The Oklahoma City Barons are one loss away from elimination in their best-of-five series against the Texas Stars. It’s a do-or-die game three for the Edmonton Oilers affiliate on Wednesday night in Cedar Park, Texas.
A pair of overtime victories have given the Dallas Stars affiliate the upper hand but the Barons feel like they can take away some positives from those games and carry them to Texas.
“We’ve felt the past two games we’ve given ourselves a chance to deserve a better fate but here we are, down 2-0, and we’re going to have to come out and play 60 minutes or however long it does take to get this game tonight to force a game four,” Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson said.
Although they have a relatively young and inexperienced roster, there are some holdovers from last year’s team which lost in the Western Conference Finals. That Oklahoma City team battled elimination twice in a row, eventually beating Charlotte and then forcing a game seven against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
|Photo by Steven Christy/OKC Barons |
“I think with those experiences and also seeing what Los Angeles has done in the Stanley Cup playoffs, being down 3-0 and now it’s tied 3-3, it’s anybody’s game,” Nelson said. “I think the guys understand that and the biggest thing is that we can’t be afraid to die. That’s the biggest thing. We have to play loose. I told the guys, if you make a mistake make it big. At least you’re trying and we can live with that.”
The Barons will get a boost to their lineup as defenceman Oscar Klefbom will return from injury.
“I think he’s better now than he was in maybe the first game he played,” Nelson said. “That’s great news for us. He’s a big part of our penalty kill. Against a team like Texas that has a good power play, that’s certainly going to help us out.”
Klefbom is ready to get back to playoff action after missing game two.
“I’m very excited for tonight,” Klefbom said. “Obviously, it’s the biggest game of the season so far so I’m looking forward to it.”
With Klefbom returning to help on the penalty kill, the Barons will focus on their power play which has not been helpful in the first two games of the series.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Nelson said. “When you look at the two games, if we get one power play goal, we’re sitting up here up 2-0. We talked about it this morning. We’re just going to have to outwork them. I think systematically, the way that we’re running it, it works fine. It’s worked for us all year but we’re going to have to find ways to get pucks to the net and also be hungry for rebounds. It starts with the face off. How many times have we seen where we lose the draw and all of the sudden it turns into a conditioning drill because we’re going back for the puck all night and trying to break it in. We have to be hungry off the draw and that’s not just the centre men, it’s the wingers involved as well. It’s just being sharp on it.
“We have to outwork them and be sharp and if we have the chance to shoot, we have to shoot the puck. We can’t look for something prettier because they do a great job of closing things off once you give them time. That’s going to be a big part of our game tonight. Hopefully we get it clicking because it could mean the difference in this series.”
The Barons have a tough road ahead against the American Hockey League’s top team. It doesn’t help that the Dallas Stars sent reinforcements after they were eliminated from their playoff series.
Chris Mueller and Dustin Jeffrey were returned to Texas and were joined by Patrik Nemeth on Wednesday. Mueller was the Stars’ fourth-best scorer in the regular season with 57 points (25-32-57) in 60 games.
The Barons however have outscored the Stars at even strength and if they can get their power play going (0-for-7), then they have a chance at drawing the series to within one game.
“We’ve just got to get a little more movement in the offensive zone, get the guessing, create confusion and start putting more pucks on the net,” Barons Austin Fyten said. “It’s going to take 40 shots to get three goals, I think, against this guy. They’ve got two really good goaltenders. It’s going to be tough but we’ve got to find a way to get it done.”