Welcome to the latest edition of Oil Refinery, where we preview upcoming match-ups for the Oklahoma City Barons. In today’s edition we will be previewing tonight’s tilt between the 4th-place Barons (11-9-1-2) and the last-place San Antonio Rampage (10-12-0-3), which will be the first of a two-game set these teams will be playing this weekend.
Things continue to go wrong for the Barons. They have lost five games in a row (four in regulation), including two against the Rampage this past Saturday and Sunday. The Barons will be looking to exact some revenge against the Rampage and try to keep from falling into last place in the AHL‘s South Division. If there is a bright spot in all of this, it is that despite their recent nosedive the Barons remain only five points behind the first-place Charlotte Checkers.
That being said, this ship needs to get righted and fast. After losing twice to the Rampage, the Barons followed this up with a lackluster effort this past Tuesday in losing 4-2 to the Peoria Rivermen–who still sit at the bottom of the Midwest Division despite this victory–and now will be playing three games this weekend, with Sunday’s game pitting them against the second-place Houston Aeros. Whether it is fatigue, the Baby Oilers getting lazy defensively because they are dominating offensively, or the rest of the Barons not getting the sort of playing time they need in order to get better at the AHL level, something is messing with the team’s mojo. Maybe the chemistry just isn’t there, but something is wrong.
Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle continue to lead the AHL in points with 34 and 30, respectively, and with five other active players having at least 13 points–including Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Teemu Hartikainen–the Barons certainly have the ability to score goals in droves when things are going well. Of course the Rampage counter with seven of their own players who have double-digit point totals, led by Jon Rheault (19), Drew Shore (17) and Greg Rallo (15). Their attack is perhaps more balanced than the Barons’ as they have no outright scoring leaders on this team, so this means the Barons will have to pay extra attention to everybody instead of focusing on one or two scoring giants.
The Barons need something to snap them out of this funk. They remain undisciplined in terms of penalties, and despite the dramatic improvement their penalty kill unit has shown over the past month or so, the team is still finding ways to lose games left and right, especially now that their power play unit has come back to Earth again. With any fortune, this weekend’s trio of games will get them back on the winning track.