Preseason games announced.

The Las Vegas Wranglers announced a pair of preseason games with the Reign on Thursday.

The Wranglers will visit Citizens Business Bank Arena on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m., then host the Reign the next day at Orleans Arena at 2 p.m. Along with seven regular-season dates, that brings the number of Vegas visits to eight this season.

It’s possible that the Reign will announce another preseason game, however, the team has never played more than two games in a single preseason.

The Reign open the regular season at home on Oct. 14 against the Bakersfield Condors.

Chaz Johnson is Chicago-bound.

Chaz Johnson, who led the Reign in goals last season, has signed with the expansion Chicago Express.

It’s no secret how he was lured east. Johnson played for Express coach Steve Martinson for parts of five different seasons (2005-06, ’06-07, ’07-08, ’08-09, ’09-10) for the United Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs and ECHL’s Elmira Jackals. Johnson also expressed a desire at the end of the season to be closer to his young daughter in Elmira without actually playing for the Jackals. Mission accomplished.

Johnson was a threat to score, hit and fight every night — especially
in the final 20 games of the season, when he scored 11 of his
team-leading 22 goals. He finished the season with the American Hockey League-affiliate Manchester Monarchs.

Dual-affiliation talks continue.

Reign president Justin Kemp said Tuesday that he is still having “serious discussions” with one NHL team about becoming the Reign’s second affiliate for next season.

Asked to estimate the chances of it happening at this point, Kemp said, “hopefully 75 percent, at least.”

But time is of the essence. Signing an affiliation agreement as soon as possible “would be more beneficial to us than to the NHL team,” Kemp said.

Each summer, typically in July, Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall gives Reign coach Karl Taylor an early estimate of who might be assigned to Ontario. That’s an important part of the process of building the team’s roster. The second affiliate would already be behind schedule in providing its estimate.

Kemp also wants to be able to incorporate the second affiliate into the Reign’s promotions.

The Reign have been the sole ECHL affiliate of the Kings since their inception. Hextall said three weeks ago that “we weren’t too excited about” sharing Ontario with another NHL team.

Kemp said he would be respectful of the Kings’ interests and exclude the Ducks, who share the Southern California sports market, from any affiliation talks. He did not specify which of the other 28 NHL teams he’s still talking to.

A strong, but unconfirmed, possibility is the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks lost their ECHL affiliate when the Victoria Salmon Kings ceased operations, so it would make sense that Canucks management would seek out a new affiliate (one in the same time zone, no less).

With both the Kings and Canucks both expected to battle for the top playoff seeds in the Western Conference, that could create an interesting dynamic if prospects from both teams are playing in Ontario.

Reign re-sign Morrison, team’s leading scorer.

The Reign have already done something this summer that they could not do a year ago: Convince their leading scorer to come back.

Jordan Morrison, whose 35 assists and 55 points led the Reign last season, has re-signed, the team announced today. The 25-year-old was a point-per-game player after Jan. 1, when he moved to center from the wing and was paired with skilled winger Alex Bourret.

The challenge for Morrison will be to pick up where he left off and avoid another slow start. Through his first 28 games of last season, Morrison had five goals and 12 points.

Morrison did not sound as if he was leaning toward a return immediately after the season, when he said “I’ve been in this league a few years now. It might be time for a change.”

Greg Hogeboom signed in the Central Hockey League a year ago after leading the Reign in goals and points in 2009-10. In fat, of the Reign’s top seven scorers that season, only six returned.

In Morrison and Kyle Kraemer, Karl Taylor has already re-signed two of his top three players in points-per-game from a year ago. Bourret is the other. (There’s been no announcement yet on where Bourret, who has been playing summer hockey in Quebec, will play next season.)

Morrison, Kraemer, goalies Beau Erickson and Jase Weslosky, and defensemen Jason Fredricks and Chad Starling, give the Reign six returning players under contract for next season. Of these players, only Starling counts toward the four-veteran limit.

We’ll try to catch up with Morrison tomorrow (presuming the antibiotics are working in the sick ward of Chez Hoornstra.)

ECHL cancels ’12 ASG, modifies icing rule.

There will be no ECHL All-Star Game in 2012, and the league’s no-touch icing rule will undergo a slight modification, the league’s Board of Governors has decided.

Per a league press release,

ECHL will not conduct an All-Star Game during the 2011-12 season. The
League is exploring opportunities for an outdoor game and other special
events for the ECHL’s 25th Anniversary season in 2012-13. The annual
Hall of Fame Induction luncheon will be held in conjunction with the
Mid-Season Meeting on Wednesday, January 18 at a yet to be determined

The league also tweaked its icing rule in a move that should only increase offense:

ECHL has adopted the attainable icing standard in conjunction with
no-touch icing. Under this icing standard, the linesman shall have
discretion to wave off apparent icing infractions on attempted passes if
those passes are deemed receivable (attainable).  In order for the
linesman to wash out the icing for this reason, the receiving player’s
stick must be on the attacking side of the center red line.

rule changes for the 2011-12 season may be voted on by the Board of
Governors at the Preseason Meeting in September, including adoption of
new language relating to hits to the head.

Two other notable decisions were announced by the Board. The Reign will remain in the same division with Bakersfield, Stockton and Las Vegas, as expected, while Colorado will join the Mountain Division, taking the place of Victoria. In the Eastern Conference, the Trenton Titans will take the Trenton Devils’ place in the Atlantic Division, while the Chicago Express will join Cincinnati, Kalamazoo and Toledo in the North Division.

Also, Gwinnett Gladiatiors president Steve Chapman was re-elected to serve a sixth term as Chairman of the Board of Governors.