Charlotte Checkers Game Preview

Game Preview: Checkers at Rockford (Oct. 31, 2013)

Charlotte Checkers at Rockford IceHogs
The Checkers play game five of their six-game road trip as they make a return visit to Rockford tonight.

Charlotte is coming off its first regulation road loss of the season, having dropped a 5-2 decision in Grand Rapids last night. Their record away from home now stands at 4-1-1, with the shootout loss, a 2-1 decision, coming against the IceHogs just five days ago.

Following tonight's game, the Checkers conclude their trip, the longest in team history in terms of consecutive days away from home, in San Antonio on Saturday before returning to Charlotte to begin a four-game home stand. After tonight, they will play Rockford six more times this season, with five of those games coming before Dec. 30.

Charlotte

Game Information

Season Series

  • Oct. 26
    Rockford 2, Checkers 1 (SO)
  • Oct. 31
    at Rockford (8 p.m.)
  • Nov. 23
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Nov. 24
    at Charlotte (1:30 p.m.)
  • Dec. 5
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Dec. 7
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Dec. 30
    at Rockford (8 p.m.)
  • April 19
    at Rockford (8 p.m.)
The Checkers' five goals allowed on Wednesday – one of which was an empty-net goal – were four more than they had allowed in their last three games combined. It was a measure of revenge for Grand Rapids, one of the league's more skilled teams that had suffered a 5-0 shutout loss to the Checkers the previous weekend.

The change in the Checkers' defensive fortunes couldn't be placed squarely on the shoulders of goalie Rick DiPietro, an NHL veteran who played his first game of the season at any level since signing a professional tryout deal last weekend. The 33-year-old stopped 25 of 29 shots, allowing the always-dangerous Gustav Nyquist to beat him on a one-timer in the slot, Mitch Callahan to score on a deflection and Ryan Sproul to blast a shot through a screen on the power play. If he wanted any of the goals back, it would have been Tomas Jurco's effort that he got a piece of before it trickled across the line, though Jurco had plenty of room to skate in unencumbered on the power play.

According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, DiPietro could again get the start tonight as the Carolina Hurricanes continue to evaluate the organization's goaltending depth that has been rocked by ongoing injuries to Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin. DiPietro would be indirectly competing against former Checker Justin Peters, who has received Carolina's last two starts since Ward's injury on Oct. 24, for NHL playing time down the road.

Should the Checkers instead opt for John Muse, the reigning AHL player of the week would get a chance to extend an active 120-minute shutout streak. He has not allowed a goal in two starts since joining the team on a PTO eight days ago.

On the offensive front, the Checkers continue to get consistent contributions from Chris Terry, whose power-play assist on Wednesday extended his point streak to eight games (5g, 4a), or each game the team has played this season. Terry's streak is the third-longest in the AHL this season and ties his career long, set twice during during the 2011-12 season. In Checkers' history, only Bobby Sanguinetti (11 games in 2011-12) has posted a longer streak.

Potential lineup changes for Charlotte involve forward Adam Brace and defenseman Rasmus Rissanen, who both sat out Wednesday's game. Brace has played in just two of the team's eight games this season, while Rissanen, a key member of the team's defensive core who leads the team with a plus-4 rating, is likely dealing with an injury.

Rockford

Team Statistics

 
Record
4-3-1 7-2-1
Standings
9th West 1st West
Goals/Game
2.75 (17th) 3.40 (6th)
GA/Game
2.63 (t-10th) 3.00 (t-15th)
Power Play
23.3% (6th) 15.0% (19th)
Penalty Kill
80.0% (20th) 84.1% (12th)
PIM/Game
15.1 (10th) 14.7 (7th)
The IceHogs' 2-1 triumph over the Checkers last week, in which they tied the game midway through the third period on a controversial goal against PTO signing Allen York, was the middle contest in an active three-game win streak. As was the case on Saturday when York kept the Checkers in the game during a slow start, the IceHogs will be rested (off since Sunday) while Charlotte will attempt to shake off fatigue from a late-night bus ride from Grand Rapids.

One day after defeating the Checkers, the IceHogs scored four unanswered goals, including three in the final 10 minutes of regulation, in a 4-2 comeback against Texas, who the Checkers are trailing by three points in the West Division. Rockford, which has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, is off to a very strong 7-2-1 start that has given it a three-point cushion atop the Western Conference. It also has points in each of its last six games (5-0-1), tying Milwaukee for the longest streak in the league.

Rockford should still be without skilled forwards Jeremy Morin (eight points in eight games) and reigning AHL scoring champion Brandon Pirri (three in three) who are on NHL duty with the parent Chicago Blackhawks. In their absence, rookies Alex Broadhurst (nine points) and Mark McNeill (eight), a first-round draft pick, are helping to shoulder the offensive load. Adam Clendening has more than done his share from the blue line, leading the team with 10 points and a plus-7 rating in 10 outings.

Goalie Antti Raanta, who narrowly topped York in last weekend's goaltending duel with 29 saves and four more on five shootout attempts, has started each of the team's last three games. During that time, he is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .951 save percentage and has climbed to a second-place tie in AHL wins. Backup Kent Simpson has not played since allowing five goals on 36 shots against Hamilton on Oct. 22.

Checkers Notes

Terry Takes Off

Chris Terry
With his power-play assist against Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Chris Terry continued his record as the only Checkers player to score at least one point in all eight of the team's games this season (5g, 4a). His current streak is the third longest in the AHL, while his six-game road point streak is tied for the longest in the league this season.

Terry, who has led the Checkers in scoring for each of the past two seasons and is also the team's current leader with nine points, has now tied the longest point streaks of career, a pair of eight-game runs during the 2011-12 campaign. The only longer streak in team history was set by Bobby Sanguinetti, who scored in 11 consecutive games during the 2011-12 campaign.

Muse's Perfect Start

Goalie John Muse, a former Checker who returned to the team on a professional tryout contract last week, made 57 total saves to record shutouts in each of his two starts - at Grand Rapids on Friday and at Chicago on Sunday. In doing so, he became the second Checkers goalie to record shutouts in back-to-back starts, joining Justin Peters, who made 47 total saves on Jan. 4 and Jan. 11 of last season, also both on the road in Lake Erie and Oklahoma City.

Muse's active shutout streak of 120 minutes is the third-longest in team history, trailing Peters' mark of 143:43 seconds set during that run in January and the team record of 153:14 set by Dan Ellis in October of last season. He is the first AHL goalie to post two shutouts this season, and now has four in his AHL career.

Muse, one of three goalies (Syracuse's Kristers Gudlevskis and Texas' Josh Robinson) who have a perfect 1.00 save percentage and 0.00 goals-against average among those who have played enough minutes to qualify (60), also had a fast start to his AHL season in 2011-12. Beginning with his Checkers debut against Chicago on Dec. 16, 2011, he stopped 92 of the first 93 shots he faced over a three-game period.

Floodgates Open

Mark Flood scored his fifth goal in six games on Saturday, becoming the fastest Checkers defenseman to reach the five-goal mark. Justin Faulk set the previous record by scoring his fifth goal in his 23rd game last season. No Charlotte blueliner has ever scored more than 10 goals in a single season, a mark set by Bobby Sanguinetti in 2011-12.

Flood, who is tied with Chris Terry for the team lead in goals, ranks tied for second among AHL defensemen in goals and is tied for third in power-play goals (three). He has already surpassed his total of one goal from 52 KHL games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl last season and is nearly halfway to his AHL career high of 11, set with Manitoba during the 2010-11 campaign.

Power Surge

After starting the season with one power-play goal in their first 13 opportunities (7.7 percent), the Checkers have nine goals in their last 30 chances (30.0 percent), including at least one goal in each of their last five games. That run, which includes two seperate three-goal performances in Grand Rapids (Oct. 25) and Chicago (Oct. 27), has seen the Checkers climb into sixth place in the AHL with an overall percentage of 23.3.

Musical Goalies

By starting Rick DiPietro on Wednesday, the Checkers became the first and only AHL team to use six different goaltenders this season (Justin Peters, Mike Murphy, Jesse Deckert, John Muse, Allen York) - a feat that they achieved in just eight games. That number marks a new team record, eclipsing the five goaltenders that Charlotte used last season. Only two AHL teams - Hamilton (six) and Houston (seven) - used that many goaltenders throughout the entirety of last season.

The Carolina Hurricanes dressing Peters and Murphy in each of their last two games marks the third consecutive season in which the two goalies on Charlotte's opening night roster would go on to be reunited in the NHL during the same campaign. Peters and Murphy also dressed for Carolina at the same time during the 2011-12 season, while Peters and Dan Ellis became Hurricanes teammates in 2012-13.

Packing Up

The Checkers' current stretch of six consecutive road games is part of a single trip from Oct. 25-Nov. 2, making it the longest in team history in terms of consecutive days away from home. The Checkers are 4-1-1 on the road this season, having suffered their first road regulation loss to Grand Rapids on Wednesday. Until the Griffins scored to make the game 2-1 in the second period of that game, the Checkers had not trailed for a single second on the road this season.

Only one AHL team, Rockford, has played more road games than Charlotte's six (seven). The Checkers' four road victories are tied for first in the AHL.

Change of Pace

After playing four games in the season's first 21 days, the Checkers are currently in the midst of their busiest stretch of the season by playing six in nine. All games will be played on the road, and never in consecutive locations.

Against the IceHogs

The Checkers have an all-time record of 7-4-2 against the IceHogs, including a mark of 5-1-1 in Rockford. That marks the Checkers' second-highest road winning percentage against any current Western Conference team, trailing only Oklahoma City (8-2-0).

Quick Hits

  • Charlotte has scored first in six of its eight games this season, and is 4-1-1 in those games. When not scoring first, the Checkers are 0-2-0.
  • The Checkers have enjoyed a season-high eight power-play chances in each of their last two games
  • The Checkers have yet to suffer a regulation loss when leading at either intermission and have yet to earn a point when trailing at either intermission

Player Streaks

  • Chris Terry has points in each of his last eight games (Oct. 4-30; 5g, 4a) and assists in each of his last three (Oct. 26-30; 1g, 3a).
  • Aaron Palushaj has points in each of his last three games (Oct. 26-30; 2g, 2a) and goals in each of his last two (Oct. 27-30; 2g, 1a).
  • Zach Boychuk has assists and points in each of his last two games (Oct. 27-30; 0g, 2a).
  • Victor Rask has points in each of his last two games (Oct. 27-30; 1g, 1a)

Transactions

Incoming

  • Oct. 26 - (G) Rick DiPietro signed to professional tryout contract

Outgoing

  • Oct. 28 - (G) Allen York released from professional tryout contract
  • Oct. 25 - (G) Mike Murphy recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.