February 09, 2012 10:28 AM
With Mike Murphy’s lower-body injury expected to keep him out for at least one more weekend, the Checkers have again made a temporary move to solidify their goaltending.
Dave Caruso, a 29-year-old backstop for the ECHL’s Trenton Titans, is the third goalie in three weeks to join the Checkers on a tryout basis to provide backup for rookie John Muse. Unlike those who preceded him, Pier-Olivier Pelletier of CHL Evansville and Scott Darling of SPHL Mississippi, Caruso could potentially see game action with the Checkers beginning a three-in-three set on Friday.
Caruso, an undrafted Ohio State product who grew up playing youth hockey in the Atlanta area, has a 3.49 goals-against average and .885 save percentage in 51 career AHL games (full stats here). This is the first season in which he has not been under an NHL or AHL contract, having previously spent time in the Atlanta and New Jersey organizations.
With the potential of his latest tryout addition making a start, Daniels acknowledged that the third edition of his search was different than the first two.
“You’re looking for someone with a little more experience,” said Daniels. “You want a guy that’s played at this level before and will be comfortable if he goes in. Right now we’re just focusing on the first one in Milwaukee, but I wouldn’t have a problem using him for one of the games.”
Since Murphy’s injury, Muse is 4-1-0 with a goals-against average of 2.48 and a save percentage of .920. Though impressive, those ratios actually hurt his season marks of 1.67 and .948, illustrating the strength of his start.
Caruso did not practice with the team on Thursday but will meet the team in Milwaukee. He will become the sixth goalie to dress for the Checkers this season and possibly the fourth to enter a game.
Murphy will not make the trip, nor will any of an injured group that includes Chris Durno, Chris Murray and Justin Shugg. Murphy, who has been out since suffering an injury during warm-ups on Jan. 24, has not yet practiced with team but could return as soon as the weekend of Feb. 17, which will see the Checkers play yet another three-in-three cluster, their seventh of the season. This coming set, which begins with games against Midwest Division rivals Milwaukee and Peoria, is the only one of their eight three-in-threes that is split between road and home.
Daniels said that playing the third game at home, a Sunday evening contest against Norfolk, could potentially work to the team’s advantage.
“They’re always tough no matter what, especially when you’ve played two hard games the night before, but coming home might give you that extra boost.”
The Checkers go into this weekend having not played for five days, marking their longest uninterrupted practice time since the second week of the season. After rarely getting the opportunity to practice as a team during a busy month of January, Thursday marked their fourth consecutive day on the ice.
“The first few days we took advantage of the time to do some conditioning, but knowing that we had the three-in-three coming up we took it easy the last few days,” said Daniels. “We had three new guys that hadn’t really practiced with us yet, so we focused on some systems and that kind of stuff.”
One of those players is Evgenii Dadonov, a recent trade acquisition from the Florida Panthers organization who has 3 points (1g, 2a) in his first seven games as a Checker.
“As he continues to get more comfortable with his team and his linemates he’ll only get better,” said Daniels. “He’s no different than anyone else in that he’s very skilled and you see those flashes of what he can do, but it’s the consistency that’s going to get you to the next level. If there are times when you’re not scoring goals, you’ve got to be doing something else to contribute.”
The Checkers begin the weekend with 60 points, four ahead of Chicago for the division lead. Milwaukee (50 points) and Peoria (51) rank fourth and third, respectively, though both have played fewer games.