The Oklahoma City Barons players and staff are joining Integris Men’s Health University in shaving their upper lips today in preparation for MOVEMBER. They will attempt to grow mustaches to celebrate MOVEMBER and raise awareness for issues facing men’s health.
Now in its ninth year, MOVEMBER started in Melbourne, Australia, where “Mo” is Aussie slang for moustache. In MOVEMBER men on sports teams and in other groups grow moustaches (or mustaches, if you prefer) to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues.
The Barons will show off the mustaches of the players and staff who participate in weekly updates on Barons Beat, the Barons website and Facebook page. You too can show off your mustache by uploading pictures to the Barons Facebook page at facebook.com/okcbarons. Fans interested in donating to the Barons MOVEMBER movement can visit mobro.co/okcbarons.
Each Barons home game in the month of MOVEMBER features a ‘Mo Station’ to allow fans to create their own mustache at the rink. Any fan who has real or fake mustache is eligible for the Best Mustache contest at each home game in the month of November.
During the month of MOVEMBER, fans can earn a $4 discount on a single-game ticket by showing their mustache at the Cox Convention Center box office on the day of the game. Women can also take advantage of this offer by wearing a fake mustache to the box office.
Barons center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who left Friday’s game after getting hit in the mouth with a stick, participated in practice Saturday morning and will play in Sunday afternoon’s game against the Texas Stars.
Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, had an upper front tooth chipped and another pushed back.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to keep it to be honest with you,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “(The dentist) said he could reposition them… It was an accident. He didn’t mean to do it on purpose.”
Nugent-Hopkins, 19, will wear a full face mask hockey players refer to as a “cheese grader” or “cage.” He last regularly wore a full face mask at age 15 in midgets with the Vancouver Northwest Giants.
“It restricts you a little bit but once you get used to it you learn to live with it,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Obviously you grew up playing with them.”
Opponents have played physical against the Edmonton Oilers young stars that are playing with the Barons during the lockout.
“It is chippier down here (in the American Hockey League),” Nugent-Hopkins said. “You just have to play around that kind of stuff.”.”
Barons rookie defenseman Justin Schultz was named the American Hockey League Player of the Week after scoring four points, including three goals, in two games last week.
Posting a plus-6 rating in two games, Schultz scored two shorthanded goals in a 5-2 win last Friday against San Antonio. He compiled a franchise best plus-5 rating. In a 5-3 loss to Lake Erie last Saturday Schultz scored his fourth goal of the season.
Schultz, 22, signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers last summer after three seasons at the University of Wisconsin. Schultz was twice named the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Year and was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award in 2010-11 and 2011-12, an award given to the nation’s top college player.
Schultz leads all AHL blueliners with four goals and is second with six points through four games. In recognition of his achievement, Schultz will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Barons home game.
The Oklahoma City Barons home opener Friday is against the San Antonio Rampage, an opponent that is developing a rivalry with the Barons.
The two teams split eight regular season games last season but OKC won a second round playoff series, four games to one to advance to the Western Conference finals.
“We expect a tough game, for sure,” said Barons captain Josh Green. “It’s probably fresh in their minds, the defeat from last year. They’re going to be hungry to come in and get two points. We have to match that hunger and make sure we come out with a lot of enthusiasm, feed off our fans and hopefully get the win.”
Coach Todd Nelson said San Antonio’s methodical style forces teams to play with patience and discipline.
“It’s pretty important to get off on the right foot at home,” Nelson said. “We want to make it tough for teams to come in and play against us. Playing on the road is tough as it is. The last few years we’ve had good road records but we want to make sure we establish ourselves at home so when teams come in here they know it’s going to be a battle.”
Friday’s game is the first of a seven-game homestand.
“It’s always fun to play in front of your fans,” said goaltender Yann Danis. “You always want to do well, especially at home. Hopefully we’ll get a good crowd and that will get us going, for sure.”
Magnus Paajarvi will play on the Oklahoma City Barons’ top line to start the season alongside young Edmonton Oilers’ stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
“I think this is something everyone wanted to see last year (in Edmonton),” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “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.
“But this is a good opportunity for Magnus to play with those guys. He has speed. He creates scoring chances as it is. 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.”
Paajarvi (pronounced pie-are-vee) has scored 42 points in 121 games with Edmonton. He spent all of the 2010-11 season in the NHL but played half of last season in Oklahoma City. This is an opportunity to prove he no longer needs additional minor league seasoning.
“I’m going to go out and play my game,” Paajarvi said. “I know everybody talks about scoring, goals and assists. Of course I want to do that. If I play with Nuge and Ebs I will get my opportunities and they will get their opportunities. It’s going to happen.
“But I’m not too focused on being the scoring leader. I want to be a leader on the team defensively, too, and on the other hand obviously be a threat offensively with the line I’m playing on.”
This essentially is Nugent-Hopkins’ first opportunity to play with Paajarvi, who played in 48 games with the Barons last season when he was an integral part of the run to the Western Conference finals, scoring 11 points in 14 playoff games.
“Obviously (Paajarvi) is such a fast player who 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’s tough for defenders to keep up with. He’ll be able to push guys back and hopefully we can get some chemistry going early.”
Nelson said Paajarvi, 21, has matured some since last season.
“He seems more professional,” Nelson said. “He’s still a happy go-lucky guy. He’s always fun to be around. He has a great attitude. But he seems more business-like right now.”
Nelson stressed he won’t split up the line if it’s productive but he has other options.
“If we want more power we can put (Teemu) Hartikainen there,” Nelson said. “We have the luxury of a bunch of different combinations to see what works and what doesn’t work. But they look pretty good together right now, like there’s good chemistry. We’ll have to see if it translates into games.”
Here are the Barons’ forward lines heading into the season opener Friday night at Lake Erie. The No. 5 line probably won’t be active for the opener but might play in a Saturday matinee:
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.
Officials for Infant Crisis Services said nearly 1,500 pounds of infant products and $4,500 in cash was raised during two Oklahoma City Barons preseason games last weekend.
Admission to the two preseason games against the Houston Aeros was free at the Cox Convention Center but the Barons asked fans to make donations.
Suggested donation items included sippy cups, baby bottles, new or gently used toys, Good Start formula, diapers, pacifiers and other infant products that help provide the basic necessities to life to more than 14,000 babies and toddlers in central Oklahoma each year.
Barons left winger Kristians Pelss scored a goal in Friday’s preseason game which was his pro debut after scoring 28 goals for Edmonton’s minor league team in the Western Hockey League last season.
“I was preparing for this game all summer,” Pelss said. “I was a little bit nervous but after (a while) I just forgot and played hockey.”
Playing division rival Houston in back-to-back preseason games Friday and Saturday night led to some chippy moments. Including the playoffs, the Barons played the Aeros more than 10 times last season.
“I know most every guy on that team,” said Teemu Hartikainen. “I’ve been hitting them and they’ve been hitting me. It’s a rough team. They play hard and we play hard. Of course, when you play hard emotions come.”
Center Ryan Martindale, who had a goal and an assist in Friday’s 4-0 win, said the two teams know each other well.
“Coach (Todd) Nelson really stressed to us that we’ve played them so many times that we had to set the tempo now going into the season,” Martindale said. “We can’t give them an inch. They know what to expect when we play them during the season.”
Coach Todd Nelson said: “When we always play teams within our division we want to try to establish a mental edge. I thought our guys did that.”
Barons defenseman Justin Schultz, a two-time All-American at Wisconsin, is making his pro debut in Oklahoma City. He started Friday’s preseason game and drew an interference penalty 12 seconds into the game.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Schultz said. “We were both going back for the puck and our skates clipped each other and I got a penalty I guess for interference. I was in shock. It’s a good story… After the first few shifts I kind of got used to the pace.”
Schultz, though, had a solid debut. He scored a power play goal in the second period in a 4-0 win.
“It went pretty well and we still don’t have our whole lineup with Nuge (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and Ebs (Jordan Eberle),” Schultz said. “We still have a lot more, to show how deep this team is.”
Barons left winger Teemu Hartikainen split time between Oklahoma City and Edmonton last season.
In Oklahoma City’s preseason opener Friday night, a 4-0 win over Houston, the Finland native contributed two assists on power play goals in the second period.
When the NHL lockout ends Hartikainen is one of the top candidates to join the Oilers.
“I know exactly what the coaches need me to do and I have to do it if I’m going to play in the NHL,” Hartikainen said. “I know my role is to be a playmaker… I know what I have to do.”