It's not a shock that the Barons, who are closing in on 100 roster transactions and relies on a young defensive corps, has struggled at times.
The Barons are in 11th in the Western Conference, five points out of eighth place, which is the final playoff berth.
There's still ample time with 45 regular-season games remaining.
“I would think the toughest sledding is behind us,” said Barons general manager Bill Scott. “We shouldn't have the roster turnover we had. We're certainly not in the position we want to be, but we're not that far off the pace, either. We just need to get on a little bit of a run.”
The official halfway point is mid-January, but the Barons are hoping the Christmas break and a more stable roster will produce a second-half run.
“Hopefully we hit our stride pretty soon and don't wait until February or March to put the gas down,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “We can't fall much further behind. It's not going to be easy. There are a lot of seasoned teams in this league.”
A two-game weekend road trip to Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, is an example of the challenge the Barons face if they're to make the American Hockey League playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Abbotsford, the Calgary Flames' top affiliate, has a mix of veterans and rookies that have produced the best record in the Western Conference. The Heat is third in the league in scoring.
The Barons, who have a defensive corps primarily made up of rookies and second-year players, have allowed 101 goals, the second most in the AHL.
“You see them getting better every day,” said Oklahoma City defenseman Brad Hunt. “Guys like (David) Musil, (Martin) Gernat and (Oscar) Klefbom are doing awesome for first-year guys. Guys like (Brandon) Davidson, (Taylor) Fedun and myself, we're second-year guys.”
The optimistic view is experience gained the first three months will pay dividends similar to last season when the Barons were one of the AHL's hottest teams the final two months.
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