Last week the Admirals played three games. The week before that they played three games. And before that, you guessed it, three games. This week -and- next week will only see the Ads play one game a week – both of which are against the Oklahoma City Barons. Funny how that schedule shakes out, right?
The Ads are entering the game with a 10-5-4-1 record good for 25 points and third place in the Midwest division. The last ten games haven’t seen the team at their sparkling best: 4-3-2-1. Even worse has been the team’s power-play over its last five games which has not scored a goal with the man-advantage from twenty chances. The last time the team scored a power-play goal came on 11/19 vs. Abbotsford in the first period thanks to Simon Moser. Ever since… ouch.
The biggest benefit to this lengthy break over this week and next will be to reignite the offense and power-play unit. Practice. Practice. Practice. Undoubtedly a focal point all week. It will be fascinating to see if the team can break out of the power-play drought tonight.
Captain Ford. Where art thou? I had the opportunity Wednesday to speak briefly with the Ads skipper and he told me that he broke his foot while blocking a slap shot. He was walking around in a boot but without crutches. As he so often is, Ford was in very good spirits and was still chirping around with the players. The captain should be back in a few weeks. He’s a tough hombre!
Now, about the enemy…
The Oklahoma City Barons enter tonight’s game having played in three more games than the Ads but with a lesser record: 9-11-0-3, 21 points, and are fourth in the West division. Like the Ads, the Barons previous ten games has also been a mess going 4-5-0-1. The team is a very odd case. They have an offense that can be explosive: in the last ten games they have scored three-or-more goals seven times. They play in incredibly tight hockey games: thirteen of their twenty-three games played this season have been decided by one goal with a team record of 4-6-0-3 in those contests. They have outscored the Ads this season by 9 goals but have also allowed more goals, 14, than the Ads have. Whether we see a game played on a tight rope or an open and fast paced contest appears to come down to which Barons team shows up: Jekyll or Hyde.
The player to watch on the Barons side of the puck, and one that I am very excited to see play in person, is shootout wizard Linus Omark. Considering all the one-goal games the Barons play… perhaps a shootout isn’t such a bad thing. Nevermind his noted shootout skills though – his AHL season so far has been sharp. In 23 games this season Omark has scored 11 goals and 14 assists (25 pts). That includes a game in which he scored 4 goals in a road effort against the San Antonio Rampage. Right now Omark is on a six-game point streak: 1 goal and 9 assists. How good was his month of November? In twelve games for the Barons he scored in all but three games. That continued in the Barons last game on Tuesday with 2 assists. He’s the man top shutdown if the Ads are going to slow down the Barons offense.
Similar to our previous opponents, the Charlotte Checkers, the Barons have had a hard time finding consistency in net. The Barons have used six goalies this season: Jason LaBarbera, Richard Bachman, Ilya Bryzgalov, Tyler Bunz, Olivier Roy, and Laurent Brossoit. Not yet included in that mix is Ty Rimmer who was recalled from the Quad City Mallards of the Central Hockey League on Tuesday. The current battery in net consists of Brossoit and Rimmer. My expectation would be the man with the most time posted in net, Brossoit, to get the nod tonight. If not, the Ads could see back to back games where their opponents play their seventh goalie of the season… the Checkers played their seventh in the 2-1 defeat Sunday afternoon.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Will the time off help or hurt the team? Can the Ads power-play solve their issues in tonight’s game?