The Oklahoma City Barons end a three-game American Hockey League homestand at 7 p.m. Tuesday, hosting Rockford at the Cox Center.
Oklahoma City (36-17-8) continues to top the Western Division with a 10-point standings lead over Abbotsford and San Antonio. The Barons want to win the division championship, sure, but the bigger goals finishing the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Barons currently lead that race, too, but they have only a five-point advantage over the Toronto Marlies. Home ice advantage throughout the conference side of the postseason is the prize.
The top-eight teams in each conference make the postseason, which begins in mid-April.
*Reader Reg Bamford of Edmond requests The Oklahoman list the Barons players who were not on the active playoff roster submitted to league by coach Todd Nelson. Here they are: goaltender Olivier Roy, defensemen Kevin Montgomery and Kirill Tulupov and forwards Curtis Hamilton, Tanner House, Andrew Lord and Ryan Martindale. All seven can continue to practice with the team but are ineligible for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs unless the Barons' active roster dips below 17 available players due to injury, suspension or promotion to the Edmonton Oilers.
The Barons are without defensemen Alex Plante (concussion) and Dan Ringwald (unspecified injury), goaltender Yann Danis (sore knee) and forward Linus Omark (with the Oilers), so Roy, House, Martindale and Montgomery remain active. Once an active-rostered player returns, one of the latter four will return to the inactive list.
*Former Oklahoma City Blazers and NHL enforcer Wade Brookbank has come out of retirement and signed with Rockford. Brookbank retired at the end of last season, his 14th in pro hockey. So far, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound defenseman has an assist and 21 penalty minutes in five games. Brookbank, 34, has been in at least two scraps, one with Anthony Peluso of Peoria and another with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond of Abbotsford. Both fights have been posted on YouTube. It is not known whether Brookbank will play Tuesday against Oklahoma City.
*Nelson and his staff have the Barons close to a second consecutive 40-win, playoff season despite a rotating door of player movement with Edmonton and Double-A Stockton. The Barons have been affected by 90 transactions this season, which means several Oklahoma City players are getting time in the NHL and some Stockton players are advancing to the AHL. In the grand scheme of things, the “here one week, gone the next” is a good thing. Prospects in OKC are developing.
Last season, when Oklahoma City finished 40-29-11, the Barons were affected by 95 transactions.
*The Barons have a three-games-in-three-nights road trip, Friday and Saturday against the Texas Stars in Austin and a Sunday game in Houston. Even before the team leaves, players will get a tough workout from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, when they join Olympic prospects at the Devon Boathouse for rowing lessons. The Barons will then spend 45 minutes on the Oklahoma River.
BY SCOTT MUNN