The Carolina Hurricanes’ recall of Chris Terry on Monday evening means there’s a good chance that the Checkers will be without one of their co-scoring leaders for Wednesday’s game in Norfolk, which is set up to be an intense battle with another team on the postseason bubble. With goals in three straight games, Terry tied Zach Boychuk for first on the team with 56 points in 56 games – a pace that would break his own career high and the Checkers’ team record, both set in the 2010-11 season.
Terry backed up his status as an all-around threat with a shorthanded goal on Sunday to go with his team-leading 28 points on the power play. The latter scenario is likely what drew interest from the Hurricanes, who burned one of their limited non-emergency recalls, meaning the move was not made out of a necessity created by injuries, on the transaction.
“It’s just being consistent, playing a good two-way game and skating a lot better,” said coach Jeff Daniels of Terry’s recent play, which produced 28 points in his last 23 games. “There’s no drop off with his game, and hopefully he gets a chance to go up there and show what he can do.”
From past experience, the Checkers know how difficult it is to replace Terry, having gone 0-6-0 without him during his only other NHL stint of the season in November.
“We’re a better team now than we were then, but we’ll have to bring a guy up and other guys will step up and fill different roles,” said Daniels, whose team departed for Norfolk on Wednesday with just 11 healthy forwards. “We can’t let one guy not in our lineup affect us whether it’s a call-up or injury. We’ve just got to keep moving forward with what we have in the lineup.”
The shortage at forward comes with Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods still injured, while the team’s reassignment of Austin Levi to ECHL Florida prevents the team from dressing seven defensemen. Daniels said he would reassess the situation with Carolina while looking at options to bring up on a recall or tryout signing, though he had yet to decide whether that player or one from within the lineup would go into Terry’s top-line position.
“(Philippe) Cornet is a guy that’s scored in the past and can go up and play more of a scoring role, (Jared) Staal could go up and give us some size or the guy that we call up could be a guy we can put up there,” said Daniels. “It’s all about the committee, and obviously our big guys are leading but the others have to keep doing what they’re doing.”
In addition to relying even more on the core group of Boychuk, Aaron Palushaj and Brett Sutter, all of whom are scoring at or near a point-per-game pace in the last month, the Checkers will also be looking for more Sean Dolans to come forward. Dolan, the team’s fourth-line center for most of his three seasons in Charlotte, has made the most of a recent change of roles, scoring eight points (4g, 4a) in his last eight games on a line with Boychuk and Palushaj.
The success of Dolan, a popular player among teammates, has also turned into something of a rallying point in the Checkers’ locker room.
“Sean Dolan has played incredible,” goalie Mike Murphy said following Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Lake Erie. “He’s flying every night. He’s extremely confident and he’s been promoted, which he’s deserved because he’s been quiet all year. He’s got chemistry with the players he’s been playing with and he’s been putting pucks on net. He’s been the difference in a couple of games.”
“With him being a good buddy of mine, you always want to see him do well,” said Woods, a fellow University of Wisconsin alum. “He’s gotten the opportunity to play with good players and he’s made the most out of it. It’s great to see him do that because he’s had a rough year with injuries, and to see him do that is awesome.”
The Checkers, who had won seven of eight games until turning in a relatively flat performance on Sunday, hope to be more rested following an off day on Monday. The team has had little time to regroup since a run of 10 consecutive road games ended last week.
“It’s tough and I think it showed this past weekend, but in saying that, I think March seems to be a time of year where they pack the games in for every team,” said Daniels. “We’ll catch some teams dragging a bit and we got caught this weekend. It’s about managing the days in between games and making sure the guys are rested.”