far. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t pick goalies in the first round.

Other players the Barons defense will have to be aware of are AHL vets like Krys Kolanos (Heat’s leading scorer from last year), Ben Walter (tied for the team lead with Baertsci) and Ben Street, who managed 27 goals and 57 points for Penguins farm team last year.

Sum it up

So that’s how things stand heading into tonight. This article has been posted to both FN and ON, so make sure to stop by to talk some smack tonight.