For the first two games, the Checkers will face off against the West Division's Houston Aeros, who hold an identical number of points in the standings. The two teams, who have never before faced one another, will clash four times this season with all games coming between tonight and Nov. 13.
The first two games of the season series are tonight and tomorrow, with each beginning at 7 p.m. They can be heard live on WFNZ 610 AM, with video and audio available online at AHL Live.
Faulk, a 2010 second-round draft choice, made his professional debut during the Checkers' run to the Eastern Conference Final last season following an NCAA national championship victory with the University of Minnesota-Duluth in his freshman season. The South St. Paul, Minnesota, native has two assists in 13 AHL playoff games and is scoreless in three NHL games.
Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said that he expects Faulk to play top minutes in all situations throughout the weekend, after which time a return to the NHL seems likely.
Charlotte will be playing its first game without captain Brett Sutter, who was recalled to the Hurricanes on Monday. The team plans to name a third alternate captain for tonight's game, joining current alternates Nicolas Blanchard and Chris Durno. In Sutter's place, forward Jared Staal is expected to make his season debut on the team's fourth line, with winger Matt Pistilli moving up in the lineup.
The Aeros, the defending Western Conference champions who fell to Binghamton in the Calder Cup Final last season, are off to a 2-1-0-1 start to rank third in the West Division. Both of their losses, one of which came in the shootout, came in their last two contests against San Antonio and Oklahoma City, erasing the team's previously perfect 2-0 start.
Houston’s leading scorer, Casey Wellman, has four goals on the season, failing to find the back of the net in just one game. He recorded the game-winning goal in both of the Aeros’ victories, good enough to tie him for the league lead in that category.
In goal, the Aeros are led by second-year pro Matt Hackett, a former member of the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, who owns a 1.95 goals-against average (10th AHL) and .931 save percentage (9th). Hackett ranks fourth in the AHL in shootout save percentage – one spot behind Charlotte’s Justin Peters, having made nine saves on 11 shots against San Antonio last Saturday. He has started three of Houston’s four games, helping the Aeros to the league’s sixth-stingiest defense (nine goals allowed for an average of 2.25 per game).
The Aeros will be without center Carson McMillan, who is in a five-way tie for second on the team in points (three), as the AHL this week suspended him four games for an illegal check to the head.
All rankings through games of Oct. 19
• Center Jon Matsumoto has finished each of the season’s first two weeks with at least a share of the AHL’s scoring lead. He began the season in Norfolk with back-to-back three-point efforts, a career first, before notching three points (1g, 2a) in the Checkers’ series with Peoria for a total of nine points (3g, 6a). He entered Thursday's games tied with Springfield’s Nick Drazenovich and Manchester's Andrei Loktionov, each of whom have played in at least one more game.
Matumoto's goal against the Rivermen on Sunday held up as the game-winner, the 15th such marker of his AHL career, while his six assists are tied for second in the league. He is the only Checkers player to record points in all four games this season.
• Right wing Jerome Samson, who led the AHL in shots on goal at the time of his recall to Carolina last season, currently ranks fifth in the league with 18. Samson, who took 245 shots in 53 AHL games last season (an average of 4.62 per game) is now averaging 4.5 shots per game, having taken at least four in each game played. Samson’s three goals are tied with Matsumoto and Drayson Bowman for the team lead.
• Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti finds himself in an nine-way tie for third among AHL defensemen in scoring with four assists in the team’s first four games, three of which have come on the power play. Sanguinetti has recorded an assist in all but one of Charlotte’s games, beginning the season with a two-assist effort at Norfolk on Oct. 7. He trails Norfolk’s Mark Barberio by two assists for the league lead.
• After recording a league-leading 49 penalty minutes in the season-opening, two-game series in Norfolk, the Checkers now find themselves in 17th place after recording just 22 in back-to-back games against Peoria. During their two-game set with the Rivermen, Charlotte earned seven more power-play opportunities than Peoria, scoring two power play goals in 13 chances (15.4 percent) while killing all six Peoria power plays.
• Charlotte allowed 57 total shots against Peoria, including a season-low 25 in the first match-up on Oct. 15. Its weekend average of 28.5 presents an improvement over the team’s initial weekend, which saw the Checkers allow 44 shots in both of their games against Norfolk to finish the season’s first week with the most shots faced in the AHL.
Oct. 19: Justin Faulk (D) - Assigned to Charlotte by Carolina (NHL)
Oct. 17: Brett Sutter (C) - Recalled by Carolina (NHL)
Oct. 14:Darcy Kuemper (G) - Assigned by Minnesota (NHL) to Ontario (ECHL) Oct. 12: Eric Nystrom (LW) – Recalled from loan by Minnesota (NHL) [TRADED]