Morning Skate Report: Heat vs. Barons - 10.11.12
On Friday night, forward Paul Byron made his 2012-13 season debut after missing the first nine games of the year with an upper body injury he sustained during off-season training. The 23 year-old had been practicing with the club for a week prior to suiting up for his first game of the year in order to get his conditioning up to snuff.
"I thought I was pretty prepared going into last night's game," he said after the Heat's morning skate. "I knew getting a good start was key, especially since we've been having slow starts lately. I wanted to be able to provide a little energy, a little jump early in the game."
In his first shift of the night, Byron whizzed through the Barons zone, wreaking havoc with his speed and skill. He ended up generating a scoring opportunity when he was able to dance around a defender during that shift, showing no signs of rink rust at all.
"The one thing about Paul is he competes really hard, he sticks his nose into you pretty hard and then he gets off," head coach Troy Ward said after the game. "He doesn't long shift you. He doesn't play winded. He's a smaller guy who plays with everything he's got. I think he controls his ice really well. It was a nice addition to our team."
One of the most noticeable aspects of Byron's game on Friday was his physicality. The 5-foot-9, 175 lbs. pivot plays a big game and doesn't shy away from physical play. He finished all his checks and was always in the mix when any pushing and shoving started.
"He's got the heart of a lion," Ward summarized. "He'll go after you every time he can and that's his nature.
"That's probably his biggest gift, why prior to coming to our organization he had some success at this level and he's had some success in Calgary. He gives you everything he's got."
Given his lengthy recovery, one may assume Byron would want to play a more cautious style of game in his first few outings of the season but that isn't the case.
"(The injury) wasn't on my mind at all," he stated. "I wasn't worried about getting hit. I was worried about going out there and playing my game, that's it. Getting back to what made me successful last year and building on that."
Byron was acquired by the Flames on June 25, 2011 in a four-player deal with Buffalo. He played 22 games in Calgary last year, amassing three goals and five points. He suited up for 39 games with the Heat in 2011-12, notching seven goals and 21 points.
After falling 4-0 on Friday night, the Oklahoma City Barons will be looking to pick up their game tonight and quell the surging Heat. The Barons were unable to contain Abbotsford's red hot power play and couldn't find a way to beat the AHL's best penalty kill during five opportunities with the man advantage.
Adam Estoclet expects to see a big push-back from the Barons but feels his team can sweep the series if they stick to the game plan they have employed all year.
"When we play our systems, it's pretty tough to beat us. As a lot of people have seen so far, we're pretty patient and prepared in what we do.
"If we stick to our systems, we should be alright."
Former Heat defenceman Jordan Henry made his Oklahoma City debut on Friday night after playing two games with the Oilers ECHL affiliate, the Stockton Thunder. He signed a PTO with the club on Thursday. He started the 2012-13 season in Sweden with Södertälje, collecting two points in seven games.
Henry is the first player to skate for both teams in the AHL version of the Battle of Alberta.
Tonight's game can be viewed on Sportsnet at 8:00 PM MT and listened to on Team Radio.