The game will mark the third of the four-game season series between the two clubs, with Charlotte (22-14-4) having won each of the first two. That includes a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon that saw Rasmus Rissanen break a 2-2 tie with the first goal of his professional career with 6:34 remaining in the third period.
Following tonight’s game, the Checkers depart on a three-game road swing through Abbotsford and Norfolk that will not see them play another home game until Jan. 26.
Having regained sole possession of its long-held Midwest Division lead on Sunday, the Checkers will look to further distance themselves from the pack tonight while participating in the only game on the day’s AHL schedule.
The game continues a congested portion of the season, as Charlotte will become just the fifth team to hit the 41-game mark. Whatever happens tonight, they will have played three more games than divisional rivals Chicago, which trails them by two points, and five more games than Milwaukee, which sits four points back.
Though a few players are thought to be nearing returns to the lineup, the Checkers are likely to field the same roster as they’ve used for each of the last two games. Possible exceptions are Riley Nash, who practiced fully with the team on Monday, and Justin Shugg, who participated in a non-contact jersey. Update: Nash will return to the lineup, centering the fourth line in pace of Cedric McNicoll (healthy scratch).
Once healthy, Jerome Samson, who missed the Carolina Hurricanes’ last game with an upper-body injury, is also a candidate to rejoin the team now that Jeff Skinner has returned from his concussion. Alternatively, his return could also push Charlotte captain Brett Sutter out of the NHL lineup.
Mike Murphy, who made 31 saves to record the win on his 23rd birthday on Sunday, is expected to make his sixth consecutive start in goal for the Checkers.
13th Western Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
A seven-game point streak has quickly overlapped into a three-game winless streak for the Griffins, who on Sunday fell to 0-2-1 since Jan. 11. Their current streak of two regulation losses marks their longest since dropping their first two games after Thanksgiving Day to Oklahoma City at home.
Until Rissanen put the Checkers ahead for good on Sunday, the Griffins appeared set to play their 13th overtime game, which would have given them sole possession of most in the league. Ten of their last 18 games have needed extra time to determine a winner, with the Griffins going a combined 5-7 in overtime and shootout games.
With no transactions made between Sunday and today, the Griffins will still have all of their top scorers at their disposal. Gustav Nyquist, the AHL’s top rookie in terms of points per game, and veteran Chris Conner each recorded assists on Sunday to give them points in all three games since coming back from the Detroit Red Wings prior to the game on Jan. 11. Joakim Andersson, who has also played NHL games in 2012, has 3 points in his last two games, including a goal and an assist against the Checkers.
Over their past six games, the Griffins have alternated between goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Tom McCollum. MacDonald (2.80 goals-against average, .906 save percentage) stopped 28 shots in the losing effort on Sunday, suggesting that the team could turn to McCollum (3.01, .904) tonight.
• CLOSE CALLS: The Checkers have played 22 games decided by just one goal this season, tying them for third-most in the league. Of the four other teams that have played just as many or more one-goal games this season, the Checkers have the highest point percentage in those contests with a record of 13-5-4 (.682).
• STRONG FINNISH: Rookie defenseman Rasmus Rissanen’s first professional goal was the game-winner in Charlotte’s 4-2 victory over Grand Rapids on Sunday. Rissanen became the 21st player to score a goal with the Checkers this season, leaving Justin Krueger and Bobby Sanguinetti as the only Charlotte regulars still looking for their first tally. The goal by Rissanen, who scored one regular-season goal in his final season of junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips, was the first by a Checkers defenseman since Brett Bellemore scored for the first and only time this season on Dec. 18.
• A MAJOR PLUS: Rookie defenseman Justin Krueger posted a plus-5 rating over three games last week, putting him in first place on the team with a season total of plus-9. Krueger is one of six active Checkers players with a positive plus/minus rating, with Drayson Bowman and Justin Shugg (plus-5) tied for second place.
• A BETTER MONTH: Having experienced a season-high, six-game pointless streak to begin December, Checkers forward Zac Dalpe has points in five of six games during the month of January, including an active five-game point streak (4g, 2a) that marks a new season high. Dalpe’s January run coincides with his most recent reassignment from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, where he posted 2 points (1g, 1a) during a four-game stint.
• BOYCHUK GETTING GOALS: During the Checkers’ two-game set against Hershey last week, Checkers forward Zach Boychuk became the third player on the team to hit the double-digit mark in goals (12). Boychuk has tallied three times in his last three games, including his third multi-goal effort of the season on Wednesday. With 12 goals in 29 games, Boychuk has the highest goals-per game average of any Checkers player (.414).
• HOME AND AWAY: The Checkers’ 29 points earned at home this season are tied with Milwaukee for the most in the AHL. With a record of 13-6-3 this season, the AHL Checkers have improved to 35-19-7 all-time at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Checkers recently broke the .500 mark on the road for the first time since Dec. 9 and now have a season record of 9-8-1.
• Zac Dalpe has points in each of his last five games (Jan. 7-15; 4g, 2a).
• Mike Murphy has started five consecutive games in goal (Jan. 7-15; 2-2-1).
• Jon Matsumoto has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 12-15; 3a).
• Bobby Sanguinetti has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 12-15; 3a).
• Chris Terry has goals and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 12-15; 2g, 1a).
• Jan. 15 – (G) John Muse recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
• Jan. 12 – (D) Chris Murray recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
• Jan. 12 – (D) Derek Joslin recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 11 – (RW) Matt Beca recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
• Jan. 10 - (RW) Jerome Samson recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 14 – (LW) Chris Minard reassigned to Grand Rapids from Detroit (NHL)
• Jan. 11 – (RW) Jan Mursak recalled to Detroit (NHL) from Grand Rapids