RETURN TO RICOHToronto, ON
- A day after a disappointing 5-3 loss (with an empty-net goal) against the Toronto Marlies, the Oklahoma City Barons regrouped for an optional practice at Ricoh Coliseum.
Having an optional practice in between games has been a common occurance for OKC.
"It's an off day so instead of having all the guys go out for practice -- some guys need the rest and others want to go out and feel the puck -- we have an optional," stated head coach Todd Nelson. "Any time that we have a game every other day in the playoffs, we usually give them an optional."
Still, most of the team skated. Notably absent were Bryan Helmer, Ryan Keller, Taylor Chorney, Tyler Pitlick, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi.
"Quite a few guys went out, more than expected. It's all about how they feel. Just trying to get themselves ready for Game 4."
The Barons came out and played the game they wanted on Monday with the exception of a few lapses which led to Marlies goals. Nelson feels if the team can get that ironed out, success can't be far behind.
"It was a good game yesterday. I think the biggest thing is going in with the same intensity we had in Game 3. I thought we played a pretty strong game, we just had some mental breakdowns. If we can clean those things up, things should work out for us," said the coach. GREEN DAY COMING SOON
After taking part in Monday's pre-game warm-up, Josh Green skated again on Tuesday and pronounced himself very close to returning.
"I'm starting to feel a lot better now. Not a definite for the next game but we'll see how I am in the morning and make a decision after the morning skate," said Green. "I'm definitely hopeful that I can get in there and help the boys out. It's been tough watching. I just want to get in there and do what I can to help."
Green has been out since Game 3 of the San Antonio series and remarked that being on the sidelines at this time of year is difficult.
"It's frustrating. You never want to be injured, especially in the playoffs. As an older guy you want to be in there and try and help lead and do what you can to help the team out."
Coach Nelson agreed that Green is close.
"He's getting a lot closer. We'll have to talk to the staff and see how his injury is coming along. If he's good to go, he'll be in tomorrow night," said Nelson, adding that his return would be welcome. "He's a big centreman. It's always nice to have somebody big up the middle. He's a competitor. He's experienced and having one more guy with experience in your lineup does help.
"Over the course of a game -- look at last night's game for instance -- we tie it up at 2-2, all of a sudden it's 3-2 then we come back again. Anytime that happens, the ebb and flow of the game, you want to make sure you have experienced guys, guys who have been there before. It certainly does help."
Green has been watching the series intently and hopes to be involved considering how much tighter it's getting.
"The first couple games it was maybe a bit of a feeling out process. They came out strong in Game 1 and we had a good response in Game 2. I think it's going to be a tight one the rest of the way. Both teams are tightening up on defence a little bit," he said. "We need a big effort in Game 4"
Green is also confident in the veteran leadership in the room.
"It's a credit to guys like Bryan Helmer, Ryan Keller, Yanny in net, guys who have been there before and won it and know what it takes. You've got to be pretty calm, cool and collected between periods -- especially to start overtime in close games."PAAJARVI PERFORMS
Coach Nelson talked about the improved play of Magnus Paajarvi as the playoffs have progressed.
"He's fit in really well. I think the biggest thing with Magnus is he came to us with a very positive attitude and that's half the battle right away. He fits in nice with our hockey team. Right now he's playing both power play and penalty kill and doing a very good job for it," said Nelson. "Scored a big goal for us last night. Hopefully that continues"
The head coach added that Pajaarvi is showing improvement but most importantly he has regained his confidence.
"He's improved with some things in the D zone. Trying to drive the puck to the net, take the puck to the net and that kind of thing," Nelson began. "With Magnus it was more a situation of getting his confidence and playing. He wasn't playing a lot up top there. It was just a matter of getting his confidence level up and I think he's enjoying it."
Nelson also said that with the way Paajarvi is playing, he has a good chance to find himself back in Edmonton next season.
"I think he has an excellent opportunity. He's a player that has great speed. Right now he's finding his offensive touch, which is nice. I think this playoff experience is helping him out and will help him out in the future when he is with the Oilers."NELSON TALKS COACHING
Mentioned frequently as a potential candidate for the vacant Edmonton head coaching position, Nelson was asked about the possiblity of going to Edmonton. However, as can be expected, he is only focused on the Calder Cup Playoffs at the moment.
"It's flattering, of course, but right now I'm just focused on the Calder Cup Playoffs. Once everything's done then we'll go from there but right now I'm just focused on Game 4 and that's all I'm worried about."-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com