Three division foes are familiar rivals, but there is a change in the Oklahoma City Barons division for the 2013-14 season.
American Hockey League officials announced on Thursday the Abbotsford Heat will play in the newly named West Division, joining the Barons, San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars and Charlotte Checkers.
Abbotsford replaces the Houston Aeros, who relocated to Iowa and will play in the Midwest Division.
The flip-flop could impact the 76-game schedule, which will be released in mid-August.
In the 30-team AHL, Western Conference teams don't play the Eastern Conference during the regular season to help with travel costs and provide more opportunities to play on weekends. As a result, more than half of the Barons' games last season — 40 — were against division rivals.
Oklahoma City played 12 games against Texas, 10 versus Houston, 10 against San Antonio and eight against Charlotte.
Four of the Barons' five division members made the playoffs last season, every team except San Antonio. Triple-A rosters constantly change, but the West Division is trading a playoff team (Houston) for a non-playoff team (Abbotsford).
Rounding out the Western Conference are the defending Calder Cup champions Grand Rapids Griffins, Iowa Wild, Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs and Milwaukee Admirals (Midwest Division); Hamilton Bulldogs, Toronto Marlies, Rochester Americans, Lake Erie Monsters and Utica Comets.
The other change is Utica, N.Y., replaces the Peoria Rivermen. The Comets will be affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks. The St. Louis Blues sold the Peoria franchise and signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Wolves, the Canucks' former Triple-A partner.
Hockey season in Oklahoma City begins Sept. 27 with an NHL preseason game at the Cox Convention Center, the Edmonton Oilers hosting the Dallas Stars.
The Barons open their 38-game home schedule on Oct. 4-5. OKC knows a handful of its early season home dates (Nov. 12, 15 and 16 and Dec. 20-21). For tickets, call the Barons office at 232-GOAL.
AHL notes: Most AHL clubs received a postseason award. The Barons were commended for having unique game operations (gave away 12 new vehicles), community relations and social media promotion (Barons buddies). ... The primary reason the AHL schedule is announced in mid-August is the league must wait until the NBA finalizes its schedule. A handful of AHL teams share arenas with an NBA team and must wait to see what dates are available.