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Charlotte Checkers Game Preview

Game Preview: Checkers vs. Hershey (Nov. 13, 2013)

The Checkers (5-6-1) continue to search for their first home victory this season as they host the Hershey Bears (3-4-4) Wednesday night for the first of a two-game set. This is the first time these two teams have played since March of 2012.

Charlotte suffered their second straight 2-1 loss Saturday night, falling victim to the Chicago Wolves. Although the Checkers have yet to win at home this season, they have only played four games at Time Warner Cable Arena, which is tied for fewest in the AHL.

The game tonight is the third of a four-game home stand with the fourth game being played tomorrow night. After, the Checkers will travel to Toronto to face the Marlies, a team they have never face in their franchise's history, before returning home to play 12 out of 13 at home.

Charlotte

Game Information

Season Series

  • Nov. 13
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Nov. 14
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • March 1
    at Hershey (7 p.m.)
  • March 2
    at Hershey (4 p.m.)
Following the two losses to Chicago and three straight losses overall, Charlotte currently stands in last place within the West division with 11 points earned.

“The bounces haven’t gone our way, but we can’t make excuses,” said defenseman Matt Corrente. “We have to put together 60 minutes and it’s on all of us to start doing it.”

Offensively, the Checkers were only able to tally two goals during the Chicago series which may prompt different lines from coach Jeff Daniels.

“When you score two goals in two games it’s about a different look,” he said. “We might see something we like and decide to use that, or we might see something we don’t like and try something else. That’s what practice is about.”

Forward Adam Brace has been a silver lining the past few games. Although Charlotte has dropped its last three, Brace is currently in the midst of a four-game point streak that dates back to Oct. 31. During his current streak, Brace has recorded one goal and three assists, prompting Daniels to put him on a prime scoring line with Elias Lindholm and Zach Boychuk at this week's practices.

“As a rookie you’ve got to earn your time – they’re not just going to put you out there,” said Brace. “It’s about taking advantage of opportunities when they come. I’m used to playing in that spot and I like to be relied upon in offensive situations.”

“He’s got to be more consistent and play with speed, which is one of his strengths,” said Daniels of Brace. “He’s capable of making plays but then might have an off night the next game, so it’s a matter of bringing it every night.”

Goalie John Muse only allowed four goals while saving 53 shots during the Checkers two games against the Wolves. Although Muse has been impressive in recent starts, Rick DiPietro will more than likely start one of the two games Charlotte has against the Bears. DiPietro has started in two games since joining the Checkers, and is still searching for his first win while giving up nine goals.

This will be the first opponent Charlotte has played out of the Eastern Conference this season. This will be the 19th meeting between these two teams, which includes a series played during the 2010-11 Calder Cup Playoffs that Charlotte won 4-2.

Hershey

Team Statistics

 
Record
5-6-1 3-4-4
Standings
14th West 12th West
Goals/Game
2.67 (21st) 2.50 (t-25th)
GA/Game
2.75 (9th) 3.27 (23rd)
Power Play
19.0% (11th) 13.6% (25th)
Penalty Kill
80.0% (t-22nd) 85.2% (6th)
PIM/Game
14.9 (6th) 23.0 (26th)
Hershey enters Time Warner Cable Arena with a record barely under .500 after losing in a shootout to Binghamton on Sunday. The Bears have found themselves in three consecutive shootouts dating back to Nov. 3, winning one against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Nov. 9.

Captain Dane Byers has had the hot stick in recent games for Hershey. Byers is on a current six-game point streak after netting a power-play assist in Sunday’s contest versus Binghamton. During the streak, Byers has recorded four goals and two assists and leads the team in penalty minutes (49) and plus/minus (+4).

Left wing Josh Brittain returned from injury during Saturday’s game against Bridgeport and scored his first goal of the season on Sunday versus Binghamton.

Hershey has split their goalie play this season with both Philipp Grubauer and David Leggio seeing fairly even playing time. Grubauer has played in six games while posting a 2-3-0 record and one shutout in 376 minutes played. Leggio has played in five games, recording a 1-3-0 record in 303 minutes played.

It was announced Tuesday afternoon that Hershey’s defenseman Tomas Kundratek tore his ACL during Sunday’s contest, meaning the All-Star will miss most, if not all of the 2013-14 season.

“I have to get the swelling down,” Kundratek told PennLive media. “In probably two or three weeks, I'll get the surgery on it. Every person is different. Every tear is different. I have no idea how long it is going to be. It could be three months to the end of the season.”

“It's a tough blow for him and his career right now and this team,” said Bears head coach Mike Haviland. “I know he struggled a little bit, but he also brings an element that you can certainly use, especially with Orly (Dmitry Orlov) up (in NHL Washington).”

The Bears began their first five games of the season in rough fashion, averaging an AHL-worst 24 shots per game. However, in the past six games, they have averaged 35.5 shots which now ranks 15th in the AHL. The Bears are also coming off of a season-high 45 shots on goal after Sunday’s contest.

One category Hershey ranks at the top in is their ability to kill penalties. This season, the Bears have killed 85 percent of all power plays and rank 5th in the AHL in penalty killing on the road.

This is the first game Hershey will play in the Western Conference before traveling to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.

Checkers Notes

Rare Territory

Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Chicago Wolves dropped the Checkers to 5-6-1 on the season, marking the first time they've been under the .500 mark since starting 0-1-1 in Norfolk on Oct. 7 and 8, 2011. It is also the latest in a season that the team has been under .500, with the 2010-11 Checkers evening their record to 7-7-1 on Nov. 11, 2010, en route to an eventual run to the Eastern Conference Final.

Since joining the AHL, the Checkers have been under .500 for just 41 total days, 29 of which came during the team's inaugural season, when they hit a record-low four games under .500 (2-6-1) on Oct. 29, 2010.

Trouble At Home

Charlotte Checkers
The Checkers are 0-4-0 at Time Warner Cable Arena, marking their slowest start at home in four AHL seasons. The previous record through four games was set by the inaugural 2010-11 team, which started 1-2-1 but went on to post a team-record 49 points (22-13-5) at home. Dating back to last season's playoffs, the Checkers have lost six straight home games, while their four-game losing streak to start this season is tied for the longest in the AHL.

Though Charlotte's four home games this season are tied for fewest in the league, it is one of just two teams (Utica: 0-4-2) that have yet to earn a home victory this season. The Checkers play 14 of their next 17 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Striking First

The Checkers have opened the scoring in 10 of their 12 games, putting them just one behind Portland (11-of-14) for most first goals this season. They have recorded the first goal in each of their last seven games and in all eight of their road games.

The Checkers have a record of 5-4-1 when scoring the game's first goal this season for a winning percentage of .550 that ranks as the league's third-lowest (Lake Erie, at 3-3-0, and Utica, at 1-1-0, are both at .500) when scoring first. When not scoring first, the Checkers are 0-2-0.

Brace Yourself

After sitting out six of the Checkers' first eight games as a healthy extra, forward Adam Brace has recorded points in each of his last four games (1g, 3a), tying Victor Rask (3g, 1a) for most on the team during that time. Including a successful stint with ECHL Florida after finishing college last season, Brace has 25 points (8g, 17a) in 23 professional games, including playoffs.

Power Play

The Checkers have gone three consecutive games without scoring a power-play goal (0-for-13), marking the first time they have not scored in consecutive games all season. Prior to the current slide, the team had scored at least one power-play goal in seven of its first nine games, including a streak of six consecutive games that marked the third-longest streak in team history.

Youth Movement

Elias Lindholm, the fifth overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, made his AHL/Checkers debut on Thursday, becoming the youngest player to ever play for the franchise at 18 years and 340 days. Defenseman Justin Faulk, who debuted with the team following the end of his freshman season in college, had the previous record at 19 years and 40 days, set on April 20, 2011.

Lindholm also became the second-highest-drafted player to suit up for Charlotte behind Rick DiPietro, the 2000 first-overall draft choice who made his debut with the team earlier this season. Manny Malhotra (7th overall in 1998), who has since signed with Carolina, gives the team three top-10 picks this season alone. Prior to this season, the highest-drafted player to ever play for the team was defenseman Ryan Murphy (12th overall in 2011), who played his first game with the team last March.

Muse's Hot Start

Since rejoining the Checkers on a professional tryout contract from ECHL Fort Wayne on Oct. 23, goalie John Muse has gone 3-2-0 in five starts and leads the AHL with a 1.41 goals-against average and .954 save percentage and is part of a two-way tie for first with two shutouts.

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 AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Oct. 27 began the streak with back-to-back shutouts at Grand Rapids and Chicago on Oct. 25 and 27, respectively, becoming the second goalie in team history to post consecutive shutouts (Justin Peters in 2012-13). He won each of his first three Checkers starts for the third time in as many seasons, marking the only three times a Checkers goalie has accomplished that feat.

Divided Division

Nine of the Checkers' 12 games have been played against Midwest Division opponents (3-5-1). The team has played within its own division, the West, just three times (2-1-0) and will not play another game against a West team until hosting San Antonio on Dec. 10. No other AHL team has played fewer games within its own division.

Against the Bears

Tonight's game will mark the first meeting between the two clubs since the 2011-12 season, when Charlotte posted an 0-2-2 record in the four-game series. Dating back to the 2010-11 season, when both teams were in the Eastern Conference, Charlotte has a 4-5-3 record against the Bears. Hershey is also one of four teams the Checkers have ever faced in the playoffs, having picked up a 4-2 series victory in the 2011 East Division Semifinals.

Along with the Norfolk Admirals, Hershey is one of just two Eastern Conference teams that the Checkers have faced since moving to the Western Conference prior to the 2011-12 campaign.

Quick Hits

  • The Checkers scored just one goal in each of their last two games, marking the first time they had scored fewer than two in consecutive games since March 4 and March 10, 2012.
  • The Checkers have both scored (12) and allowed (14) more goals in the third period than in any other period.
  • The Checkers have yet to win a game when scoring fewer than three goals (0-4-1)
  • Charlotte is one of four teams that has yet to score a shorthanded goal

Player Streaks

  • Adam Brace has points in each of his last four games (Oct. 31-Nov. 9: 1g, 3a).

Milestones

  • Nicolas Blanchard is 2 goals away from 25 Checkers goals
  • Nicolas Blanchard is 5 penalty minutes away from 350 as a Checker
  • Michal Jordan is 3 assists away from 50 AHL/Checkers assists

Transactions

Incoming

  • Nov. 6 - (C) Elias Lindholm assigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)

Outgoing

  • Nov. 6 - (LW) Chris Terry recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
Author: Thomas CunninghamEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.