Jonathan Cheechoo scored three more points Friday night for the Barons, but he isn't the only former NHL veteran general manager Bill Scott signed after the lockout ended that's making an impact.
Averaging nearly a point a game, veteran NHL defenseman Brett Clark chipped in two assists in Oklahoma City's 4-3 win over the Houston Aeros in front of 3,746 fans at the Cox Convention Center.
In his 16th professional season, Clark, 36, is playing in the American Hockey League for the first time in eight years after playing in every game with the Tampa Bay Lightning the past two seasons.
“I was sitting at home,” Clark said. “I love the game of hockey. Whether it's up there or down here, they gave me an opportunity to play ... It's really exciting. It's refreshed me.”
Clark has played in 681 NHL games with Montreal, Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado and Tampa Bay.
“Veterans bring patience,” said Clark, who has scored nine points in 10 games. “I notice when things don't go right the kids get a little worked up and start making some mistakes. That's what a veteran presence brings, calm the young kids down.”
Signing Clark, Cheechoo and defenseman Randy Jones helped fill some of the gap of losing the Oilers' four stars who returned to Edmonton after the NHL lockout ended.
“You can't replace guys like that. They're at another level,” Clark said. “When you lose guys like that the team has to come together. They went and found some veterans. We're stepping in, trying to get the job done as a group.”
Cheechoo, 32, has scored 15 points in 10 games since he signed with OKC a month ago. Cheechoo's sixth goal of the season, a top-shelf laser, gave OKC a 4-1 lead midway through the third period.
“The younger guys are going to learn a lot from Clark and Jonesy,” Cheechoo said. “They move the puck pretty quickly. They solidify the blue line for us. They make the easy play to move it up to the forwards. That's stuff you have to learn, know where the puck is going before it comes to you.”
It appeared the veterans' contribution would allow the Barons to cruise to a win, but they had to sweat out the final 69 seconds.
Leading 4-2, Antti Tyrvainen couldn't coral a bouncing puck that would have produced an empty-net goal and a 5-2 cushion.
Less than a minute later, the Aeros clawed to within 4-3 on David McIntyre's second goal of the game with 1:09 left.
“I was disappointed giving up that goal, but was I upset with the whole third period,” Nelson said. “That's the third time here at home Houston has scored three goals in the third period. That's unacceptable and the team heard about it.”
Nelson was pleased with the first two periods when OKC outshot the Aeros 26-17, but Houston outshot the Barons 9-4 in the third period.
“The disappointing thing is it's more mental than anything,” Nelson said. “We've got to be stronger mentally. We knew Houston would make a push, but we have to be mature enough to push back.”