Injuries and call-ups have done a number on the Checkers’ blue line, which could have a whole new look heading into the weekend.
Possibly the biggest blow comes with the loss of Jake Chelios, who sat out from practice all week and won’t be making the three-week road trip with the Checkers.
“Cheli is going to be out for a while with a hand injury,” said head coach Mike Vellucci.
The Checkers could also be without Brenden Kichton, who made his Charlotte debut last weekend after recovering from a facial injury but was absent from Thursday’s practice. His status appears to be slightly more optimistic than Chelios’, as Vellucci called Kichton day-to-day but noted he would probably be out for this weekend’s contests in Belleville.
Both of those losses come on top of Roland McKeown’s recall to the NHL, but on the positive side, the Checkers will be getting Trevor Carrick back into the lineup. The workhorse defenseman missed both games last weekend due to injury but rejoined practice this week and has been cleared to suit up for the upcoming road trip.
“Carrick is in,” said Vellucci. “He’s good to go.”
All of that leaves the Checkers with just five options at defense on the roster, so the team has made a move to recall Josiah Didier from the Florida Everblades.
The 24-year-old blue liner signed an AHL deal with Charlotte this past offseason and began his year in the ECHL, logging five points (1g, 4a) and 23 penalty minutes in eight games with Florida.
“He came to camp and played well,” said Vellucci of why they chose Didier. “A couple of the other guys who came to camp are hurt, but Josiah played really well last night, we watched it. He seems like the right choice, big guy, right-shot D that plays a physical game.”
Didier, a fourth-round selection by Montreal in 2011, spent the majority of his first two pro seasons in the AHL, currently holding 100 games of experience under his belt. That leads the coaching staff to believe the Colorado native won’t be in over his head jumping onto the Charlotte blue line.
“He’s played in this league before so he knows how to play,” said Vellucci. “We’re excited.”
When it all shakes out, it appears that the Checkers will head into at least the Belleville series with six healthy defensemen, including two – Didier and Tyler Ganly – who have combined to play one AHL game so far this season. The loss of two top-level blue liners in Kichton and Chelios is a tough one, but the coaching staff is preparing their shorthanded group for success.
“They’re going to have to play a good, smart game,” said Vellucci of his defensive corps. “They’re going to have to keep their shifts short and the easiest way to do that is to get the puck out of your end right away and have some clean execution out of your own end.”