The Oklahoma City Barons are in good shape to reach the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Regardless how other playoff contenders fare the Barons automatically earn a playoff berth if they collect three standings points in three home games this weekend — games Friday night and Saturday night against Abbotsford and a Sunday matinee against Houston.
Oklahoma City can clinch a berth Friday night with a win over Abbotsford and a Rockford loss.
“This weekend is pretty important,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Basically our fate is in our hands. I’d like to take care of it Friday night. I don’t want to be sitting around Sunday night and watch other scores from around the league. Friday night will be very important.”
The Barons, 8-2-2 in their last dozen games, could be a dangerous draw as a lower seed. The past five weeks they’ve been as hot as any team in the American Hockey League.
“The last couple of months we’ve been playing similar to the way we were playing last year,” Nelson said, referring to a run to the Western Conference finals. “We’ve been getting contributions from different people. All the guys are doing the little things. That has to continue.”
Oklahoma City has outshot opponents in 11 of its last 12 games, allowing only 24 shots a game.
The penalty kill unit has been near flawless. The Barons have allowed only one power goal the last 34 times they’ve played with a man disadvantage, a dazzling 97.0 penalty kill percentage their last 14 games.
“It’s been everything,” Nelson said. “We’ve really improved defensively and our guys have been doing a good job on the penalty kill,” Nelson said. “That’s been drastically improved. Our power play, even though we didn’t score the past game has been chipping in every now and then.”