Toronto, ON - The Oklahoma City Barons look to even their best-of-seven Western Conference Final series with Toronto tonight in Game 4 and will be bolstered by some added veteran presence to the lineup. Josh Green makes his return after missing the past five games with an upper body injury.
"I feel good, ready to go. Anxious to get back in. It's been a long time -- or felt like a long time. Always tough watching, especially in playoffs," said Green following the morning skate.
Green added that it will be a bit of an adjustment to get up to speed after being out for a few weeks.
"Playoffs is quick hockey, especially against Toronto -- they've got a really fast team, quick forwards, physical D. Going to be baptism by fire tonight. Hopefully get a few shifts under my belt and start feeling normal again."
Barons head coach Todd Nelson welcomed the return of Green and his leadership to his lineup.
"It's going to feel pretty good to have an experienced guy. His presence in the locker room and on the ice is going to help us out," Nelson began.
"With our hockey team, just like every team in the American League, we're pretty young. You have to have some good veteran leadership around them. They're an extension of the coaching staff."
Nelson praised the role of players like team captain Bryan Helmer and Ryan Keller in addition to Green.
"Sometimes after a period where we want to address things, sometimes it's already addressed. Bryan (Helmer) will stand up in the room and hold the guys accountable. Sometimes that's a lot more powerful coming from your peers. They've been fantastic for us and getting Josh back is certainly going to help."
Green agreed with his head coach.
"Nobody's hit the panic button yet. We've got great leadership in the room with guys who have won before like Bryan Helmer, Ryan Keller and Yann Danis. We have experience behind the bench as well. We're calm but we're focused and ready to go."
Helmer feels that the entire group as a whole meshes together well.
"There's guys who have been in this position before and we've got a good group," said Helmer. "Good mix of veteran guys with rookies and guys in the middle. We all get along really well. We're a close-knit group and when you have that you usually have success."
The phrase of the day was a tie between 'limiting mistakes' and 'puck management' as a solid effort on Monday was negated by a few breakdowns by the Barons -- most notably late in the second period which allowed Toronto to take a 3-2 lead and in the final two minutes when Frattin potted the winner for the Marlies.
"We have to keep things simple. We try to do too much and all of a sudden we turn the puck over and Toronto will come back because they have an excellent transition game," Nelson stated.
"As the games go on, it gets bigger and bigger. In these pressure situations you have to make sure you're mentally ready and you can't have those brain cramps. Once again, it comes down to puck management."
Green has been able to watch the game from the stands and get a different perspective on it, which he will take into the room tonight.
"We talked about that," said Green. "Managing the puck a little better, making smart decisions. Everybody talks about it at this time of year. We need to get on the forecheck, user our speed, get pucks to the net. Things you always talk about at this time of year."
The captain concurred.
"We have to cut down on our few mistakes," echoed Helmer. "I thought last game we played really well but we just made a couple mistakes at the wrong time and it cost us. If we come out like we did (in Game 3) we should be all right."
Nelson feels that the series is going to be much tighter from here on out.
"The whole year, we were battling for the least goals against and every game there's been five goals for the winning team. I think we'll see a stingy game tonight. As the series goes on, both teams are making adjustments to correct those things."
Yann Danis will get the start in goal once again. Triston Grant draws back in after his one-game suspension. Cam Abney and Curtis Hamilton are likely to draw out.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
(1) Oklahoma City Barons at (2) Toronto Marlies Calder Cup Playoffs | Series “N” Western Conference Finals, Game 4 | Toronto leads 2-1 May 23, 2012, 6 pm CDT | Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON Broadcast: KXY 96.1 FM
TONIGHT: The Barons look to even this Western Conference Final in Game 4 against the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) at Ricoh Coliseum. Game 5 will also take place in Toronto on Friday as these teams determine who will face Norfolk in the Calder Cup Finals. The Marlies took a 2-1 series lead with a 5-3 win Monday afternoon in the series’ first contest in Toronto. OKC is the No 1 seed in the conference with 99 regular season points. Toronto is No. 2 seed with 96 points. The teams met twice in the regular season, with the home team winning each time.
SERIES SNIPPETS: Monday’s loss was OKC’s first on the road during this postseason. The Barons are 5-1 away from home and have out-scored the opposition on the road 20-11. Mark Arcobello remains tied for second in the playoffs with 13 points (5G, 8A). Three of Arcobello’s goals have opened the scoring, tying him with 2 others for the league lead in first goals. The winning team has scored 5 goals in each game this series. Friday’s 84 penalty minutes for the Barons and 70 for Toronto were OKC postseason records for team and combined PIMs. They were also highs for any game in the Barons’ 2-season AHL history. The previous combined PIM mark was 102 on Nov. 25, 2011 (OKC 48 PIM, Grand Rapids 54).
PLAYOFF PATTER: The Barons have scored first in 9 of 12 playoff games, going 8-1 when scoring first and 0-3 when allowing the first goal. Monday marked the first time this postseason the Barons have failed to score first in a game where they registered a goal. The other 2 games were shutout defeats. OKC out-shot Toronto 28-27 on Monday after being out-shot in the first 2 games by 1 shot each game. The Barons have out-shot the opposition throughout the playoffs 393-300. Opponents are averaging 25 shots per game against OKC, second in the playoffs behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in fewest shots allowed.
DEFENSE FIRST: The Marlies and Barons were 1-2 in goals against and penalty killing during the regular season. Toronto’s PK rate was 88.1, while OKC’s was 85.6. Overall, the Marlies allowed a league-low 175 goals to OKC’s 176. AHL Goaltender of the Year Yann Danis was second only to Toronto’s Ben Scrivens in goals-against average, 2.07 to 2.04. Danis went 1-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA and .959 save percentage in 2 regular-season meetings with Toronto. This series is the first time OKC have faced Scrivens.
SPECIALTIES: The Barons are 2-for-19 on the power play during this series, while the Marlies are 3-for-15. Including both regular season meetings, OKC had killed 24 of 25 Toronto power play chances until the Marlies connected on 2 of their first 3 man advantages Monday while going 2-4 on the afternoon.
RARE COMPANY:Chris VandeVelde scored overtime goals in consecutive games of the previous series at San Antonio, ending Games 3 and 4 by 2-1 final scores. VandeVelde is the second player in AHL history to record back-to-back overtime goals in the same series and the first since Rochester’s Jim Wiemer in 1983. VandeVelde is the eighth AHLer with 2 OT goals in a single series and he shares, with 30 others, the all-time mark for overtime winners in a playoff season.
Series Results: Date Opp. Result OKC Goalie (GA,SV) Opp. Goalie Attn. May 17 Tor L, 0-5 Danis (5, 27) Scrivens (0, 31) 2,596 May 18 Tor W, 5-1 Danis (1, 27) Scrivens (4, EN, 22) 2,621 May 21 @ Tor L, 3-5 Danis (4, EN, 22) Scrivens (3, 25) 7,327
Upcoming Series Schedule (all times Central): Date Opp. Site Time Broadcast May 25 @ Tor Ricoh Coliseum 6:00 KXY 96.1 FM May 28* Tor Cox Center 7:00 KXY 96.1 FM May 30* Tor Cox Center 7:00 KXY 96.1 FM * If necessary -- Jim Byers, OKCBarons.com