TORONTO -- After sitting out the previous two games, Kenny Ryan made a loud statement Sunday according to his head coach Steve Spott.
The Marlies centre set up three goals, including the game-winner, as Toronto cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Oklahoma City Barons in American Hockey League action.
"He came in and gave us great minutes on that fourth line with (Brad) Staubitz and (Jamie) Devane," said Spott. "Kenny's one of those guys that can be an unsung hero. He kills penalties, he plays against other team's top lines and he brings us that speed and energy that you need on the depth of your lineup."
After Anton Lander opened the scoring, Ryan set up Greg McKegg and Devane sixty-eight seconds apart in the second. Ryan also set up McKegg's second of the night in the third.
Brandon Kozun had the other goal for the Marlies (31-17-4) who've won three straight and earned a spilt in the season series with Oklahoma City winning one game a piece.
"I think I've been struggling a little bit trying to get my feet underneath me and felt like the breaks weren't going my way," said Ryan, who was playing in his 27th game with the Marlies. "Tonight I was pretty confident out there. Making plays, hanging on to pucks as long as I could and fortunately got a couple bounces."
With the loss the Barons (23-24-7) dropped two of three in a three-game, three-night stretch over the weekend.
The Barons won the only other meeting of the season between the two clubs, 5-3, Jan. 30 in Oklahoma City.
Garret Sparks, who was making his first start since Jan. 31, made 38 saves for the win and improved to 2-2-0 at Ricoh Coliseum this season.
Richard Bachman made 27 saves for his 14th loss of the season.
Kozun made it 4-1, on a power play, at 17:10 re-directing a T.J. Brennan shot past Bachman.
McKegg's second of the night at 9:42 gave the Marlies a 3-1 lead. McKegg picked up a pass from Ryan and beat Bachman blocker-side for his 13th of the season on a power play.
With the two-goal game, McKegg now has four goals and four assists in seven February games.
"He's now turning himself into a legitimate NHL prospect and I'm sure there's a number of teams, not only the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the 29 other teams that are seeing that as well," said Spott. "It's great to see the confidence that he's playing with."
The Marlies scored twice in just over a minute during the middle frame to erase an early 1-0 deficit.
McKegg tied it 1-1 at 8:34 taking a Stuart Percy feed and one timing it over the glove hand of Bachman for his 12th of the season.
Just over a minute later, Devane slapped a loose puck past a screened Bachman for his third of the season giving Toronto its first lead, 2-1.
Oklahoma City opened the scoring on a second period 5-on-3 power play as Lander's pass re-directed off of Korbinian Holzer and past Sparks at 3:48 of the second.
Toronto had an excellent chance to open the scoring at 12:15 of the first period as Josh Leivo re-directed a Ryan feed past Bachman, but hit the post.
With a minute remaining in the opening period, Mark Acrobello beat Sparks glove-side but rang his shot off the post.
Just prior to the Acrobello chance, Peter Holland got a shot through the pads of Bachman, but Barons' defenceman David Musil was there to clear the rolling puck before it crossed the goal line.
"He's so dynamic. The challenge we have now is do you play him with Kozun, Leivo, Abbott so we'll have to make some decisions as we go forward," Spott said of Holland. "He's a puck procession guy, he likes to move the puck and he's just so dynamic through the neutral zone.
"A good effort by him. He hasn't played hockey in a long time. He's been off for quite some time with the break. He'll only get better as we go."
Holland was playing his first game with the Marlies since being re-assigned on Saturday. In three games with the Marlies this season, Holland has three goals.
With the March 5 NHL trade deadline fast approaching a plethora of scouts were in attendance to watch the Maple Leafs and Oilers affiliates Sunday. Spott said he's noticed chatter among his players.
"We have a room there where guys get coffee, you definitely hear some of the banter, but all they can do is control their play," said Spott. "They can't control anything else outside of that so, it's just staying positive and allowing them to play.
"We're a four line team, we get everybody out on the ice, and if they want an opportunity to continue to play in the National Hockey League, it's a great program to be in."