Barons coach Todd Nelson selected left winger Magnus Paajarvi to play on the No. 1 forward line alongside Edmonton Oilers stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, who are playing in Oklahoma City during the NHL lockout.
“I think this is something everyone wanted to see last year (in Edmonton),” Nelson said. “The left wing is interchangeable. If teams are taking liberties on Jordan or Ryan I can throw Dane Byers in the left side. We have combinations.”
Byers is a 6-foot-3, 204-pound winger who can provide protection for Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. Byers has 790 penalty minutes in seven AHL seasons. He has 14 games of NHL experience with the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets.
“But this is a good opportunity for Magnus to play with those guys. He has speed. He creates scoring chances as it is,” Nelson said. “But playing alongside them, he's going to get more opportunities. Nothing is set in stone with our lines, but he's going to get an opportunity to play there. We'll take it game by game.”
Paajarvi, a first-round pick, taken 10th overall in 2009, has played in 121 games with Edmonton the past two years. He spent half of last season in OKC. He was an integral part of the Barons' run to the Western Conference finals, when he scored 11 points in 14 playoff games.
“Obviously (Paajarvi) is such a fast player, he will open things up for us,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “He's a smart guy. Hopefully it will click.”
Eberle said: “I played with Nuge last year and Mags the year before. Mags brings an added dimension with his speed ... He'll be able to push guys back and hopefully we can get some chemistry going early.”
OKC's forward lines for the season opener Friday night at Lake Erie:
No. 1 line: Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle
No. 2 line: Josh Green, Ryan Martindale, Tyler Pitlick
No. 3 line: Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander, Mark Arcobello.
No. 4 line: Dane Byers, Chris VandeVelde, Curtis Hamilton.
No. 5 line: Cameron Abney, Tanner House, Kristians Pelss.
GREEN NAMED CAPTAIN
Josh Green, 34, has been named team captain.
“It's a big honor, for sure,” Green said. “Anytime you can put the C on and lead a team it's a special feeling. But I don't think anything is going to change for me. Whether I have a letter on or not, I'm still going to be me and try to lead by example, try to let these kids run with it and try to not get in their way.”
Green has played in 341 NHL games for eight different organizations. He's also played for seven different AHL teams. By ending last season on an AHL roster (OKC), he's allowed to play during the lockout.
“It was a no brainer,” Paajarvi said. “Josh was the obvious choice for everybody. He has pretty much everything as a leader and a hockey player.”
Last season with the Barons, Green scored 37 points, including 16 goals, in 51 games. He's more than a decade older than most Barons players.
“It's a unique situation with these guys coming down from the NHL and some guys trying to get to the NHL,” Green said. “It's a nice mix. It should breed some good competition from within. Hopefully, we can put a good effort on the ice, win some games and have some fun.”
HEADED TO OHIO
The Barons left for Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday. Oklahoma City will open the regular season at 6:30 p.m. Friday against the Lake Erie Monsters. The teams will play again at noon Saturday. The Barons' home opener is 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19, against the San Antonio Rampage.
Tickets are on sale at the Cox Center box office, by calling (405) 232-4625 or going to www.okcbarons.com.