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Weekly Report: April 14, 2014

Charlotte Checkers Weekly Report
The race for the playoffs comes down to the final week of the season as the Checkers look to finish strong and receive a healthy dose of assistance.

After starting with a 3-0 victory over the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday, the Checkers’ hopes took a hit when they fell by a 2-1 score in Sunday’s rematch at Time Warner Cable Arena. With just two games left to play, they are ninth in the Western Conference and two points behind the eighth-place Oklahoma City Barons, though the Barons have played one fewer game.

Before making their final road trip of the regular season to play Milwaukee and Rockford on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the Checkers will have eyes on a Wednesday slate that sees Rochester and Oklahoma City play their games in hand.

Week in Review

Team Statistics

  • Overall record
    37-34-3
  • Home record
    19-18-1
  • Road record
    18-16-2
  • Last week's record
    1-1-0
  • Last 10 games
    5-5-0
  • Division Standings
    4th
  • Conference Standings
    9th
  • League Standings
    18th

Checkers 3, Grand Rapids 0

Victor Rask, Brett Sutter and Zach Boychuk scored in the game’s first 14 minutes and John Muse took care of the rest with 30 saves as the Checkers earned a 3-0 victory over the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday. Muse’s shutout was his fifth of the season and seventh as a Checker, the latter of which tied Justin Peters’ club record, while Boychuk increased league leads with his 36th goal and 18th power-play goal of the season. With the win, the Checkers briefly took hold of eighth place in the Western Conference. Full recap

Grand Rapids 2, Checkers 1

The Griffins scored twice to cancel out Philippe Cornet’s opening goal and a stellar performance by goaltender Tom McCollum prevented the home team from getting points it desperately needed as Grand Rapids defeated the Checkers by a 2-1 score at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sunday. Fourteen of McCollum’s 35 saves came in a third period that saw Charlotte come up empty despite significant pressure in the offensive zone. The loss and a subsequent win by Oklahoma City saw the Checkers fall two points back in the Western Conference playoff race with two games to play. Full recap

Notables

Playoff Picture

Western Conference Standings

  Team GP PTS ROW
7. Rochester 73 81 32
8. OKC 73 79 31
9. Charlotte 74 77 33
10. Rockford 74 77 30
11. Utica 73 75 26
With two games left in their regular season, the Checkers find themselves ninth in the Western Conference. They are still capable of catching the seventh-place Rochester Americans and the eighth-place Oklahoma City Barons, who currently occupy the only remaining playoff spots that have yet to be clinched.

In order for the Checkers to catch Rochester, they would need to win each of their two remaining games at Milwaukee and at Rockford and hope that Rochester does not earn a point in any of its remaining three contests at Utica, vs. Syracuse and at Toronto. The teams would then be tied with 81 points, with the Checkers holding the tiebreaker by way of more regulation/overtime wins (ROW).

There are a number of ways the Checkers could still catch Oklahoma City. They could do so with as little as two points earned in their last two games, a scenario that requires the Barons to come up pointless in their remaining three contests vs. Texas and at Iowa (twice), with the Checkers then winning the ROW tiebreaker. However, that scenario would allow the possibility of Rockford and Utica to overtake both teams. If the Checkers were to take the maximum four points still left on the table, they would still need the Barons to earn no more than two.

Though Rochester and Oklahoma City each play one game on Wednesday, the Checkers are assured of still being in the race at the time of their next game in Milwaukee on Friday, as Oklahoma City cannot mathematically exceed their reach before then. Even if the Checkers win their game at Milwaukee, they could feasibly be eliminated before their finale on Sunday if Rochester earns a point AND Oklahoma City earns more than two in their next two games.

Boychuk's All-Star Season

Checkers forward Zach Boychuk leads the league with 36 goals and 18 power-play goals and ranks second with 72 points. All of those marks are career highs and franchise records, helping him earn a spot on the AHL's Second All-Star team announced April 10. He is in the driver's seat for the Willie Marshall award, given to the AHL's top goal scorer each season, as he currently has four more goals than Texas' Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour, who are tied for second, and six more goals than Binghamton's Mike Hoffman and Grand Rapids' Teemu Pulkkinen, who are tied for fourth.

Boychuk's previous career highs were 23 goals (2012-13), 65 points (2010-11) and 10 power-play goals (2012-13). He owned the previous franchise record for points, while his goal total surpasses Chris Terry's 34 in 2010-11 and his power-play goals total surpassed Jacob Micflikier's 12, also in 2010-11.

Boychuk, who earned the AHL's Player of the Month award in March, has 27 points (13g, 14a) in 21 games since March 1. The AHL has not had a 40-goal scorer since Oklahoma City's Colin McDonald (42) and Hamilton's Nigel Dawes (41) both accomplished the feat in 2010-11.

Muse Shuts the Door

Checkers goalie John Muse earned his fifth shutout of the season with 30 saves against Grand Rapids on April 10. That puts him one shy of the team's single-season record set by Justin Peters last season and ties him for third in the AHL. With his seventh career shutout, all with the Checkers, Muse also tied Peters for most in team history.

Muse's win on April 10 also put him first on the Checkers' all-time list with 44, one more than teammate Mike Murphy. He has already set the team's single season record with 27 victories, five more than the previous record set by Justin Pogge in 2010-11 and tied by Peters last season. He is tied for third in the AHL in wins.

Floodgates Open

Mark Flood is enjoying the best goal-scoring season by a defenseman in Checkers history, with his 13 goals ranking fourth among AHL blueliners and breaking the old record of 10 set by Bobby Sanguinetti in 2011-12. Flood's eight power-play goals (third AHL defensemen) are also a new team record for a defenseman, breaking Sanguinetti's mark of seven also set in 2011-12.

Flood, who played his 500th professional game earlier this season, has already topped his previous AHL career high of 11 goals set with Manitoba in 2010-11. He scored just one goal in 52 games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL last season.

Power Players

Checkers Power Play by Season

2010-11 21.0% (3rd)
2011-12 19.8% (4th)
2012-13 20.2% (5th)
2013-14 22.3% (3rd)
Both Zach Boychuk (first AHL with 18) and Chris Terry (fifth with 14) have broken the franchise record for most power-play goals in a single season previously held by Jacob Micflikier (12 goals in 2010-11). Meanwhile, Mark Flood's eight power-play goals are the-third most by an AHL defenseman and are the most ever by a Checkers blueliner in a single season, breaking Bobby Sanguinetti's record of seven from 2011-12.

The 32 total goals by Boychuk and Terry are the most of any two teammates in the league, with Texas' Chris Mueller and Colton Sceviour coming in second with 28. Boychuk and Terry are responsible for 44.4 percent of the Checkers' 72 power-play goals this season. Terry ranks third in the league with 36 power-play points, while Boychuk is tied for fifth with 33.

The Checkers currently rank third in the AHL with a 22.3 percent success rate on the power play - a mark that, if sustained for the final two games of the season, would mark the highest of their four AHL campaigns. The team has never converted at a rate lower than 19.8 percent over the course an entire season.

Quick Hits

  • Victor Rask has 10 points (5g, 5a) in his last 10 games since March 23, which mark identical totals to his first 10 games of the season. In between those scretches, he scored 18 points (5g, 13a) in 54 outings.
  • Chris Terry ranks fifth in the AHL with 222 shots on goal. He has recorded at least one shot on goal in 111 consecutive games dating back to Dec. 28, 2012.
  • Chris Terry is three away from tying the club record for assists in a single season (43) set by Zach Boychuk in 2010-11 and tied by Terry in 2011-12.
  • Ryan Murphy has assists in seven consecutive road games, tying the second-longest active streak in the AHL.
  • Charlotte's seven regulation losses when leading after the first period (17-7-1) are tied with Bridgeport and Portland for the most in the AHL.
  • Brett Sutter has tied his career high of 29 assists set last season despite playing 10 fewer games.
  • Checkers defenseman Rasmus Rissanen ranks third in the AHL in terms of minor penalties by defensemen (37). Matt Corrente is tied for third in major penalties by defensemen (12).
  • The Checkers' 10 overtime games and six shootouts are the fewest in the league. Charlotte's .700 winning percentage in overtime (7-3) leads the league, as does its 41.9 shooting percentage in the shootout.
  • The Checkers' three shorthanded goals are the fewest in the AHL. They have never scored fewer than six in a single season.
  • Charlotte's final two games are against teams in the Midwest Division. It is 11-10-1 against the the Midwest, including a 2-1-0 record against Milwaukee and a 4-2-1 record against Rockford.

Player Streaks

  • Victor Rask has assists and points in each of his last three games (April 6-13: 1g, 3a)
  • Philippe Cornet has points in each of his last three games (April 6-13: 1g, 2a)

Milestones

  • Matt Marquardt is one shy of 400 professional games
  • Brody Sutter is one shy of 50 professional points
  • Matt Marquardt is two shy of 150 professional points
  • Chris Terry is two shy of 150 Checkers assists
  • Chris Terry is two shy of 300 AHL points

Injuries

  • Nicolas Blanchard - missed two games starting April 10
  • Greg Nemisz - missed 18 games starting March 8
  • Brendan Woods - missed 24 games starting Feb. 22

Transactions

Incoming

  • April 12 - (LW) Zach Boychuk reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
  • April 11 - (LW) Sergei Tolchinsky assigned to Charlotte from Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
  • April 10 - (D) Ryan Murphy reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)

Outgoing

  • None

This Week's Games

Friday, April 18 at 8 p.m. - Checkers at Milwaukee

Saturday, April 19 at 8 p.m. - Checkers at Rockford

By the Numbers

Team Statistics
CATEGORY RECORD AHL RANK LAST WEEK
Power play 22.3% t-2nd 22.4% (t-2nd)
Penalty kill 80.6% 23rd 80.6% (22nd)
Goals per game 3.03 t-11th 3.06 (12th)
Shots per game 32.0 8th 32.0 (9th)
Goals allowed per game 3.09 t-25th 3.15 (26th)
Shots allowed per game 32.6 27th 32.7 (27th)
Penalty minutes per game 14.9 10th 15.1 (10th)
Team Leaders
CATEGORY LEADERS
Points Zach Boychuk (72), Chris Terry (68), Aaron Palushaj (57)
Goals Zach Boychuk (36), Chris Terry (28), Aaron Palushaj (22)
Assists Chris Terry (40), Zach Boychuk (36), Aaron Palushaj (35)
Power play goals Zach Boychuk (18), Chris Terry (14), Mark Flood (8)
Shorthanded goals Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter, Chris Terry (1)
Game-winning goals Aaron Palushaj (6), Chris Terry (5), Zach Boychuk (4)
Shots on goal Chris Terry (222), Zach Boychuk (200), Aaron Palushaj (172)
Penalty minutes Matt Corrente (132), Nicolas Blanchard (111), Rasmus Rissanen (89)
Plus/minus Matt Corrente, Greg Nemisz (+9), Ryan Murphy (+7)
Wins John Muse (27), Mike Murphy (4)
Goals-against average John Muse (2.58), Mike Murphy (3.99)
Save percentage John Muse (.920), Mike Murphy (.881)

Checkers in the NHL

Carolina Hurricanes
(36-35-11: 7th Metropolitan Division - missed playoffs)
Player POS GP G A PTS PIM +/- NOTES
Zach Boychuk LW 11 1 3 4 0 2 Reassigned to Charlotte on April 12
Elias Lindholm C 58 9 12 21 4 -14  
Manny Malhotra C 69 7 6 13 18 0 2nd NHL with 59.4 faceoff percentage
Ryan Murphy D 48 2 10 12 10 -9 Reassigned to Charlotte on April 10
Aaron Palushaj RW 2 0 0 0 0 -1 Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 29
Brett Sutter C 17 1 1 2 9 -4 Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 11
Chris Terry LW 10 0 2 2 0 -4 Reassigned to Charlotte on April 4
Goaltender GP RECORD GAA SV% SO NOTES
Justin Peters 21 7-9-4 2.50 .919 1 Last dressed Jan. 31

Checkers in the ECHL

Florida Everblades
(37-27-8: 9th Eastern Conference - missed playoffs)
Player POS GP G A PTS PIM +/- NOTES
Kyle Bonis F 65 25 20 45 15 +9 2nd on team in goals, 4th points
Austin Levi D 53 2 13 15 55 0  
Stefan Della Rovere F 23 5 9 14 52 +3  
Sean Dolan C 3 2 2 4 2 0 Recalled to Charlotte on Feb. 6
Beau Schmitz D 12 1 4 5 4 +1 Injured Feb. 28, out 4-6 weeks
Kellan Tochkin F 55 11 29 40 48 +2 Assigned to Evansville on Feb. 8
Goaltender GP RECORD GAA SV% SO NOTES
Jesse Deckert 9 6-1-2 2.71 .891 0 Injured - out for season