Oklahoma City, OK -
When Linus Omark
made the Oilers out of training camp this season, he probably thought his days in Oklahoma City were behind him but the emergence of players like Lennart Petrell
, Anton Lander
and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
plus the return to health of most of the Edmonton lineup, ended up pushing him back down to OKC.
However, unlike last season when Omark had a very tough time with his demotion, this time around he has embraced his AHL assignment. The biggest difference is, after five straight games in the Edmonton press box, Omark really just wanted to play some hockey.
"He's come down with a pretty good attitude," said Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "I think everybody was wondering how he was going to be. Obviously, he wants to play in the NHL but he does realize that he has to play well here in Oklahoma City to get the opportunity to go back up."
Speaking with Omark, his thoughts mirrored that of the coach.
"I'm glad to be here and get some games," Omark stated.
Last season, Omark was held pointless in his first three games in Oklahoma City before catching fire. He rattled off points in nine of 10 games before making a true statement with a five-goal effort against the Toronto Marlies that included 12 shots on goal. He also potted the shootout winner in the 6-5 Barons win.
Precisely a month later, Omark finally got the call to the NHL. He made a brief two-game appearance in Oklahoma City in January but otherwise spent the remainder of the regular season up in Edmonton.
Omark acquitted himself well, putting up 27 points in 51 games at the NHL level. More impressively, he finished the season with nine points in 12 games as things looked promising for 2011-12.
Unfortunately for Linus, things did not quite work out that way. He was held pointless in five games to open the campaign and then found himself up in the press box for five more before being dispatched to Oklahoma City.
"I hadn't played a game for two weeks, almost, before I played my first game (down here)," said Omark, who once again got off to a bit of a slow start with the Barons.
"First game I didn't play (well) in the first two periods but after that I think I started to get back to where I think I was in Edmonton sometimes."
He picked up an assist in the third period of that game, helping spark a 3-2 Barons comeback victory. In all, he has five assists through three games now with his play improving every game so far in OKC.
"He's been productive for us," said coach Nelson. "There's areas of his game that we want to focus on: play away from the puck, stopping and starting, managing the puck. Those three things are the biggest things he has to work on.
"He's capable of doing it but it's more or less being more consistent with it."
Omark agreed that working on those aspects of his game is the only way he'll see a swift return to Edmonton.
"I have to do my best. It's my only chance to come back up there. I think if playing in the AHL, everyone wants to come up. Nobody wants to be here," he said, noting that he is very grateful for the opportunity to play.
"It's good to get some games. I need it because I missed those five games. In the AHL I'm not going to sit up in the press box all the time. I can still be better."
Assisting in the transition back to the minors, Omark said coming to a familiar place with a number of the same teammates from last season has helped.
"I know a lot of guys on the team. I've been hanging a lot with Teemu (Hartikainen). He's a good friend so it's good to have him here," he said.
Hartikainen talked about being happy to have the company of his friend and roommate Omark once again.
"We lived together last year and we learned a lot together. We learned everything over here to support ourselves. He's one of my best friends over here," Hartikainen said.
Overall, while playing in the American Hockey League is not ideal for Omark, he's happy to have the chance to be doing it in Oklahoma City.
"I like playing here. If I'm going to play in the AHL, I want to play here."