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Weekly Report: Jan. 20, 2014

Aaron Palushaj
After starting their three-in-three set in the toughest manner possible, the Charlotte Checkers rebounded in a big way to win each of their next two, get back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 7 and climb to within three points of a playoff spot.

Since losing 7-1 to Texas on Friday, one of the bigger defeats in team history, the Checkers won 6-1 in the next afternoon's rematch and fired a season-high 53 shots in a 4-3 shootout win over Norfolk on Sunday. That gives the Checkers five wins in their last six games, tying their most successful six-game stretch of the season.

The Checkers will have a chance to further improve their fortunes when their home stand concludes with back-to-back games against the Oklahoma City Barons starting Thursday. Charlotte has won all four games against its West Division rival this season, with all four games taking place in Oklahoma City.

Week in Review

Team Statistics

  • Overall record
    19-19-1
  • Home record
    10-13-0
  • Road record
    9-6-1
  • Last week's record
    2-1-0
  • Last 10 games
    7-3-0
  • Division Standings
    3rd
  • Conference Standings
    11th
  • League Standings
    23rd

Texas 7, Checkers 1

A battle of West Division rivals on three-game win streaks went decisively in the visitors' favor as Texas took a 7-1 win at Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday. All of the game's goals took place in the first two periods, with the Checkers coming one goal short of tying franchise records for most goals allowed and largest loss margin. Aaron Palushaj scored Charlotte's only goal, with Mike Murphy (16 saves on 22 shots) and John Muse (four saves on five shots) each appearing in goal. Full recap

Checkers 6, Texas 1

A mere 14 hours after suffering one of the largest defeats in their history, the Checkers pulled off a huge turnaround by defeating the Texas Stars 6-1 in a noon rematch at Time Warner Cable Arena. Aaron Palushaj had two goals and Justin Shugg, Zach Boychuk, Philippe Cornet and Victor Rask each had one as the Checkers set a new season high for goals scored while tying their largest margin of victory during the current campaign. John Muse made 23 saves to pick up the win, improving the Checkers' record to 2-2-0 against Texas this season. Full recap

Checkers 4, Norfolk 3 (SO)

After falling behind 2-0 midway through the first period, the Checkers tied the game, fell behind and tied the game again with five minutes remaining before defeating Norfolk by a 4-3 score in a shootout on Sunday. Greg Nemisz scored his first goal as a Checker as the home team swarmed the Admirals in the third period as part of a season-high 53 shot effort, with Matthew Pistilli, Aaron Palushaj and Chris Terry scoring on the team's first three shootout attempts to win the game. John Muse made 36 saves and stopped three of four in the shootout to win his third straight game, with Palushaj and Mark Flood getting the Checkers' other goals in regulation. Full recap

Notables

Charlotte Checkers Weekly Report
  • Midterm Report: The Checkers hope lessons learned from a tough start will help them earn the big second half they need. Read more

Last Week's News

Getting Even

Sunday's 4-3 shootout win over Norfolk pushed the Checkers' record to 19-19-1, getting them back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 7, when a loss to Chicago, the second in a franchise-record, seven-game losing streak that still marks the longest in the AHL this season, dropped them to 5-5-1. The team was at a franchise-record-low six games under .500 as recently as Dec. 7 (8-14-1).

Prior to the current campaign, the latest in a season that the Checkers had been under .500 was Nov. 10, 2010.

Palushaj Picks up the Pace

Checkers forward Aaron Palushaj has 22 points (8g, 14a) in his last 16 AHL games. During that time period, he has at least one point in 14 of those games and has posted seven multi-point outings. His current five-game point streak (5g, 3a) and three-game goal streak (4g, 0a) tie his longest of the season.

Palushaj now leads the Checkers with 36 points (t-8th AHL) and 22 assists (t-15th AHL), both of which are at least eight more than any other Charlotte skater. His 14 goals are tied for second on the team, one off the lead held by Zach Boychuk, while his 107 shots are most on the team.

Floodgates Open

Defenseman Mark Flood scored his ninth goal of the season against Norfolk on Jan. 19, pulling him into a second-place tie for most goals and power-play goals (six) among AHL defensemen.

In just 39 games, Flood, a 29-year-old veteran who scored just one goal in 52 games in the Russian KHL last season, has already tied Bryan Rodney (2010-11) for the second-highest goal total by a Checkers defenseman in a single season and is only one away from the team record of 10 set by Bobby Sanguinetti in 2011-12. He is also just two away from his AHL career high of 11 set with Manitoba during the 2010-11 campaign.

Fitting In

Greg Nemisz
Since the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him in a Dec. 30 trade and assigned him to Charlotte, forward Greg Nemisz has points in all four games he's played as a Checker (1g, 4a). That includes his first goal with the team that tied the game with 5:13 remaining of an eventual 4-3 shootout win over Norfolk on Jan. 20.

Prior to joining the Checkers, Nemisz, a 2008 first-round draft pick who scored 248 points (115g, 133a) in 246 career junior hockey games with the Windsor Spitfires, had just 19 points in his previous 87 AHL games with the Abbotsford Heat, including nine (5g, 4a) in 32 games this season.

All He Does Is Win

Checkers goalie John Muse has won each of his last three decisions, giving him his third winning streak of three or more games this season. He has now won 10 of his last 12, including a six-game streak from Nov. 30-Dec. 19 that tied the franchise record. Muse is 14-8-0 this season, while the other seven goalies the team has used are a combined 5-11-1.

Since rejoining the Checkers on a professional tryout contract on Oct. 23 (he later signed an AHL contract), Muse has a 2.46 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and two shutouts. A winner of two NCAA National Championships with Boston College and an ECHL Kelly Cup with the Florida Everblades, he has an all-time AHL record of 32-18-3.

Free Hockey

The Checkers' shootout win over Norfolk on Jan. 19 marked the team's fourth overtime game and second shootout of the season, both of which are league lows. The Checkers are 3-1 in overtime games this season, including a 2-0 record in games decided during the five-minute, four-on-four period and a 1-1 record in the shootout.

The Checkers' win over Norfolk marked their first shootout victory since March 9 of last season.

Power Players

The Checkers, who rank third in the AHL with a 22.3 percent success rate on the power play, have scored 36 percent of their goals on the man advantage (40 of 111), which is the highest percentage of any AHL team.

However, that percentage has been dropping steadily of late, with 29 of the team's last 36 goals scored at even strength, shorthanded or credited via a shootout win. The Checkers' six even-strength goals scored against Texas on Jan. 18 were the most since the team also scored six at Peoria on April 13, 2012.

Bouncing Back

Matt Marquardt
One night after flirting with franchise records for most goals allowed and largest margin of defeat (one goal short, in both cases) in a 7-1 loss on Friday, the Checkers hit a new season high for goals scored and matched the season's largest margin of victory with a 6-1 win in Saturday's rematch against the Texas Stars.

The six goals scored were the Checkers' most since an 8-2 win at Milwaukee on Feb. 16 of last season, while the five-goal win matched a pair of 5-0 victories in Grand Rapids and Chicago on Oct. 25 and 27 of this season, respectively.

Meet the Division

In 39 games, the Checkers have played against their own division, the West, just 12 times, marking the fewest games that any AHL team has played within its own division. The West is the only division the Checkers have a winning record against at 9-3-0.

Each of the Checkers' next two games (vs. Oklahoma City on Jan. 23 and 24) will be played against a divisional opponent.

Three in Threes

The Checkers recently completed their third three-in-three set of the season and the second played entirely at home, having dropped a 7-1 decision to Texas in the first game on Friday only to rebound with a 6-1win over the Stars the next day and a 4-3 shootout win over Norfolk on Sunday. The team is now 5-3-1 in games that are part of a three-in-three this season, including a 2-1-0 record in game one, a 1-1-1 record in game two and a 2-1-0 record in game three.

All-time, the Checkers are 15-8-3 in game one, 16-5-5 in game two and 13-12-1 in game three over the course of their four AHL seasons. They will play two more three-in-three sets this season on March 7-9 and April 4-6, both of which will be played entirely on the road.

Quick Hits

  • The Checkers' 53 shots on goal on Jan. 19 were the second-most by an AHL team this season, while their 23 shots in the third period tied the second most by any team in any period.
  • The Checkers have scored three or more goals in eight of their last 10 games. They are 17-6-0 when scoring three or more and 2-13-1 when scoring fewer than three.
  • Rasmus Rissanen's plus-4 rating on Jan. 18 was the highest by a Checkers skater this season.
  • Zach Boychuk is in a three-way tie with Texas forwards Chris Mueller and Colton Sceviour for first in the AHL with 10 power-play goals.
  • The Checkers are 10-2-0 in their last 11 one-goal games. Ten of their last 12 victories have been by one goal.
  • The Checkers are one of three AHL teams (Iowa, Syracuse) with a losing record at home (10-13-0) and a winning record on the road (9-6-1).
  • The first period is the only period in which the Checkers have a positive goal differential (37 for, 36 against).
  • Charlotte's one shorthanded goal is tied with two other teams (Abbotsford, Adirondack) for the fewest in the league.

Player Streaks

  • Aaron Palushaj has points in each of his last five games (Jan. 10-19: 5g, 3a) and goals in each of his last three (Jan. 17-19: 4g, 0a)
  • Greg Nemisz has points in each of his last four games (Jan. 3-19: 1g, 4a)
  • Matthew Pistilli has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 19-20: 0g, 3a)
  • Philippe Cornet has points in each of his last two games (Jan. 19-20: 1g, 1a)
  • Victor Rask has points in each of his last two games (Jan. 19-20: 1g, 1a)
  • Rasmus Rissanen has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 18-19: 0g, 2a)

Milestones

  • Philippe Cornet played his 200th AHL game on Jan. 19
  • Greg Nemisz scored his first goal as a Checker on Jan. 19
  • Matt Corrente played his 200th AHL game on Jan. 18
  • Greg Nemisz recorded his 50th AHL assist on Jan. 18
  • Rasmus Rissanen played his 150 AHL/Checkers game on Jan. 17
  • Zach Boychuk is four goals shy of 100 AHL goals

Injuries

  • Sean Dolan - missed 19 games starting Dec. 1
  • Jared Staal - missed six games starting Jan. 3
  • Nicolas Blanchard - missed three games starting Jan. 17
  • Brendan Woods - missed three games starting Jan. 17

Transactions

Incoming

  • none

Outgoing

  • Jan. 16 - (D) Austin Levi - reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
  • Jan. 13 - (LW) Kyle Bonis - reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte

Coming Up

Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. - Checkers vs. Oklahoma City

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  • Thirsty Thursday - $1 Bud Light draughts
  • College Night presented by Hendrick Acura - discounted tickets with valid college email address. Click here to purchase.
  • Harris Teeter VIC Card Thursday - show your VIC card to get $5 off any regular-price ticket

Friday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. - Checkers vs. Oklahoma City

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  • Race Night presented by WIX FILTERS
  • Cow bell giveaway to the first 2,500 fans, courtesy of Imagemark
  • Bojangles Mystery Card giveaway

By the Numbers

Team Statistics
CATEGORY RECORD AHL RANK LAST WEEK
Power play 22.3% 3rd 23.3% (2nd)
Penalty kill 79.5% t-22nd 80.4% (t-21st)
Goals per game 2.85 14th 2.78 (18th)
Shots per game 31.8 8th 31.1 (9th)
Goals allowed per game 3.13 22nd 3.08 (22nd)
Shots allowed per game 31.9 23rd 32.0 (24th)
Penalty minutes per game 13.9 5th 13.9 (5th)
Team Leaders
CATEGORY LEADER(S)
Points Aaron Palushaj (36), Zach Boychuk, Chris Terry (28), Victor Rask (21)
Goals Zach Boychuk (15), Aaron Palushaj, Chris Terry (14), Mark Flood, Justin Shugg (9)
Assists Aaron Palushaj (22), Victor Rask, Chris Terry (14), Zach Boychuk (13)
Power play goals Zach Boychuk (10), Chris Terry (7), Mark Flood (6)
Shorthanded goals Nicolas Blanchard (1)
Game-winning goals Aaron Palushaj (4), Chris Terry (3), Philippe Cornet, Justin Shugg, Brody Sutter (2)
Shots on goal Aaron Palushaj (107), Chris Terry (106), Mark Flood (98)
Penalty minutes Nicolas Blanchard (72), Matt Corrente (63), Rasmus Rissanen (47)
Plus/minus Brody Sutter (+6), Matt Corrente, Greg Nemisz (+3), three tied at (+1)
Wins John Muse (14), Mike Murphy (3)
Goals-against average John Muse (2.46), Mike Murphy (3.91)
Save percentage John Muse (.919), Mike Murphy (.885)

Checkers in the NHL

Carolina Hurricanes (20-19-9: 7th Metropolitan Division)
Player POS GP G A PTS PIM +/- NOTES
Zach Boychuk LW 9 1 3 4 0 2 Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 11
Elias Lindholm C 26 4 6 10 2 -5  
Manny Malhotra C 36 4 4 8 12 5 Ranks third NHL with 59.8% faceoff percentage
Aaron Palushaj RW 1 0 0 0 0 0 Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 8
Brett Sutter C 17 1 1 2 9 -4 Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 11
Chris Terry LW 7 0 0 0 0 -3 Reassigned to Charlotte on 11/22
Goaltender GP RECORD GAA SV% SO NOTES
Justin Peters 21 7-9-4 2.50 .919 1  

Checkers in the ECHL

Florida Everblades (22-11-3: 3rd Eastern Conference)
Player POS GP G A PTS PIM +/- NOTES
Kyle Bonis F 32 13 7 20 11 +6 Ranks third on team in goals
Austin Levi D 24 0 4 4 22 0  
Stefan Della Rovere F - - - - - - On injured reserve
Kellan Tochkin F 28 3 16 19 30 +2 Third on team in assists
Goaltender GP RECORD GAA SV% SO NOTES
Jesse Deckert 9 6-1-2 2.71 .891 0 Injured - out for season
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.