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Charlotte Checkers Game Preview

Game Preview: Checkers at San Antonio (Nov. 2, 2013)

Charlotte Checkers at San Antonio Rampage
With only one more game remaining on the Checkers' season-high, six-game road trip, they'll be looking to add another win to an already impressive road record.

Tonight, the Checkers will head down south after a week in the Midwest to face the San Antonio Rampage before returning to Charlotte. After suffering their first regulation loss on the road in its rematch with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday, Charlotte bounced back to record a 5-3 win over the Rockford IceHogs, avenging a shootout loss from their previous meeting earlier on the trip. This will be the first of eight total head-to-head matchups between the Checkers and San Antonio this season, but is the only game between the two in the month of November.

The Checkers have enjoyed much success on this current road trip, bringing a 3-1-1 record into their matchup with the Rampage fresh off a win over the Western Conference's leading team in Rockford. Charlotte has gained seven points over the course of five games, improving its road record to 5-1-1 and propelling it to third place in the West Division with a chance to tie Abbotsford, which has played two more games than the Checkers, for first place tonight.

Charlotte

Game Information

Season Series

  • Nov. 2
    at San Antonio (8 p.m.)
  • Dec. 10
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Dec. 12
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • March 7
    at San Antonio (8:30 p.m.)
  • March 9
    at San Antonio (5 p.m.)
  • March 21
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • March 23
    at Charlotte (1:30 p.m.)
  • April 4
    at San Antonio (8:30 p.m.)
With all the momentum against them after conceding a 3-0 lead, the Checkers showed impressive resiliency to come back and earn the win over Rockford. It was a measure of revenge for Charlotte, as they fell 2-1 in a shootout to Rockford just five days earlier. Goaltender John Muse set a new team record as his shutout streak reached 154:03, besting Dan Ellis' old record by 59 seconds, in a 35-save effort.

After Chris Terry and Mark Flood carried the offense early, Charlotte continues to get contributions from different sources as rookie Victor Rask became the first Checker to record a multi-goal game this season and forward Nicolas Blanchard added his second of the year on an empty-netter. Aaron Palushaj also extended his goal streak to three games with the game winner.

Terry extended his point streak to nine games (6g, 4a), eclipsing his previous career-long of eight, and is now just two games shy of tying Bobby Sanguinetti (11 games in 2011-12) for the team record. Special teams continues to be a strength for the Checkers as their 2-for-7 performance on the power play against Rockford marked the sixth straight game with at least one power-play goal.

The Checkers had to do a little lineup shuffling for the second game of their back-to-back on Thursday as veteran center Manny Malhotra signed a two-way contract with the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the game and was unavailable to play. The injury bug also bit Charlotte as Rasmus Rissanen sat out his second consecutive game while Brody Sutter missed his first game against Rockford. It may have struck again when All-Star defenseman Michal Jordan left the game with less than five minutes to go after taking a late, high hit from Rockford's Brad Winchester. The departure of Malhotra, coupled with the injuries, forced the Checkers to play a man down in the Rockford game, though the lack of transactions since then suggest that is unlikely to occur again tonight.

Update: The Checkers recalled forward Kyle Bonis from ECHL Florida on Saturday afternoon.

A report by the Raleigh News and Observer Thursday indicated that goaltender Rick DiPietro will make his second start of the season against the Rampage. DiPietro stopped 25 of 29 shots against Grand Rapids in his first start, taking the loss, in his Checkers debut.

With the win over Rockford, Charlotte recorded its fifth road win of the season, which is tied for most in the AHL. Charlotte hopes to carry the momentum from the strong road trip back home, where the Checkers are winless so far in two games, during a four-game homestand that begins against Chicago on Thursday.

San Antonio

Team Statistics

 
Record
5-3-1 3-5-0
Standings
7th West 14th West
Goals/Game
3.00 (t-12th) 2.25 (t-27th)
GA/Game
2.67 (t-10th) 3.00 (t-13th)
Power Play
24.0% (6th) 10.3% (t-28th)
Penalty Kill
78.0% (25th) 81.4% (16th)
PIM/Game
15.3 (9th) 19.0 (18th)
San Antonio has gotten off to a slow start to begin the season, recording just three wins in eight games. It is, however, coming off a 4-2 win against Oklahoma City in its last game on Saturday, Oct. 26, and will be well-rested for its matchup with the Checkers. Prior to the win over Oklahoma City, the Rampage were mired in a three-game losing streak that included two losses to West Divison leaders Texas Stars. The Rampage will hope to take advantage of a road-weary Charlotte team as they look to record consecutive wins for the first time this year.

The newly- formed line of rookie Vincent Trocheck, Bobby Butler and Garrett Wilson combined for 12 points (5g, 7a) in the weekend set against the Barons. Trocheck, a third-round draft pick by the Florida Panthers in 2011, now leads the team in points with nine (5g, 4a) through eight games and ranks seventh in points and tied for fourth in goals among AHL rookies this season. His scoring prowess is no fluke, as he recorded 50 goals and 59 assists (109 points) in 63 games while being named MVP in the Ontario Hockey League last season.

Helping Trocheck shoulder the offensive load is defenseman Greg Rallo, who leads the team in assists with five and ranks second in points with six. Right behind him are Butler and Wilson with five points apiece, while former Charlotte Checker Jon Matsumoto has chipped in four points in eight games. Besides Trocheck, the Rampage have struggled to find any other consistent scorers, as just three players (Butler, Matsumoto and Alex Petrovic) have recorded more than one goal so far.

San Antonio figures to still be without top goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who Florida called up a week ago, but so far rookie Michael Houser has answered the call in his stead. Houser is currently 2-0-0 so far this season, with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while splitting time with veteran Dov Grumet-Morris. With San Antonio coach Peter Horachek yet to start a goaltender in consecutive games this season, choosing to instead to go with a rotation, the Checkers could see Grumet-Morris in goal tonight. Grumet-Morris has yet to record a win so far this season in four starts, going 0-4-0 with a 3.06 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

Checkers Notes

Terry Takes Off

With his goal against Rockford on Thursday, Chris Terry continued his record as the only Checkers player to score at least one point in all nine of the team's games this season (6g, 4a). His overall point streak is the the second-longest in the AHL behind October Player of the Month Travis Morin of Texas, while his seven-game road point streak stands alone as the league's longest.

Terry, who has led the Checkers in scoring for each of the past two seasons and is also the team's current leader with 10 points, is in the midst of the longest streak of his career, edging out 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 Hot Start

Goalie John Muse began his AHL season with a shutout streak of 154:03, breaking Dan Ellis's team record, set one season earlier, by just 59 seconds. The reigning AHL Player of the Week began the streak with back-to-back shutouts at Grand Rapids and Chicago last weekend, becoming the second goalie in team history to post consecutive shutouts (Justin Peters in 2012-13).

Since rejoining the team on a professional tryout contract from ECHL Fort Wayne on Oct. 23, Muse began his AHL season with a 3-0-0 record for the third time in as many years. No other Checkers goaltender has ever won his first three starts with the team in any season. Muse is tied for the league lead with two shutouts and ranks first in AHL goals-against average (1.00) and save percentage (.968) among goalies with three or more games played.

Rask Heats Up

Victor Rask
Since scoring his first goal of the season in his fifth game on Oct. 25, Victor Rask has scored four times in his last five games. He has three goals in his last two outings, including a two-goal effort in Rockford on Oct. 31 that marked the first multi-goal game by a Checker this season.

With eight points (4g, 4a) in nine games, Rask is in a three-way tie with Mark Flood and Aaron Palushaj for second on the team in scoring behind Chris Terry (10 points). The 20-year-old center, who scored five points in 10 Checkers games before returning to his junior team in Calgary last season, is tied for eighth in the AHL in rookie scoring and boasts a cumulative plus-10 rating in 19 career AHL games.

Floodgates Open

Mark Flood scored his fifth goal in six games on Oct. 26, becoming the fastest defenseman to reach the five-goal mark in team history. 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 ranks second on the team in goals behind Chris Terry's six, 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 11 goals in their last 37 chances (29.7 percent), including at least one goal in each of their last six 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 24.0.

The Checkers' streak of six straight games with a power-play goal is their longest since beginning last season with an eight-game streak that stands as the longest in team history.

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 three 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 5-1-1 on the road this season and have trailed for a total of just 37:37 in that time, all of which came during their regulation loss to Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

Charlotte's five road victories are tied with Grand Rapids and Manchester for the most in the AHL, while its 11 road points trail those same two teams, both 5-0-2, by one. Only Rockford (eight) has played more road games than the Checkers' seven, while their two home games are the fewest in the league.

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 Rampage

The Checkers have an all-time record of 7-5-0 against the Rampage, including a mark of 4-2-0 in San Antonio. Charlotte won last season's series with a 5-3-0 record, including a 3-1-0 showing on the road.

The Rampage feature former Charlotte center Jon Matsumoto, who ranks tied for fifth on the team in scoring with four points (2g, 2a) in eight games. Matsumoto, who played 106 games for the Checkers in their first two AHL seasons, ranks eighth on the franchise's all-time goals (33), assists (49) and points (82) lists.

Quick Hits

  • Charlotte has scored first in seven of its nine games this season, and is 5-1-1 in those games. When not scoring first, the Checkers are 0-2-0.
  • After going a perfect 14-for-14 on the penalty kill in three consecutive games, the Checkers have allowed two power-play goals in each of their last two games (5-for-9 on the penalty kill: 55.6 percent)
  • The Checkers have enjoyed at least seven power-play opportunities in each of their last three 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 nine games (Oct. 4-31; 6g, 4a).
  • Aaron Palushaj has points in each of his last four games (Oct. 26-31; 3g, 2a) and goals in each of his last three (Oct. 27-31; 3g, 1a).
  • Victor Rask has points in each of his last three games (Oct. 27-31; 3g, 1a) and goals in each of his last two (Oct. 30-31; 3g, 0a)

Transactions

Incoming

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

Outgoing

  • Oct. 31 - (C) Manny Malhotra released from professional tryout contract to sign with Carolina (NHL)
  • Oct. 28 - (G) Allen York released from professional tryout contract