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Weekly Report: Feb. 3, 2014

Charlotte Checkers vs. Lake Erie Monsters
After a longer-than-expected break between games, the Checkers earned a split in Lake Erie as they played the first leg of a four-game road trip.

What should have been a three-game week ended up being just two as Tuesday’s game was postponed until March 4 due a snowstorm in the Norfolk area. That meant a wasted bus trip for the Checkers, who were shut out for the first time this season against the Monsters on Friday before rebounding for a 5-3 victory in the following night's rematch. Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who joined the Checkers on a conditioning stint, stopped 59 of 63 shots in the two-game set against the Monsters before returning to the NHL on Sunday.

The Checkers now make their first and only visit to far-away Abbotsford to play the division rival Heat for the first time this season. They then return home to renew acquaintances with the Oklahoma City Barons for two games this weekend, including the annual Pink in the Rink event on Friday.

Week in Review

Team Statistics

  • Overall record
    22-20-1
  • Home record
    12-13-0
  • Road record
    10-7-1
  • Last week's record
    1-1-0
  • Last 10 games
    8-2-0
  • Division Standings
    3rd
  • Conference Standings
    10th
  • League Standings
    21st

Lake Erie 1, Checkers 0

Cam Ward made 35 saves in his Checkers debut and first AHL game since Dec. 18, 2005, but his new teammates weren’t able to give him any offensive support during a 1-0 loss in Lake Erie on Friday that halted Charlotte’s winning streak at four games. The loss marked the first time the Checkers, who scored a season-high nine goals in their previous game one week earlier, had been shut out this season. Monsters goalie Calvin Pickard had 33 saves as Lake Erie won the first meeting between the two teams this season. Full recap

Checkers 5, Lake Erie 3

One night after being shut out for the first time this season, the Checkers beat goalie Calvin Pickard five times on 25 shots to earn a 5-3 victory in Saturday’s rematch against the Lake Erie Monsters. Zach Boychuk scored his third career hat trick and second in his last three games as he and Aaron Palushaj scored 26 seconds apart to break a 3-3 tie with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. Cam Ward made 24 saves to earn his first victory for the Checkers, who got a goal from Mark Flood, who tied the franchise record for most goals by a defenseman in a single season (10), and two by Boychuk to go ahead 3-0 before the home team rallied to tie the game in the third. Full recap

Notables

Hats off to Boychuk

Checkers forward Zach Boychuk scored three goals against Lake Erie on Feb. 1 to record his second hat trick in his last three games. Prior to his first hat trick of the season against Oklahoma City on Jan. 24, Boychuk had one other AHL hat trick that came almost exactly three years earlier at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 23, 2011.

Boychuk, who recorded his 100th career AHL goal with the first of his three on Feb. 1, needed just three shots to score his latest hat trick. He now owns three of the five hat tricks recorded in the Checkers' AHL history (Jacob Micflikier, Brett Sutter).

Boychuk leads the Checkers and ranks tied for fourth in the AHL with 21 goals, marking his fourth consecutive season with 20 or more. After just 36 games played, he is only two goals shy of tying his career high set in 49 games last season. He is tied for the AHL lead with 12 power-play goals, which also ties the Checkers' franchise record for most in a single season.

Goalies Galore

Cam Ward, who played two games with Charlotte while on a conditoining stint from the Carolina Hurricanes last weekend, became the ninth goalie to play for the Checkers this season. That total is the most by an AHL team since Adirondack used 10 in the 2009-10 season and extends a single-season franchise record that previously stood at five. Goalies that have played for the Checkers this season are, in order of appearance: Justin Peters, Mike Murphy, Jesse Deckert, John Muse, Allen York, Rick DiPietro, Rob Madore, Anton Khudobin and Ward.

All three goaltenders on Carolina's current roster (Khudobin, Peters and Ward) have played for Charlotte this season.

Ward Makes Brief Return to AHL

Cam Ward, a 29-year-old former Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner and NHL All-Star, on Friday played his first AHL game since another conditioning stint during his first season with the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 18, 2005. After stopping 59 of 63 shots to split back-to-back games in Lake Erie, Ward is now 28-28-3 with a 2.02 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and six shutouts in 54 career AHL games with Lowell and Charlotte.

Palushaj Picks up the Pace

After seeing his season-high, seven-game point streak come to an end in Friday's 1-0 shutout at Lake Erie, Aaron Palushaj scored the game-winning goal to give him points in 17 of his last 20 AHL games since Dec. 10 (10g, 16a). It was his fifth game-winning goal of the season, tying him for second most in the AHL.

In his first season with the Checkers, Palushaj leads the team with 40 points (t-11th AHL) and 24 assists and ranks second with 16 goals. Despite making two separate single-game trips to Carolina this season, he is one of four Checkers skaters to play in all 43 games (Mark Flood, Victor Rask, Justin Shugg). He suited up for his 300th professional game against Lake Erie on Jan. 31.

Floodgates Open

Mark Flood
Defenseman Mark Flood scored his 10th goal of the season against Lake Erie on Saturday, giving him sole possession of second-most among AHL defensemen. Six of his goals have come on the power play, tying him for third among league blueliners in that category.

In just 43 games, Flood, a 29-year-old veteran who scored just one goal in 52 games in the Russian KHL last season, has already tied Bobby Sanguinetti (2011-12) for the most goals scored by a Checkers defenseman in a single season. The veteran of 501 professional games is just one away from his AHL career high of 11 set with Manitoba during the 2010-11 campaign.

Extreme Special Teams

Since tying a franchise record with five power-play goals on seven chances against the Oklahoma City Barons on Jan. 24, the Checkers went a combined 0-for-10 on the man advantage in back-to-back games against Lake Erie over the weekend. They went 0-for-6 in Friday's game, tying earlier games on Jan. 18 and 23 for the most opportunities the Checkers have received in a single game without scoring a power-play goal this season.

On the other side of the equation, the Checkers went a perfect 11-for-11 on the penalty kill against Lake Erie, with an 8-for-8 peformance on Friday marking the most opportunities they have given up without surrendering a power-play goal in team history. The Checkers had not given up eight power plays in a single game since killing seven of eight at Peoria on Feb. 11, 2012. It was also the first time that Charlotte had negated eight power plays in a single game since going 8-for-10 at Houston on Oct. 30, 2011.

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 eight goalies the team has used are a combined 6-12-1.

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.

Quick Hits

  • Ryan Murphy has four assists in three games since joining the Checkers on Jan. 24, giving him six points, all assists, in six career AHL regular-season games.
  • Charlotte's 1-0 loss to Lake Erie on Friday marked the first time the team has been shut out since a 3-0 loss to Milwaukee on April 6 of last season. The Checkers, who were coming off a season-high, nine-goal performance in their previous game, had managed one goal on nine previous occasions this season.
  • Saturday's win over Lake Erie was their first against a North Division opponent this season (1-5-0).
  • The Checkers are 10-3-0 against fellow West Division opponents this season, making it the only division they have a winning record against. Each of their next six games will be against divisional opponents.
  • The Checkers have won 10 of their last 12 one-goal games.
  • Charlotte's current four-game road trip is its longest since playing six consecutive games on the road from Oct. 25-Nov. 2. Charlotte's 18 road games played are the fewest in the AHL.
  • The Checkers have scored three or more goals in 11 of their last 14 games. They are 20-6-0 when scoring three or more and 2-14-1 when scoring fewer than three.
  • Charlotte's four overtime games and two shootouts are the fewest in the league.
  • The first period is the only period in which the Checkers have a positive goal differential (42 for, 38 against).

Player Streaks

  • None

Milestones

  • Ryan Murphy is one game shy of 50 professional games
  • A.J. Jenks is two games shy of 150 AHL games
  • Zach Boychuk scored his 100th AHL goal against Lake Erie on Feb. 1
  • Mark Flood played his 500th professional game against Lake Erie on Jan. 31
  • Aaron Palushaj played his 300th professional game against Lake Erie on Jan. 31
  • Brody Sutter played his 100th professional game against Lake Erie on Jan. 31

Injuries

  • Jared Staal - missed 10 games starting Jan. 3
  • Nicolas Blanchard - missed seven games starting Jan. 17

Transactions

Incoming

  • Jan. 29 - (RW) Aaron Palushaj reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)

Outgoing

  • Feb. 2 - (G) Cam Ward recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte

This Week's Games

Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 10 p.m. - Checkers at Abbotsford

  • Broadcast: ESPN 730 | Online

Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 10 p.m. - Checkers at Abbotsford

  • Broadcast: ESPN 730 | Online

Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. - Checkers vs. Oklahoma City

Novant Health
Charlotte Checkers Pink Water Bottle Giveaway

Sunday, Feb. 9 at 1:30 p.m. - Checkers vs. Oklahoma City

North Carolina Zoo AsheboroCoke Zero
  • Olympic Celebration Day
  • NC Zoo Asheboro Family Day
  • Coke Family Four Packs - four tickets, four hot dogs and four Cokes for $65. Fees apply.

By the Numbers

Team Statistics
CATEGORY RECORD AHL RANK LAST WEEK
Power play 22.3% 4th 23.4% (2nd)
Penalty kill 81.3% t-19th 80.1% (20th)
Goals per game 3.00 11th 3.02 (9th)
Shots per game 32.1 7th 32.3 (7th)
Goals allowed per game 3.00 20th 3.05 (20th)
Shots allowed per game 31.7 23rd 31.8 (22nd)
Penalty minutes per game 14.9 8th 14.7 (8th)
Team Leaders
CATEGORY LEADER(S)
Points Aaron Palushaj (40), Zach Boychuk (36), Chris Terry (35)
Goals Zach Boychuk (21), Aaron Palushaj (16), Chris Terry (14)
Assists Aaron Palushaj (24), Chris Terry (21), Zach Boychuk, Brett Sutter (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 (5), Chris Terry (3), four tied at (2)
Shots on goal Chris Terry (116), Aaron Palushaj (114), Zach Boychuk (109)
Penalty minutes Matt Corrente (75), Nicolas Blanchard (72), Rasmus Rissanen (57)
Plus/minus Brody Sutter (+9), Matt Corrente, Greg Nemisz (+5), Ryan Murphy (+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 (25-20-9: 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 32 4 7 11 2 -7  
Manny Malhotra C 42 6 5 11 12 6 4th NHL with 59.2 faceoff percentage
Aaron Palushaj RW 2 0 0 0 0 -1 Reassigned to Charlotte on Jan. 29
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 (24-15-3: 4th Eastern Conference)
Player POS GP G A PTS PIM +/- NOTES
Kyle Bonis F 38 15 7 22 11 +4 Ranks third on team in goals
Austin Levi D 30 1 6 7 22 +1 Scored first ECHL goal 1/29
Stefan Della Rovere F - - - - - - On injured reserve
Sean Dolan C 2 2 2 4 0 +2 2g, 1a on 2/1
Beau Schmitz D 5 0 4 4 2 0 4a in 3 games from 1/26-31
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.