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Charlotte Checkers Game Preview

Game Preview: Checkers at Hershey (March 2, 2014)

Charlotte Checkers at Hershey Bears
The Checkers will try to build on Saturday’s win and sweep a two-game set against the Bears as they play a rematch in Hershey this afternoon.

Today’s 4 p.m. start is the third game in Charlotte’s current four-game road trip and the fifth in their franchise-record run of 10 consecutive road games. The Checkers’ 4-1 win on Saturday marked the first in either segment, having broken a five-game winless streak on the road dating back to Feb. 4 (0-4-1) and an overall three-game winless streak (0-2-1) that coincided with the start of their road swing.

Today marks the fourth and final meeting between the Eastern Conference opponents this season. The road team has won each game thus far.

Charlotte

Game Information

Season Series

The Checkers used an early goal by Zach Boychuk, some stellar goaltending by Justin Peters and a second-period breakout to pick up the win on Saturday. The two points earned allowed them to climb one spot to 13th in the Western Conference, seven points back of eighth-placed Milwaukee, with 22 games still to play.

In the third start of his conditioning loan from Carolina, Peters made 29 saves, including 16 in the first period, to earn his first AHL victory since opening night on Oct. 4 and first win at any level since defeating the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 14. Saturday’s game marked the first time the Checkers have allowed fewer than two goals since Cam Ward suffered a 1-0 loss in Lake Erie on Jan. 31.

The Checkers’ 2.00 goals-against average with Peters in net for the last three games (excluding a goal awarded for a shootout loss on Feb. 22) is their lowest of any three-game segment since late January. Prior the current run put together by Peters, who is expected to start again today, they had allowed three or more goals in nine consecutive games.

Only one Checkers skater (Victor Rask, who celebrated his 21st birthday with a goal and an assist) recorded multiple points in Saturday’s balanced offensive attack that helped break a 1-1 tie in the middle frame. Boychuk set a new career high with his 24th goal of the season and cousins Brett and Brody Sutter scored in the same game for the second time in their last nine after never doing so in their previous 58 together.

Defenseman Ryan Murphy had the lone assist on Rask’s goal, extending his assist streak to nine games – the longest posted by any AHL player this season. His 15 assists in just 14 games played are a new record for most by a first-year Checkers defenseman in a single season and lead all Charlotte blueliners for the entirety of the current campaign.

The Checkers used seven defensemen on Saturday, a previously rare occurrence that coach Jeff Daniels has begun to use more often in the last month, with forward Matt Marquardt sitting as a healthy extra. Forward Greg Nemisz and goaltender John Muse are considered day-to-day with injuries, while rookie forward Brendan Woods, a former Bears stick boy whose father Bob coached the Bears to a Calder Cup in 2009, will miss the next several weeks.

Hershey

Team Statistics

 
Record
25-26-3 29-20-7
Standings
13th West 9th East
Goals/Game
2.94 (t-14th) 3.07 (9th)
GA/Game
3.28 (28th) 2.85 (15th)
Power Play
21.6% (5th) 16.0% (t-21st)
Penalty Kill
80.0% (22nd) 83.9% (9th)
PIM/Game
14.6 (9th) 19.5 (22nd)
The Bears will be just as desperate for points as the Checkers heading into today’s match-up, as Saturday’s loss that extended their winless streak to five games (0-4-1) dropped them from seventh to ninth in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. While Hershey couldn’t drop any further today (they have an eight-point lead over 10th-place Bridgeport), a victory could vault them into a sixth-place tie.

The scheduling did not do the Bears any favors this weekend, as today’s game concludes a three-in-three set that began with a 2-1 shootout loss in Hartford on Friday. Though the Checkers are the team having to travel extensively of late, they are the more rested team, having enjoyed two days off heading into Saturday’s contest.

Hershey ended up using both of its goaltenders on Saturday, with Rask’s goal, the Checkers’ fourth, chasing starter Phillip Grubauer (15 saves on 19 shots) from the game late in the second period. Grubauer, who enjoyed a solid run of starts for the Washington Capitals around the same time Peters was doing the same for Carolina, has now allowed four or more goals in each of his last four with Hershey.

AHL veteran David Leggio stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief of Grubauer as Saturday’s game settled down in the third period. He was in goal for each of the last two games in which the Bears earned points (34 saves in Friday’s game and 26 saves on 27 shots in their last win on Feb. 16), but gave up six goals on 29 shots just last Tuesday.

Without two of their top five scorers in Nicolas Deschamps and Casey Wellman, both in the NHL with Washington, the Bears have scored just two goals in their last two games. Their overall struggles have spilled over to home ice, where they’ve now lost two straight after winning each of their previous 12.

Checkers Notes

Against Hershey

Tonight's game will mark the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs this season. Charlotte holds an all-time record of 5-7-3 record against the Bears, including a 3-3-1 mark in Hershey and a 1-2-0 record this season. The road team has won all three games this season, including an 8-1 win by Hershey on Nov. 14 that tied Charlotte franchise records for largest defeat and most goals allowed.

Hershey is one of four teams the Checkers have ever faced in the playoffs, with Charlotte picking 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.

Murphy's Helping Hand

Assists by Checkers Defensemen

Player GP A
Ryan Murphy 14 15
Mark Flood 53 12
Danny Biega 43 11
Michal Jordan 48 9
Since joining the Checkers from the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 24, Ryan Murphy has 15 points, all assists, in 14 games, to lead all Charlotte defensemen this season and set a new club record for most by a rookie blueliner in a single campaign (Michal Jordan in 2010-11).

Murphy has assists in each of his last nine games (11a), setting a new franchise record for longest assist streak that previously stood at six (Zach Boychuk in 2010) and marking the longest posted by any AHL player this season. No AHL player has recorded assists in 10 or more consecutive games since Hershey's Keith Aucoin (14) and Chris Bourque (10) each accomplished the feat during the 2011-12 season. The last time a defenseman recorded assists in 10 or more consecutive games was in 2008-09, when Binghamton rookie Mattias Karlsson put together a 12-game run.

Murphy's point streak ties the second-longest active streak in the AHL and is ties the longest posted by an AHL defenseman all season (Hartford's Aaron Johnson from Oct. 18-Nov. 8). It also ties Chris Terry for the longest posted by a Checker this season (Oct. 4-31). Charlotte's record for longest point streak is held by defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti (11 games: Jan. 12-Feb. 12, 2012).

Murphy, the Hurricanes' first-round pick (12th overall) in 2011, now has 19 assists in 22 career AHL games dating back to last season, including five Calder Cup Playoff games. Eleven of those assists came on the power play.

Peters Returns

In the three games Justin Peters has played since rejoining the team on a conditioning loan from Carolina, the Checkers' 2.00 goals-against average (excluding a goal allowed for a shootout loss on Feb. 22) is the lowest of any three-game segment since Jan. 23-31 (1.33). Prior to Peters' starts, the Checkers had allowed three or more goals in nine consecutive games dating back to Feb. 1, a streak they have broken by allowing two or fewer in two of Peters' three games.

Including his opening-night start for the Checkers that preceded his recall to Carolina, Peters, a two-time AHL All-Star, has a 2-1-1 record with a 1.97 goals-against average and .935 save percentage this season. He set club records (minimum 20 games) with a 2.29 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and six shutouts last season.

Boychuk's Career Year

Boychuk Career Goals / Game

2009-10 .29
2010-11 .37
2011-12 .33
2012-13 .47
2013-14 .51
Zach Boychuk scored his 24th goal of the season on March 1, setting a new career high in his fifth full AHL season and marking his fourth consecutive season with 20 or more goals. He ranks tied for fourth in the league in goals and is on pace for 35, which would narrowly eclipse Chris Terry's club record of 34 set in the 2010-11 season. Terry and Boychuk rank first and second on the Checkers' all-time goals list with 93 and 90, respectively.

Thirteen of Boychuk's goals this season have come on the power play, giving him the second-most in the AHL behind Texas' Chris Mueller (14). He has already set a new Charlotte record for most power-play goals in a single season.

Sutter Connection

In 58 Checkers games together, cousins Brett and Brody Sutter had never scored in the same game until each found the back of the net one time against Oklahoma City on Feb. 7 - something they also accomplished eight games later with one goal apiece at Hershey on March 1. They had also never recorded points on the same goal until recently, when Brett assisted on Brody's game-tying goal with 38 seconds remaining in regulation on Feb. 9.

Floodgates Open

Now in his eighth professional season, Mark Flood scored his 12th goal of the campaign against Texas on Feb. 22 to top his career high set with Manitoba in 2010-11. The 29-year-old had already set a new team record for most goals by a defenseman in a single season by netting his 11th in 46 games to break Bobby Sanguinetti's record from 2011-12.

Flood, who scored just one goal in 52 games in the Russian KHL last season, ranks second in terms of goals by AHL defensemen and is tied for second among league blueliners with seven power-play goals.

On the Road Again

The Checkers' current 10-game road swing (1-2-1) is the longest in the team's four AHL seasons, narrowly eclipsing a pair of nine-game segments from Oct. 28-Nov. 13, 2011 (5-4-0), and from Oct. 13-31, 2012 (6-2-1). Charlotte, whose 24 road games to date are the fewest of any AHL team, is 11-11-2 on the road this season.

The Big Three

Along with Texas (four), the Checkers are one of two teams to feature three or more players among the AHL's top 20 scorers. Chris Terry leads the Checkers and ranks 14th in the league with 47 points, Zach Boychuk is tied for 15th with 46 points and Aaron Palushaj is tied for 18th with 44 points.

All three players have held sole possesion of the Checkers' scoring lead at one point this season and are on pace for their best scoring seasons at the AHL level. At their current pace, Boychuk and Terry would break Boychuk's team record of 65 points set in the 2010-11 season with 68 and 67, respectively, while Palushaj would fall just short at 61.

Quick Hits

  • The Checkers' 4-1 win over Hershey on March 1 marked their first win by more than two goals since defeating Oklahoma City 9-3 on Jan 24.
  • With a goal and an assist on March 1, rookie center Victor Rask recorded his first multi-point game since Nov. 24.
  • Since the calendar turned to 2014, the Checkers have played consecutive games against the same opponent 10 times, including the current set against Hershey. Charlotte is 3-7-0 in the first half of those sets and 6-1-2 in the second.
  • Brody Sutter's plus-8 rating is at least six points better than any other player who has spent the entire season with Charlotte.
  • Matt Corrente is tied for third among AHL defensemen with 10 major penalties.
  • The Checkers' seven overtime games (4-3) and three shootouts (1-2) are the fewest in the league.
  • Though the Checkers have been shut out just once this season, they have scored just one goal on 12 separate occasions.
  • The Checkers are 5-4-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season.
  • Charlotte's two shorthanded goals are tied with Adirondack for the fewest in the league

Player Streaks

  • Ryan Murphy has assists and points in each of his last nine games (Feb. 7-March 1: 0g, 11a)
  • Brett Sutter has goals and points in each of his last two games (Feb. 26-March 1: 2g, 0a)
  • Chris Terry has assists and points in each of his last two games (Feb. 26-March 1: 0g, 2a)

Milestones

  • Brett Sutter is one shy of 500 professional games
  • Nicolas Blanchard is two shy of 450 AHL games
  • Matt Corrente is two shy of 250 professional games
  • Justin Shugg is four shy of 100 professional points
  • Matt Marquardt played his 250th AHL game on Feb. 26
  • Michal Jordan played his 250th professional game on March 1

Injuries

  • Greg Nemisz - missed eight games starting Feb. 9
  • John Muse - missed four games starting Feb. 21
  • Brendan Woods - missed three games starting Feb. 22