by Lisa McRitchie on 02/06/12 at 12:00 AM ET
The AHL Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Barons are coming back to Calgary to play the AHL battle of Alberta because the Abbotsford Heat, the AHL farm team of the Calgary Flames will play a home game in the Saddledome this Thursday night. While once again both corresponding NHL teams are on the outside looking in for the NHL playoff race, their AHL teams currently playoff bound. And so, for fans of both the Flames and the Oilers, the Heat and Barons may be as close to playoffs as they will get for the second year in a row.
Even bigger news for Oilers’ fans is that according to Linus Omark’s recent tweet, the Swedish shootout sensation plans to be in the lineup.
Im ready to play but wont play tonight. Next week on thursday for sure !! #comback
While Omark has not played many games in the NHL this season, 5 to be exact, he has not played many more with the Barons; 7. While Omark’s future with the club is still unknown, trade talk has been all but silent when it comes to Omark as of late. Of course that is due to Omark’s ankle injury, but it could also be that Omark has been a difficult player to categorize.
The Barons will also feature Magnus Pääjärvi who has struggled in both leagues in terms of scoring, and especially in the NHL. In 33 NHL games this season, Pääjärvi has only 4 points. In 14 games in the AHL, Pääjärvi has 1 goal, 9 assists and has scored key shootouout goals.
Pääjärvi is still young, and this is only his second season out of the Swedish Elite League. The Oilers still hold hopes for Pääjärvi, and hope that playing with a winning team and taking a lot of minutes will help Pääjärvi find his game and his confidence. Pääjärvi has had nothing but a great attitude saying that playing in the AHL is the right place for him to be right now.
Tyler Pitlick is a former Medicine Hat Tiger and is in his first year of the AHL. While Pitlick may not be putting up big scoring numbers, this is his first season as a pro and his first year playing centre once again. With the Tigers, Pitlick was playing on the wing due to the depth the Tigers had. The Oilers see Pitlick playing centre though. He has impressive size, grit and drive. Pitlick will need more development time, but hopes are still high that second round pick Pitlick could still be a top six forward. Pitclick doesn’t care where he plays, wing or centre, he just wants to play.
EDIT: It should be noted however, with thanks to Baron’s writer Neal Livingston that Pitlick has been coming off of a foot injury and has been playing wing more than centre.
Teemu Hartikainen has had his NHL debut and although he has been showing signs of adjustment to the North American game. In his most recent callup, Hartikainen looked completely overwhelmed and was soon sent back down. With Hartikainen, there is still plenty of time for development and once the Oilers are playing better, it will be a safer environment for him to play in. When the experienced players are struggling, it just amplifies the mistakes and struggles of those who are learning.
Curtis Hamilton, another second round Oilers draft pick is also in his first year of the AHL. Hamilton has only scored 5 goals and 5 assists. While these numbers may seem alarming, you have to keep in mind that the while the Barons are developing Oilers’ prospects, they are also in the business of winning hockey games. Players like Hamilton are not playing on the top line and all of the choice power play minutes, but rightly so. Still, Hamilton will be another player of interest.
Ryan O’Marra has also been playing up in the NHL as well as with the Barons. With a healthy Oilers roster, O’Marra is once again with the Barons. O’Marra has been an impact player on the Barons penalty kill, and has been putting up bigger numbers in his second year in the AHL. O’Marra is projected to be a bottom six forward, and with his size that is a position he should do well with. Currently, O’Marra is at a career high +14.
There are several other players that will be of interest, among them Philippe Cornet, Colten Teubert, Alex Plante, Tanner House, Chris VandeVelde, Hunter Tremblay, Cameron Abney and Taylor Chorney who are all Oilers prospects or players under entry level contracts with the Oilers.
Although this game is a Thursday night, and so difficult for fans from Edmonton to make, that this is the second year in a row that this game is being played in Calgary has to show that the interest in the teams is there and there is the possibility that the Barons may host the Heat next year in Edmonton.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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