Three weeks ago, the Oklahoma City Barons could see their playoff hopes if they squinted really hard and covered the sun with their gloves. They needed a visit from Dominik Hasek and a whole lot of luck to get them through to the playoffs and get back all of the players the Oilers had robbed from over the course of the year. Dominik Hasek arrived in the form of Jeff Deslauriers for at least a couple of games, and the baby Oilers actually clinched a playoff spot with a game to spare.
The return of erstwhile Oilers has injected new life into the lineup and after falling behind the Hamilton Bulldogs two games to none, the Barons have reeled off two straight wins in front of a quiet Cox Center to turn their first ever playoff game into a best-of-three series with the first game at home.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Oklahoma City Barons
7:05 p.m. CDT/6:05 MDT
Audio Stream: 96.1 KXY | Team 1260
Twitter Updates: Ryan Aber | AHL Barons
The biggest difference in the first two games and the last two has been the play of Martin Gerber. Gerber, who may be the best goaltender in the Oilers organization, was injured late in the season and nursed his neck back to health while Jeff Deslaurier was visited by the spirits of the Hasek. Hasek flew the coop in Hamilton as Deslauriers gave up three goals on his first six shots in game one and got the hook. Since then, Gerber has stopped 97 of 103 shots against for a .941 save percentage.
Thus far in the series, the Barons have outshot the Bulldogs 139-109 and the line of Teemu Hartikainen - Mark Arcobello - Linus Omark has accounted for 32 of those 139 shots. Arcobello is tied with Alexandre Giroux for the Barons playoff lead in shots at 13 with Hartikainen hot on their tails at 12.
Injuries are a problem for the Barons, as Colten Teubert and Kevin Montgomery are listed as out with "upper body injuries", meaning ECHL call-up Anthony Aiello will be called upon to fill a big role. Except for Jeff Petry, the Barons young blueliners have struggled with serious inconsistencies and Aiello won't be called upon to be a superstar, just to make the simple play.
And finally, the Barons have suffered from terrible attendance in their two home games, drawing just 2303 on Tuesday and 2041 on Wednesday when they were up against both the Oklahoma City Redhawks and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Barons have struggled with weekday attendance since the beginning of the season and hopes run that a Friday holiday game combined with a Thunder travel day will goose the attendance numbers. They will still compete for fans because the Redhawks are at home tonight, but anything less than 7,000 will be a disappointment. They're nowhere near the revenue numbers I talked about in March, but every little bit helps.