It will be a homecoming of sorts for Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. His hometown, Burnaby, B.C., is a one-hour drive from Abbotsford. His parents, some friends and relatives will attend both games.
Several Barons players grew up in the Alberta or British Columbia, neighbor provinces in Western Canada.
“It will be nice to play in front of kind of a hometown crowd,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “A lot of guys are from (that area). ... And it's always good to get on the road and bond together. It's a good chance to build the team together.”
OKC's talented roster hasn't met expectations. The Barons are 5-4-0-1. They've had difficulty protecting third-period leads. Nelson said veteran team captain Josh Green being sidelined with sore ribs the past two weeks has been a factor.
“It's a very young team,” Nelson said. “Leadership has to come from within. Some of these guys are starting to take on that role. This is a great opportunity for them.”
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BARONS AT ABBOTSFORD
When: 9 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Abbotsford, B.C.
Radio: KGHM-1340 AM (Friday); KXXY-FM 96. 1 (Saturday)
Scouting report: Oklahoma City is viewed as the most talented team in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout but is off to a 5-4-0-1 start. Abbotsford is the hottest team in the Western Conference with 14 points (6-1-0-2). ... The Barons won the season series last year (6-2). ... OKC rookie defenseman Justin Schultz leads the AHL in scoring (15 points). Jordan Eberle (11 points), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (10) and Teemu Hartikainen (9) are off to good starts, but OKC's defense has failed to protect leads. ... The Barons are 29th in the 30-team AHL in penalty kills (71.1 percent). ... Abbotsford is led by center Roman Horak (11 points), left winger Sven Baertschi (11) and center Ben Walker (10). ... Heat goaltender Danny Taylor is 3-1-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA and 92.8 save percentage.