Kings Recall & Activate Turcotte, Thomas Loaned to AHL + Ontario Reign Playoff Scenarios

The LA Kings made a few roster moves on their off day Tuesday, heading into the team’s regular-season finale later on this week.

– Forward Alex Turcotte has been recalled from his conditioning loan with the Ontario Reign. He has been activated from LTIR and added to the active roster.
– Forward Akil Thomas has been loaned to AHL-Ontario

The players swap in advance of the final NHL game of the regular season and the final week of the AHL’s regular season. The Kings will practice tomorrow and host Chicago on Thursday, while the Reign visit Bakersfield tomorrow evening. More context to follow on how these moves could impact Thursday’s lineup.

Turcotte has assists in each of his last two AHL games and had a +2 rating from the three he played in total. Thomas had a strong showing with four points (3-1-4) from seven NHL games played. He hasn’t played his way out of the playoff roster picture by any stretch. Lot of time between now and Game 1, let’s see how things play out.

As the Reign enter the final week of the AHL regular season, the team is in the thick of a race for positioning in the league’s Pacific Division.

Due to an uneven number of teams in each of the AHL divisions, the four groups of clubs all have different playoff formats for the first two rounds. The Pacific is the largest, with its 10 teams vying for seven postseason slots.

The spots are filled, with all seven teams already having clinched a playoff berth. But there are still a multitude of different scenarios for seeding. The No. 1 spot has been secured, with the Seattle Kraken affiliate, the second-year Coachella Valley Firebirds locking in the top seed with 45 wins and 100 points in the standings.

After that things are pretty fluid, with Ontario and Tucson sitting in a tie for second place, each with 87 points to their name and three regular season games remaining on the schedule.

The Reign’s final games include a trip to Bakersfield on Wednesday for a 6:30 p.m. matchup and a flight to Colorado for a back-to-back series that consists of a 6:05 p.m. battle on Saturday evening and a 2:05 contest on Sunday afternoon. Sunday’s clash is the last game among two contending Pacific Division teams and could be the final deciding factor for how the seeding shakes out.

If Ontario and Tucson remain deadlocked after Sunday, the Roadrunners own the tiebreaker, having won 37 contests in regulation compared to 32 for the Reign. Ontario will have to earn more points than Tucson this week to finish second, which would give them a guaranteed three home games in the opening round, as well as home ice positioning in round two, the Division Semifinals.

If the Reign end up in third, they’ll still maintain their home ice spot in the best-of-3 series to open the playoffs and host Game 1 on April 24.

The same would be true for finishing fourth, which would only happen if the Colorado Eagles, who still have four games to play this week, earn at least six of a possible eight remaining points. The Eagles are home on Tuesday and Wednesday night against San Diego before hosting Ontario to wrap up the regular season.

Having that home ice spot locked up was an important goal for Reign head coach Marco Sturm, who had a different experience a year ago when the team finished sixth and had to play on the road in Colorado. The Eagles used their home ice advantage, playing in front of a loud building, to eliminate Ontario in two games with a 3-2 overtime decision in Game 1 and a 6-4 finish two nights later in Game 2.

The Reign have also gotten in a groove at home in the second half of the regular season, finishing their schedule at Toyota Arena by earning a point in 14 consecutive contests from Feb. 9 until their home finale on Friday, a 4-3 overtime win over rival San Diego. Ontario went 11-0-0-3 during that span and finished 19-11-2-4 overall from their 36 contests in the Inland Empire.

“I think it’s very important,” Sturm said after the Reign posted a 5-4 win in Henderson on Saturday to officially lock up their home ice positioning. “The way we finished the season on home ice down the stretch, I’m happy. Forget about the traveling and all that kind of stuff, I think we felt more comfortable at home. The crowds have been great, and it should be fun.”

As for Ontario’s potential round one opponents, there are still four teams they could match up against. Abbotsford is one possibility, who currently occupies in fourth place with 83 points. The Canucks still have a shot at a home ice seed, but they are unable to pass the Reign, as they have just two remaining games this weekend against Calgary on Friday and Saturday. Ontario could also face Colorado if the Eagles struggle and drop from their current spot, fifth, to either the sixth or seventh seed.

Then there’s Bakersfield, the only potential opponent within driving distance of Ontario. This is where the most confusing scenarios lie. If the Reign finished third or fourth and match up with the Condors, who are currently in sixth with 80 points and three scheduled games remaining, the series would be in a different format, due to the proximity of the two cities. In that outcome, Ontario would host Games 1 and if it’s necessary, Game 3, but they’d travel to Bakersfield for the middle game of the series. The Condors host the Reign on Wednesday before closing the season with a home-and-home series against Henderson.

“They’re a good team on paper,” Sturm recently said when discussing Bakersfield. “They play us hard all the time. If they have their lineup and especially with Holloway in, I think he’s one of the best players in the league, it’s going to be tough. We’re going to try to set the tone and send a little bit of a message on Wednesday and then we’ll see who we get in the playoffs.”

Finally, the Calgary Wranglers, who are currently in seventh with 78 points, can still move up to as high as fifth depending on their results from a weekend series in Abbotsford. Those two teams faced each other twice last week as well in Alberta and the Canucks got the better of the Wranglers, winning by a 3-1 score on back-to-back nights. While Calgary has lost three straight and only has four wins from their last 10 matchups, their roster could be reinforced with multiple players who have been in the NHL with the Flames over the past few weeks, including Dustin Wolf, a two-time AHL Goaltender of the Year and last season’s league MVP.

Despite all the fluidity, the Reign are still focused on their own game and playing the right way. Sturm has not sat down with the team to go over the above scenarios, other than to recognize them for the work they’ve done to be able to start at home.

The memory of how things ended last year has continued to fuel him and the rest of the group this season and finishing with a good week prior to the postseason can better set them up for success when the intensity ramps up next week.

“Just thinking about last year going into Colorado, those fans, they pushed their team,” Sturm said. “Especially in Game 2, they were loud and excited and it helped them. Hopefully, we’re going to get the same energy and a crowd like they had last year and we can give them a few good games.”

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