The Tucson Roadrunners return to the ice Sunday, when they host the Ontario Reign in the first of a two-game series.
It is the first time this season that the Roadrunners will play the Reign, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, and Tucson’s first game of any kind since Nov. 25.
The Roadrunners and Reign will face each other again Tuesday night.
Tucson enters the game with the best record in the AHL’s Pacific Division, but the Roadrunners will be without Dylan Strome. Strome, arguably Tucson’s best player, was called up to the Arizona Coyotes a week ago.
“All our guys get a bigger role now,” Roadrunners head coach Mike Van Ryn said. “As players they always want that so now there’s an opportunity to compete for a little bit more ice. It goes to the old say, ‘Who wants ice? Show me.’”
In 15 games with the Roadrunners, Strome led the team with 26 points by way of eight goals and 18 assists.
Tucson’s practices the past week were the same as usual, forward Michael Bunting said, noting that call-ups like Strome’s occur regularly in the AHL.
“Obviously, Strome is an elite talent around here and he deserved a callup, but that’s hockey,” Bunting said.
“Everyone gets up and down so you just go in and nothing really changes with you.”
The Roadrunners could also be without Andrew Campbell, who was also summoned to the NHL last week.
The 29-year old Campbell is a veteran presence on the roster and serves as the team captain.
“You just practice with what you’ve got and deal with what you have when that game day comes,” Van Ryn said. “That’s the AHL. Things change all the time.”
The Roadrunners had a productive week of practice leading up to an idle Friday and Saturday, a rarity in Tucson’s schedule.
The team did skate-arounds both days to stay fresh.
The days off gave the Roadrunners an eight-day break between games, which is the longest such break of the regular season.
“It’s really nice to kind of relax for a couple days,” defenseman Dakota Mermis said. “It’s a long week but it goes by quick. You don’t get a lot of time like that so there’s a lot of rest, going to the pool, sleeping in, whatever.”
The Roadrunners enter Sunday with just 18 games under their belt, which is the fewest in the AHL. In fact, Tucson has played eight fewer games than the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Tucson has a busy December ahead to catch up with the rest of the league. Sunday marks the first of seven games in a 10-day stretch.