Team captain Josh Green, the Barons' 35-year-old veteran forward, provides intangibles. He works as hard as anyone on the roster and is an invaluable leader in the locker room.
But in a first-round playoff series against Charlotte, Green filled up the stat sheet.
Heading into the Barons' Western Conference semifinal series, which begins Thursday night against the Texas Stars, Green's nine playoff points lead the American Hockey League.
“I really like this time of year. It kind of brings out the best in me,” Green said. “But I've been getting some bounces as well. And I'm playing with some really good linemates. I feel really good. Hopefully it continues.”
Finishing the regular season 13-3-3 and having their captain playing at an extremely high level are reasons the Barons believe they can win a best-of-7 series against the No. 1 seeded Stars.
“Greeny is doing everything,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “He's part of special teams on both the power play and penalty kill. We feel pretty good to have our captain lead by example. Everybody else can follow. He shows the young guys the intensity it takes to win in the playoffs.”
Green understandably has lost a step. After all he's played 866 professional games, close to 1,000 if you include playoffs. He's not the same player who once played in 341 NHL games with eight different teams.
Playing on OKC's No. 3 line, Green leading the playoffs in scoring is a testament to his resolve.
“It's nice to see your name at the top but if we don't move on it's not going to be there very long,” Green said. “The only thing that matters to me is getting wins. If I can contribute offensively that's great. But I think I can help the team in other ways even when I'm not scoring.”
Green's primary role is to be a hard-to-move pest around the goal. How the Barons fare in the crease could be critical against Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, who allowed only five goals in a first-round series against Milwaukee.
“We'd be kidding ourselves if we think we can score at the same rate we did in the first round,” Green said. “This will definitely be tighter, more of a low-scoring series. We just need to go to the net and get traffic in front of him.
“The best way to beat a hot goaltender is to not let him see the puck and put as many shots on him as you can.”
The Barons' roster is a blend of veterans like Green, Jonathan Cheechoo and goaltender Yann Danis. Mark Arcobello is an AHL All-Star. There are young stars like defenseman Martin Marincin and electrifying rookie Toni Rajala. Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen have returned from the NHL.
Green is playing on the third line with C.J. Stretch and Tyler Pitlick. The top two lines — Arcobello, Cheechoo, Hartikainen, Rajala, Lander and Philippe Cornet — draw an opponent's top defensemen. With all three lines chipping in, OKC scored 23 goals in five games against Charlotte.
“It's tough to try and shut down more than one line,” Green said. “When all the lines are going well, and we're able to get contributions from everybody, it's a huge boost, especially in the playoffs.”
Green twice was sidelined for extended periods with a rib injury that limited him to 24 points in 48 games during the regular season, but in the Charlotte series he contributed three goals and six assists.
“You can tell when the playoffs start because (Green) raises his competition level in everything,” Hartikainen said. “He did the same thing last year. He scored huge goals. It's easy to follow a leader like him when you see the maximum effort he gives.”
This is Green's second season with the Barons. He and his wife, Krystin, and son Liam, 3, live in Edmond during the season, then return to their home in Winnipeg after the season. They're expecting their second child next fall.
“We've loved every second of it here,” Green said. “My wife is very comfortable. There are real friendly people here. It reminds us a lot of back home, pretty laid back. We like that kind of lifestyle. What would be really great is if we could win the Calder Cup.”
Winning a cup, at any level, is a highlight of a hockey player's career. Last year, the Barons were one step shy of the AHL finals when they lost to Toronto in the Western Conference finals. Green was on that team that played hockey until Memorial Day weekend.
“Greeny is getting older,” Nelson said. “He sees an opportunity with this team that some good things could happen a month from now. Any time you get to the playoffs it's a special time. Any time you have a chance to win a championship you try to grasp that.”
BARONS AT STARS
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, Texas
Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1 Jim Byers play-by-play.
Scouting report: This will be Game 1 of a best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series. The Texas Stars are the top seed, but the No. 5 Barons won eight of 12 regular-season meetings, although five wins were when Jordan Eberle and three other Edmonton young stars were in OKC during the NHL lockout. ... The Barons have four of the top five scorers in the playoffs — Josh Green (nine points); Teemu Hartikainen (eight); Toni Rajala (eight) and Mark Arcobello (seven). ... Barons goaltender Yann Danis recorded a franchise record 49 saves in Game 5 in a first-round series finale against Charlotte. ... Danis is 14-4-4 with a 2.07 goals against average and .925 saves percentage since returning from Edmonton two months ago. ... Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp recorded a 0.96 GAA and .963 saves percentage in the first round against Milwaukee. ... Kevin Connauton (two goals, two assists) was the Stars' leading scorer in their first playoff series.