Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini said it might take some time for the Oilers' young stars to mesh with members of last year's Oklahoma City Barons team that reached the AHL Western Conference finals.
The new-look Barons are meshing.
The hottest team in the AHL continues a seven-game road trip Thursday and Friday in Houston. Oklahoma City is riding a five-game winning streak and is 6-0-1 its last seven games.
“We're starting to put some pieces together,” said forward Jordan Eberle. “We're playing better as a team, playing better in the (defensive) zone. We're not giving up as many chances. And our goaltending has been good. There are a lot of things clicking.”
The Barons last weekend outscored South Division leader Charlotte 11-4 in a two-game sweep. Coach Todd Nelson said the team's confidence began growing with a win in Abbotsford, B.C., three weeks ago.
“The biggest thing I've noticed is we got our swagger back,” Nelson said. “It was very evident in the locker room (Tuesday) after practice. Guys are having fun, joking around with each other, feeling confident, feeling good about themselves.”
Forward Taylor Hall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, is the reigning AHL Player of the Week. In three OKC wins last week Hall recorded nine points, including eight assists.
“We've gotten production from all four lines,” Hall said. “That's been a big part of our success. And we've gotten some good goaltending. You can see why they were such a good team last year. Our depth is very strong.”
The Barons' high-powered offense has scored 29 goals the past six games.
“We're getting more comfortable with each other, more chemistry,” said Justin Schultz, who leads the AHL in scoring (28 points). “All four lines are playing unbelievable hockey. As a defenseman I just move it in and they're controlling pucks down low. It's been unreal.”
The Barons are led by four players that would be playing in Edmonton if there weren't an NHL lockout. Eberle (26 points) is second in the AHL in scoring behind Schultz. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is fifth (20 points).
“This team is on a roll now,” said Phillipe Cornet, recently recalled from Stockton. “If we keep playing the way we are, especially with that top line, Eberle, Hall and RNH and Schultzy in the back, it brings so much to our team that we're going to be a hard team to beat.”
Barons at Houston
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday.
Where: Toyota Center, Houston
Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
Scouting report: Houston won just two of 12 regular-season and playoff meetings last season against the Barons, but the Aeros already have won two of the first three meetings this year, all in Oklahoma City. Both teams are hot. The Barons have won five consecutive games, the Aeros four of their last five. OKC (24 points) is fourth in the Western Conference. Houston (21 points) is sixth. ... Barons rookie defenseman Justin Schultz continues to lead the AHL in scoring (28 points). Jordan Eberle (26) is second. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (20) is fifth. ... Houston is led by Justin Fontaine (17 points). ... The Barons' power play (23.1 percent) is fourth in the league, Houston's is fifth (22.7).