On Tuesday, Milwaukee (35-28-6) defeated Charlotte by a 4-0 score to get to within three points of the Checkers (35-25-9) in the Western Conference standings. The Checkers, currently in sixth place, could climb to fifth win a win tonight, while a loss could cause them to fall to seventh.
Tonight’s match-up is the seventh of the season between the two clubs, with Charlotte leading 4-2-0. They will face each other one additional time to conclude their regular seasons in Milwaukee on April 15.
One day after making highly critical comments about his team’s effort on Tuesday, a game that saw the Checkers give up two goals in the first four minutes of the second period and never mount a serious comeback attempt, coach Jeff Daniels was optimistic about its ability to respond to adversity.
“We always bounce back,” he said. “I think that shows the character of this team.”
Though Tuesday’s loss didn’t cost the Checkers any immediate spots in the standings, it did allow San Antonio to pass them with a victory over Chicago the following day. That game further tightened the conference standings, as the Checkers are just one point clear of ninth place but also trail Chicago by only three for the Midwest Division lead.
The Checkers, who have seen their offensive fortunes vary wildly from game to game, get one of their top offensive players, Drayson Bowman, back from an extended stint at the NHL level. Bowman spent most of the season’s second half with the Carolina Hurricanes, playing just one AHL contest since Jan. 27.
Bowman, a third-year pro who set NHL career highs in all offensive categories this season, has eight points (3g, 5a) in his last seven games with Charlotte. More recently, he scored six points (4g, 2a) in his last 11 outings with Carolina.
The Checkers may need to bring in another new face on defense, with Rasmus Rissanen leaving Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury. With Bobby Sanguinetti already out of the lineup, the team would be left with just five healthy defensemen if both players, who are considered day-to-day, are unfit to return.
In goal, Justin Peters will likely get the start, taking his turn in the rotation that saw Mike Murphy in net for each of the team’s last two games.
11th Western Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
With games in hand on most of the teams ahead of them, the Admirals hope to continue a late-season charge that could put them back into playoff contention after a second-half slide erased a strong start to their season.
Another victory tonight would go a long way towards that goal – it could potentially put them in eighth place – but they’ll have to do without the services of Tuesday’s first star. Goalie Jeremy Smith, who posted a 31-save shutout against the Checkers, will serve a one-game suspension for his part in a bench-clearing brawl against Rockford on Sunday. Center Michael Latta will serve the second of a three-game suspension for his role in the same incident.
With Smith, who leads the AHL in minutes played (3,035) and ranks second in wins (28) forced to watch tonight’s game, the Admirals will turn to backup Atte Engren. In Engren’s only previous start in Charlotte back on Nov. 27, he allowed two goals on two shots before coach Kirk Muller pulled him from the game in favor of Smith. However, Engren did fare better on Feb. 10, stopping 18 of 20 in Charlotte’s 2-1 overtime win in Milwaukee.
For the season, Engren is 6-10-3 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. The Admirals are expecting to sign a backup goalie at some point today.
BOWMAN’S BACK: Now in his third professional season, forward Drayson Bowman has posted the highest scoring pace of his career at both the NHL and AHL levels. In just 35 games with the Checkers this season, Bowman is just one goal short (11) of matching last season’s total of 12 that he posted in 51 contests. Despite playing just one AHL game since Jan. 27, Bowman also ranks tied for third on the team in power-play goals (six). In his last seven games with Charlotte, Bowman has eight points (3g, 5a).
SHUTOUTS: Opposing teams have shut out the Checkers six times in 69 games this season. That marks two more shutouts than they encountered in 80 games last season, when they ranked second in the AHL with an average of 3.31 goals per game. The Checkers currently rank 19th with an average of 2.75 goals per game.
THE MAGIC NUMBER: The Checkers are 29-4-2 when scoring three or more goals this season. All four of those regulation losses were the result of games in which the team scored exactly three goals, making them 18-0-1 when scoring four or more. When the Checkers score two or fewer goals, they are 6-21-7 for the season.
SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS: The Checkers are one of two teams (Hershey) to rank in the AHL’s top five in both the power play and penalty kill. They rank fifth on the power play with a 19.7 percent success rate and second on the penalty kill at 85.3 percent.
• (D) Bobby Sanguinetti has points in each of his last six games (March 16-March 25; 2g, 8a)
• (LW) A.J. Jenks – missed one game, last played March 31 at Peoria
• (D) Bobby Sanguinetti – missed three games, last played March 25 at Hershey
• (RW) Nicolas Blanchard – missed four games, last played March 24 at Hershey
• (LW) Justin Soryal – missed nine games, last played March 11 vs. Chicago (out for season)
• April 4 – (LW) Drayson Bowman reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• April 3 – (F) Mathieu Aubin signed to professional tryout
• April 1 – (D) Dave Leaderer recalled to Milwaukee from Cincinnati (ECHL)
• April 1 – (D) Jeff Foss recalled to Milwaukee from Cincinnati (ECHL)