By Jim Byers, on 10/05/2012

WHEN LAST SEEN: The Barons fi nished the 2011-12 season with the best record in the Western Conference and the second-best mark in the 30-team AHL at 45-22-4-5, good for 99 points. OKC defeated Houston 3 games to 1 in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs before dispatching the San Antonio Rampage 4 games to 1 in the second round. The Barons won 3 straight OT games vs. the Rampage and broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth and final game on a goal by Ryan Keller with 2:06 remaining in regulation. OKC split the fi rst 2 games of the Western Conference fi nal with the Toronto Marlies at the Cox Center before dropping all 3 contests at Ricoh Coliseum.

WITH THE FIRST SELECTION...: OKC is slated to start the regular season Oct. 12 at Lake Erie with a pair of recent Edmonton Oilers’ first-round picks in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle and a coveted rookie defenseman out of the University of Wisconsin, Justin Schultz. Eberle, a Lady Byng finalist and NHL All-Star Game participant last year, has 2 full seasons of NHL experience after being the 22nd overall pick in 2008. Nugent-Hopkins, a rookie and Calder Memorial Trophy finalist last season, was the No. 1 overall pick in 2011. Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz were ticketed to return to Edmonton this season but were assigned to OKC last month prior to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and NHLPA.

BARONS-AEROS HISTORY: The Barons won of 7 of 8 regular-season meetings with Houston last year, dropping only a shootout March 18 at Toyota Center. Yann Danis played all 8 games in the 2011-12 season series, allowing a total of 11 goals while lodging a 1.32 GAA and .946 save percentage against the Aeros. In the playoffs against Houston, Danis went 3-1 with 1 shutout, a 1.01 GAA and .947 save percentage. In OKC’s inaugural AHL season, 2010-11, Houston won 9 of 10 games against OKC, including an overtime and a pair of shutouts. Counting regular season and playoffs, the Barons are 5-4-1-1 vs. Houston at the Cox Center and 6-3-0-2 at Toyota Center.

FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Admission is free to tonight’s and tomorrow’s games with a donation of goods or funds to Infant Crisis Services in Oklahoma City. Suggested donation items include sippy cups, baby bottles, new or gently used toys, Good Start formula, diapers, Baby Bath, baby shampoo, baby lotion, pacifiers and coats in sizes from 2T – 6. Fans are asked to bring their donations to the Cox Convention Center Box Office on the evening of the game. Donations will be accepted beginning at 5 pm. Doors open at 6 pm. Infant Crisis Services provides the basic necessities of life to more than 14,000 babies and toddlers in central Oklahoma each year.

THIS AND THAT: After being in the West Division the previous 2 seasons, the Barons are now part of a 5-team South Division with Texas, San Antonio, Houston and Charlotte...the latter joins this region after playing out of the Midwest last season and replaces Abbotsford, which moved to the North...goaltender Ian Keserich and winger Gary Steffes were released yesterday, bringing the number of players currently in Barons camp to 32 (29 skaters and 3 goalies)...19 of the 32 players in camp played at least one game for the Barons last season...20 of the 32 current Barons were born in the 1990s.

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