GAME PREVIEW: The San Antonio Rampage (26-25-1-4) return to the AT&T Center for an afternoon matchup with the Oklahoma City Barons (27-21-2-6) on the Rampage’s sixth annual Pucks & Paws night on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Tonight’s game is the tenth meeting between the division rivals this season and the two clubs will tussle two more times at AT&T Center in March to wrap up the season series. Oklahoma City enters today’s game on a two game losing streak dating back to a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday at the Cox Convention Center. The Barons have also dropped six of their last ten games. Last night, Rockford’s Jimmy Hayes recorded a hat trick as the IceHogs defeated the Barons, 7-4, in Oklahoma City. The Barons led the game, 4-1, early in the second period but surrendered six unanswered goals on their way to the loss. San Antonio enters today’s game on a four-game winning streak at the AT&T Center. On Friday, the Rampage came out on top after a franchise record 12-round shootout to defeat the Texas Stars, 5-4, at the Cedar Park Center. Greg Rallo scored his team leading 18th and 19th goals of the season, while goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris stopped 36 of the 40 shots in regulation and 10 of the 12 shooters he faced in the shootout to secure the win. The victory pulled the Rampage above .500 for the first time this season and was also the team’s third straight shootout victory after dropping their first four shootouts. Oklahoma City currently occupies fourth place in the South Division and are 10th in the Western Conference with 62 points. San Antonio is currently fifth in the South Division and 13th in the Western Conference with 57 points. San Antonio trails the Abbotsford Heat by seven points for the eighth, and final, playoff spot in the Western Conference.
AGAINST THE BARONS: The Rampage are 13-14-0-1 all-time against Oklahoma City and are 7-5-0-0 at the AT&T Center. This season, San Antonio is 4-4-0-1 against the Barons with Oklahoma City holding the scoring edge, 27-22. In their last meeting, Ryan Martindale scored late in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and secure a 2-1 victory for the Barons on Jan. 19th in Oklahoma City. Home ice has been the deciding factor in the season series, as San Antonio is a perfect 3-0-0-0 at home and has outscored Oklahoma City, 9-5, at AT&T Center. Despite winning two of their last three on the road, the Barons have struggled away from home this season and own a 10-13-0-4 record away from the Cox Convention Center.
Since the end of the NHL lockout, the Barons have had to make do without NHL regulars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as high-flying rookie Justin Schultz who were all recalled by the Edmonton Oilers. The quartet combined for 153 points in 113 games for the Barons. Since their departure on Jan. 5th, Oklahoma City has gone 10-10-1-3 and have fallen out of the current playoff picture. Eberle’s 51 points still leads the team, although he has not suited up for the Barons in more than two months.
Of the remaining Barons, Marc Arcobello leads Oklahoma City with 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) this season. Against San Antonio, Arcobello has seven points (one goal, six assists) in nine games including the game-tying goal against the Rampage on Dec. 28th. Jonathan Cheechoo, who led the NHL in scoring during the 2005-06 season, has also bolstered the Barons recently, scoring 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 17 games.
The Rampage have had to shuffle their roster of late, as injuries for the Florida Panthers have led to several call ups. Missing from the San Antonio lineup is goaltender Jacob Markstrom, leading-scoring defenseman Colby Robak and team captain Nolan Yonkman -- all of whom were recalled within the last week. On Tuesday, the Panthers defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4-1, while featuring eight players that have worn a Rampage uniform at some point this season. Markstrom also earned his first NHL victory of the year in the game, while Robak recorded his first NHL point in the win.
To fill those roster spots, the Rampage signed defenseman David MacDonald and former Rampage winger Evan Barlow to PTOs on Thursday. Barlow played in 57 games for the Rampage last season, scoring 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in that span. Barlow opened this season with the ECHLs San Francisco Bulls and Reading Royals, where he recorded 15 points in 13 combined games. Most recently, Barlow spent 20 games with Hershey Bears and tallied two goals and three assists. Before singing with San Antonio, MacDonald led the Cyclones in games played (60) and recorded 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists), along with a plus-7 rating from the blueline.
San Antonio’s leading scorer, Jon Rheault, will return to the Rampage lineup this afternoon after a weeklong call up to Florida. Rheault made his NHL debut on March 5 and played three games up with the Panthers. The Arlington, Texas native leads the Rampage in points with 37 (17 goals, 20 assists) in 50 games and leads the Rampage with six points in nine games against Oklahoma City this season.
In net, Dov Grumet-Morris has taken over starting duties and has won three of his last four starts. Grumet-Morris has made three apearances against the Barons and owns a 1-1-0 record, posting a 2.16 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Goaltender Brian Foster, who was recalled from Cincinnati this week, played in two games against Oklahoma last season, going 0-1-0 with a 2.98 goals against average.
The Barons own the league’s best power play at home (31-for-120, 25.8%), but haven’t had as much success on the road, currently with the ninth best power play, (22-for-123, 17.9%). The Rampage penalty kill has fallen to 19th best in the league (43-for-249, 82.7%) and are 15th best at home (17-for-110, 84.5%). The Rampage are 4-for-33 against the Barons this season with the man advantage, while Oklahoma City is 5-for-36 against the Rampage on the power play.