The Barons officially don't hit the halfway point of their season until they close out a Thursday/Friday/Saturday tripleheader this weekend at the Cox Convention Center.
Even though 40 games remain in the American Hockey League regular season, the final six games of a seven-game homestand the next two weeks might be pivotal as Oklahoma City attempts to reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
OKC (13-17-6) currently is in 11th place. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs.
“Let's face it, this could be our season,” said Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. “We have to be strong here at home. If we come out of this homestand the way we want to, it will set us up to make a pretty good playoff run. We have to take care of business here at home.”
Starting with Thursday night's rescheduled game with Utica, the seven games on this homestand is a softer spot on the schedule.
Half of the Barons' 34 games during the 2013 portion of the schedule were against Western Conference powers Texas, Abbotsford and Chicago.
“December was a really tough schedule with the teams we faced and a two-week road trip,” Nelson said. “We actually gained some confidence playing with them. We've had our chances.”
Nelson said the key is playing team structure for 60 minutes with minimal sloppy segments.
“After Christmas, we've been playing more complete hockey,” Nelson said. “I like where we're at. We're starting to play the right way. As long as we do that we'll have some success.”
In December, the Barons didn't face one team below .500. On this homestand, five games are against current non-playoff teams, including four upcoming games against Utica (15th), Charlotte (13th) and Rochester (10th).
“We know the standings,” said Barons team captain Anton Lander. “We've got work to do to get into the playoffs. We need to get on a streak.”
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