The Checkers will have a quick opportunity to rebound from last night’s disappointing loss, as they take on the Admirals for the second consecutive night tonight in Norfolk (7:15 p.m.).
Mike Murphy is expected to get the start in goal for Charlotte, continuing a plan that will see him flip-flop with Justin Peters for most of the season. Peters made 38 saves on Friday night’s 6-5 overtime loss, having to face more shots than any other goaltender through the first night of AHL play as the Checkers were out-shot 44-30.
While Charlotte will look to tighten up defensively – it saw two separate two-goal leads disappear in the third period – there wasn’t anything wrong with their offense on Friday. With two goals and assist, center Jon Matsumoto enters Saturday’s game in a three-way tie for the AHL scoring lead with Manchester’s Marc-Andre Cliché and Andrei Loktionov. The Checkers’ first-line pivot, who started on a line with Drayson Bowman and Jerome Samson, had two three-point efforts last season, with the most recent coming on Feb. 3 against Norfolk at Time Warner Cable Arena. He also led the Checkers with six shots on goal during Friday’s opener.
Matsumoto’s goal to tie the game at 1-1 early in the second period was the Checkers’ only power-play goal, as they would finish the evening converting just one of eight chances. Matsumoto had 10 power-play goals last season, tying Boychuk and Chris Terry for the lead among returning Charlotte players. Norfolk converted three of its nine opportunities, including two in the third period. The Admirals tying goal with 3:28 remaining in regulation came with Mathieu Roy in the box for boarding.
Also featuring for the Checkers on Friday was Samson, who finished with a game-high plus-3 rating and was one of three players to net two goals in the game along with Matsumoto and Norfolk’s Carter Ashton, who ended the game at 1:55 of overtime. Zach Boychuk (1g, 1a) and Bobby Sanguinetti (0g, 2a) also finished with two points.
Ashton, a 2009 first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was one of four Norfolk players to record two points, along with defenseman Mark Barberio (0g, 2a), winger Alexandre Picard (1g, 1a) and center Trevor Smith (0g, 2a). Goaltender Dustin Tokarski, a junior teammate of Bowman’s with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs, made 25 saves for the Admirals.
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Defensemen Ryan Donald and forward Jared Staal sat out Friday’s game for the Checkers, with the team currently carrying 22 players on its roster… Roy, who played a total of 51 games for the Admirals last season, had a fight to go with his boarding minor, giving him a game-high nine penalty minutes. Checkers center Chris Durno also spent last season with the Admirals, serving as the team’s captain… Along with Durno and Roy, defenseman Justin Krueger and forward Justin Soryal made their Checkers debuts on Friday… The Admirals now hold a one-point lead in the GEICO Challenge Cup, awarded at the end of the season to the team with the most points in the eight-game season series between Charlotte and Norfolk… Though the Checkers went 5-0-0-1 in Norfolk last season, they have now dropped points in each of their last visits, having lost in a shootout on Feb. 25.