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Weekly Report: Jan. 27, 2014

Charlotte Checkers Weekly Report
The Checkers’ most successful stretch of the season continued last week, with the team knocking on the door of playoff position as it embarks on a five-game road swing.

A record setting 9-3 win over the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday, the second in back-to-back Checkers wins over their West Division rival, actually pushed Charlotte up to seventh place in the conference following that night’s action. However, an idle weekend saw them slide back down to 11th place, still just one point below the cutoff line.

With seven wins in their last eight games, including four straight to tie their longest winning streak of the season, the Checkers now make a quick one-game trip to Norfolk to play Tuesday night. Following that, they will play back-to-back games in Lake Erie this Saturday and Sunday before heading to Abbotsford.

Week in Review

Team Statistics

  • Overall record
    21-19-1
  • Home record
    12-13-0
  • Road record
    9-6-1
  • Last week's record
    2-0-0
  • Last 10 games
    8-2-0
  • Division Standings
    3rd
  • Conference Standings
    11th
  • League Standings
    22nd

Checkers 4, OKC 0

John Muse made 31 saves to earn his third shutout of the season as the Checkers took a 4-0 victory to start a back-to-back set against the Oklahoma City Barons at Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday. The team’s third consecutive win came on Muse’s fifth career AHL shutout, all of which have come with the Checkers. Justin Shugg had two goals to set a new career high, with Greg Nemisz and Brett Sutter chipping in the others as Charlotte improved to 5-0-0 to start their 12-game series with the Barons. Full recap.

Checkers 9, OKC 3

Charlotte hit the nine-goal mark for just the third time in team history, falling one short of the franchise record, as they took a 9-3 victory over Oklahoma City on Friday. Zach Boychuk, who also had an assist, netted his second career hat trick and the fourth in franchise history, Brett Sutter recorded a Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal, two assists and one of the game’s six fights, and Chris Terry joined Boychuk in tying the franchise record for most points in a single game with four assists. The Checkers, who improved to 6-0-0 against Oklahoma City this season, tied a franchise record with five power-play goals in winning their fourth straight game, tying their longest streak of the season. John Muse made 26 saves, including one on a Barons penalty shot in the first period. Full recap

Notables

Charlotte Checkers Ryan Murphy
  • The Carolina Hurricanes assigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to Charlotte on Friday - a move that makes him eligible to play for the Checkers during the NHL's Olympic Break. Read more

Last Week's News

Winning Streak

The Checkers' current four-game winning streak ties their longest of the season, a run orginally set from Dec. 10-19. Both streaks were set entirely at home, with each tying the franchise record for longest home winning streak orginally set from Nov. 20-30, 2011. The Checkers, who have out-scored their opponents by a 23-7 margin over the course of their current streak, are now 12-13-0 at Time Warner Cable Arena after starting the season with six consecutive regulation losses on home ice.

Charlotte's franchise record for longest overall winning streak is six games, set from Jan. 4-16 of last season. That stretch also marked part of one of three times that the team has won seven games during an eight-game span, which they have accomplished by going 6-1-0 since Jan. 3. The other came during a 6-1-0 stretch from Nov. 11-28, 2010.

In the Race

With seven wins in their last eight games, the Checkers have climbed to 11th place in the Western Conference and are currently just one point out of a playoff spot. Following a win in their last game on Jan. 24, they sat in seventh place - their highest standing since a win on Oct. 31 (their last game prior to a franchise-record, seven-game losing streak that still marks the longest in the AHL this season) put them in fifth.

The Checkers are now 21-19-1, with a win on Jan. 23 putting them over .500 for the first time since Nov. 7. They were a franchise-record six games under .500 as recently as Dec. 7 (8-14-1).

Big Win

The Checkers' 9-3 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 24 marked just the third time that the team has scored nine or more goals in their four AHL seasons and first since a 9-5 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 23, 2011. It also tied a Texas game on Oct. 20 for the most goals scored by an AHL team in a single game this season. The Checkers' record of 10 goals was set in a 10-3 win over Syracuse on Dec. 6, 2013.

The recent six-goal victory over the Barons was the Checkers' largest margin of victory this season, eclipsing three previous five-goal wins. It was the largest since an 8-2 road game over the Milwaukee Admirals on Feb. 16, 2013, both of which fell one short of the franchise record set on two previous occasions.

High Scorers

Zach Boychuk (3g, 1a) and Chris Terry (4a) each tied the Checkers' franchise record for points in a single game during the team's 9-3 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 24. The record was set on 14 previous occasions, including twice by Boychuk and once by Terry.

Terry's four-assist game was the fifth in team history, including his own four-assist performance on Jan. 20, 2012.

Hats Off to Boychuk

Zach Boychuk
With three goals against Oklahoma City on Jan. 25, Zach Boychuk scored his second career AHL hat trick and the fourth in franchise history. Boychuk previously had three goals as part of another four-point performance at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 23, 2011, that also marked the last time the Checkers had scored nine or more goals until the recent win over the Barons.

Two of Boychuk's goals came on the power play, giving him 12 on the season to tie the franchise record for most in a single season (Jacob Micflikier in 2010-11) and take sole possession of the league lead. With 18 goals on the season, he is just two away from hitting the 20-goal mark at the AHL level for the fourth time in as many seasons with the Checkers and five away from his AHL career high of 23 set last season.

Other Checkers hat tricks occurred on Nov. 11, 2010 (Jacob Micflikier vs. Bridgeport) and Oct. 28, 2012 (Brett Sutter at Peoria).

Power Surge

The Checkers' five power-play goals on seven chances on Jan. 24 tied the franchise record for most power-play goals in a single game. That performance also tied two other instances for most by an AHL team this season (Texas on Oct. 20; Binghamton on Jan. 4). The only other time the Checkers scored five power-play goals in a single game was in an 8-2 win at Milwaukee on Feb. 16, 2013 (5-for-8).

For the season, the Checkers now rank second in the AHL with a 23.4 percent success rate.

All He Does Is Win

Checkers goalie John Muse has won each of his last five decisions, putting him just one short of his season high set from Nov. 30-Dec. 19 that tied the franchise record held by teammate Mike Murphy. Starting with his earlier streak, Muse has won 12 of his last 14 games to improve to 16-8-0 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 2.39 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts, including a 31-save performance against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23. 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 34-18-3 and is tied with Justin Peters for second in Checkers history with 33 wins. The team record of 42 is held by Murphy.

Palushaj Picks up the Pace

Checkers forward Aaron Palushaj has 25 points (9g, 16a) in his last 18 AHL games. During that time period, he has at least one point in 16 of those games and has posted eight multi-point outings. His current seven-game point streak (6g, 5a) is his longest of the season and the second longest posted by a Checkers player this season (Chris Terry - nine games from Oct. 4-31). It is also the second-longest of his career, trailing an eight-game run with Hamilton to start the 2010-11 season.

Palushaj now leads the Checkers with 39 points (t-7th AHL) and 24 assists (15th AHL), both of which are at least five more than any other Charlotte skater. His 14 goals rank second on the team behind Zach Boychuk (18).

Fitting In

Greg Nemisz
Since the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him from Calgary in a Dec. 30 trade and assigned him to Charlotte, forward Greg Nemisz has points in all six games he's played as a Checker (3g, 5a), including goals in each of his last three (3g, 1a). 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.

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 41 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.

Penalty Shot

John Muse's penalty-shot save on Jan. 24 came on the first attempt of his AHL career. It also marked the fourth time a Checkers goalie has stopped a penalty shot in five all-time attempts. It was the first penalty shot in a Checkers game since Rob Madore stopped Norfolk's John Mitchell on March 26 of last season.

Divisional Dominance

The Checkers have a 10-3-0 record against fellow West Division teams this season but do not have a winning record against any other division. In 41 games, the Checkers have played against the West just 13 times, marking the fewest games that any AHL team has played within its own division.

Most of Charlotte' excellent divisional record has come by way of a 6-0-0 mark against the Okalhoma City Barons, who they meet six more times this season. The Checkers' franchise record for most wins against one opponent in a single season is seven, set when they went 7-3-2 against Norfolk in 2010-11 and 7-0-1 against Peoria in 2012-13.

Quick Hits

  • Charlotte's five third-period goals on Jan. 24 tied the second-most scored by an AHL team in a single period this season.
  • In his first AHL game of the season on Jan. 24, Checkers defenseman Ryan Murphy recorded three assists, all on the power play, to set a professional career high for most points in a single game. His plus-3 rating tied his best as a pro, a mark set just three weeks earlier in Carolina's 4-3 overtime win over Washington on Jan. 2.
  • Brett Sutter's fight on Jan. 24 was his first in the AHL since Jan. 13, 2013.
  • The Checkers' 48 total penalty minutes on Jan. 24 were a team record. Combined with Oklahoma City's 76 penalty minutes in that game, the 124 total penalty minutes were also a team record.
  • The Checkers have scored three or more goals in 10 of their last 12 games. They are 19-6-0 when scoring three or more and 2-13-1 when scoring fewer than three.
  • Charlotte ranks ninth in the AHL with an average of 3.02 goals per game. Following the last game of their seven-game losing streak on Nov. 20, they ranked 25th in the league at 2.44.
  • Charlotte's upcoming five-game road swing is its longest since playing six consecutive games on the road from Oct. 25-Nov. 2. Charlotte's 16 road games played are the fewest in the AHL.
  • The first period is the only period in which the Checkers have a positive goal differential (40 for, 37 against).

Player Streaks

  • Aaron Palushaj has points in each of his last seven games (Jan. 10-24: 6g, 5a)
  • Greg Nemisz has points in each of his last six games (Jan. 3-24: 3g, 5a) and goals in each of his last three (Jan. 19-24: 3g, 1a)
  • John Muse has won each of his last five starts (Jan. 11-Jan. 24)
  • Zach Boychuk has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 23-24: 3g, 2a)
  • Chris Terry has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 23-24: 0g, 5a)
  • Brett Sutter has goals and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 23-24: 2g, 2a)
  • Danny Biega has assists and points in each of his last two games (Jan. 23-24: 0g, 2a)

Milestones

  • Zach Boychuk is one goal shy of 100 AHL goals
  • Zach Boychuk recorded his 100th Checkers assist at Oklahoma City on Jan. 23

Injuries

  • Sean Dolan - missed 21 games starting Dec. 1
  • Jared Staal - missed eight games starting Jan. 3
  • Nicolas Blanchard - missed five games starting Jan. 17
  • Brendan Woods - missed five games starting Jan. 17

Transactions

Incoming

  • Jan. 24 - (D) Ryan Murphy assigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)

Outgoing

  • Jan. 25 - (D) Beau Schmitz assigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte

This Week's Games

Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7:15 p.m. - Checkers at Norfolk

  • Broadcast: ESPN 730 | Online

Friday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. - Checkers at Lake Erie

  • Broadcast: ESPN 730 | Online

Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. - Checkers at Lake Erie

By the Numbers

Team Statistics
CATEGORY RECORD AHL RANK LAST WEEK
Power play 23.4% 2nd 22.3% (3rd)
Penalty kill 80.1% 20th 79.5% (t-22nd)
Goals per game 3.02 9th 2.85 (14th)
Shots per game 32.3 7th 31.8 (8th)
Goals allowed per game 3.05 20th 3.13 (22nd)
Shots allowed per game 31.8 22nd 31.9 (23rd)
Penalty minutes per game 14.7 8th 13.9 (5th)
Team Leaders
CATEGORY LEADER(S)
Points Aaron Palushaj (39), Zach Boychuk, Chris Terry (33), Victor Rask (22)
Goals Zach Boychuk (18), Aaron Palushaj (15), Chris Terry (14)
Assists Aaron Palushaj (24), Chris Terry (19), Zach Boychuk (15)
Power play goals Zach Boychuk (12), Chris Terry (7), Mark Flood (6)
Shorthanded goals Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter (1)
Game-winning goals Aaron Palushaj (4), Chris Terry (3), four tied at (2)
Shots on goal Chris Terry (112), Aaron Palushaj (110), Zach Boychuk (105)
Penalty minutes Nicolas Blanchard (72), Matt Corrente (68), Rasmus Rissanen (53)
Plus/minus Brody Sutter (+9), Greg Nemisz (+6), Matt Corrente (+4)
Wins John Muse (16), Mike Murphy (3)
Goals-against average John Muse (2.39), Mike Murphy (3.91)
Save percentage John Muse (.922), Mike Murphy (.885)

Checkers in the NHL

Carolina Hurricanes (23-19-9: 5th 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 29 4 6 10 2 -6  
Manny Malhotra C 39 6 5 11 12 8 Three points (2g, 1a) vs. OTT (1/25)
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 (22-14-3: 6th Eastern Conference)
Player POS GP G A PTS PIM +/- NOTES
Kyle Bonis F 35 14 7 21 11 +6 Ranks third on team in goals
Austin Levi D 27 0 5 5 22 -1  
Stefan Della Rovere F - - - - - - On injured reserve
Beau Schmitz D 2 0 1 1 0 -2 Assigned from Charlotte 1/25
Kellan Tochkin F 28 3 16 19 30 +2 Has not played since 1/11
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.