Charlotte Checkers Game Preview

Game Preview: Checkers at Rockford (Oct. 26, 2013)

Charlotte Checkers at Rockford IceHogs
The Checkers continue their first three-in-three set of the season as they take on the IceHogs in Rockford tonight.

In the first of two meetings between the two clubs on the Checkers’ current six-game road trip, the visiting team will be looking to maintain its 100 percent road record on the season by improving to 4-0-0. On Friday, The Checkers reversed a two-game losing streak by defeating the defending Calder Cup Champions, the Grand Rapids Griffins, by a convincing 5-0 score.

Following tonight’s game, the Checkers head to Chicago to complete the hectic weekend. They then repeat part of it next week when they play another back-to-back in Grand Rapids and Rockford on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Charlotte and Rockford will see plenty of each other in the coming weeks, with seven total meetings taking place between tonight and Dec. 30.

Charlotte

Game Information

Season Series

  • Oct. 26
    at Rockford (4 p.m.)
  • Oct. 31
    at Rockford (8 p.m.)
  • Nov. 23
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Nov. 24
    at Charlotte (1:30 p.m.)
  • Dec. 5
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Dec. 7
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Dec. 30
    at Rockford (8 p.m.)
  • April 19
    at Rockford (8 p.m.)
On the heels of their most lopsided loss of the young season, a 7-2 defeat to the Iowa Wild at Time Warner Cable Arena the previous Saturday, the Checkers turned in their most lopsided victory by routing the Griffins in their own building to start their trip.

There were a handful of encouraging signs from the impressive performance, most notably that of goalie John Muse, who posted a 30-save shutout in his first AHL start of the season. Muse, a former Checker who rejoined the team on a tryout contract earlier in the week, became the fourth goalie the team has used in just five games this season.

Another tryout signing, Allen York, could make it five tonight. With Justin Peters and Mike Murphy still with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes due to injuries suffered by Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, the Checkers signed York, formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets, to split games with Muse during the six-games-in-nine-days trip that marks their busiest stretch of the entire season. If the Checkers returned to Muse tonight, York would then be likely to make his Checkers debut on Sunday.

On offense, Mark Flood and Chris Terry continued their neck-and-neck race for the team’s goal scoring lead by each scoring their fourth of the season in the first period on Friday. Upon doing so, they had accounted for eight of the team’s 11 goals on the season, making what happened next an important step. Victor Rask and Brendan Woods would score their first goals of the season as the game went on, with Zach Boychuk adding another to help find some balance.

By adding two assists, Boychuk finished the night tied with Flood and Terry for the team scoring lead with five points in five games. Defenseman Michal Jordan also had three points, all assists, on Friday, setting a new career high.

With the exception of a potential goaltending change, the Checkers could again use the same lineup as they have in each of their last four games. Forward Adam Brace has been a healthy extra ever since suiting up for the season opener, while defenseman Beau Schmitz awaits his season debut.

Despite the injury bug spreading to the forward ranks in Carolina – Radek Dvorak, Patrick Dwyer and Jeff Skinner have all missed time in recent games – Charlotte should at least make it through the weekend without any additional roster disruption due to NHL recalls. The Hurricanes, who just completed a two-game trip through Minnesota and Colorado, are off until Monday.

Rockford

Team Statistics

 
Record
3-2-0 5-2-1
Standings
11th West 2nd West
Goals/Game
2.80 (18th) 3.50 (t-5th)
GA/Game
2.80 (11th) 3.38 (23rd)
Power Play
23.8% (t-6th) 16.1% (19th)
Penalty Kill
77.3% (24th) 83.3% (t-14th)
PIM/Game
18.0 (t-14th) 16.1 (10th)
Contrary to the Checkers, who quickly departed for a four-hour a bus ride to play their next game less than 24 hours later, Rockford has been off since Wednesday. That game, a 3-2 victory in Toronto, completed a successful back-to-back set in Ontario that also included a 5-4 overtime loss in Hamilton one night earlier.

Including those games, Rockford, which has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, now has an overall four-game point streak (3-0-1) and is tied with Texas for the Western Conference lead with 11 points (5-2-1).

Adam Clendending has been an important part of an IceHogs offense that is averaging 3.50 goals per game (t-5th AHL), scoring an impressive 10 points (2g, 8a) in eight games to rank second among all AHL defensemen. He also leads the team, with forward Jeremy Morin, since recalled to the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, following close behind. Brandon Pirri, the AHL’s leading scorer from last season, is also on NHL duty with Chicago.

Perhaps helping to explain the IceHogs sudden surge up the standings relative to recent years, four of the team’s top seven scorers are rookies, a group that includes first-round draft picks Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault. With seven points apeice, McNeill and Alex Broadhurst are tied for third in AHL rookie scoring. With six points, Danault is tied for fifth.

Youth is also the theme in goal. Kent Simpson, who saw the occasional game with Rockford after coming up from the junior and ECHL ranks in previous years, is now part of the team’s starting tandem along with Finnish import Antti Raanta. Raanta, a fellow rookie, leads the team with a 3-1-0 record and 2.88 goals-against average, while Simpson has the superior save percentage at .915.

Checkers Notes

Muse Returns

John Muse
In his first AHL start of the season since rejoining the Checkers on a professional tryout contract on Wednesday, John Muse made 30 saves to record his third career AHL shutout and first since Feb. 18, 2012. Among goalies who have played enough minutes (60) to qualify, Muse is one of two with a perfect 1.00 save percentage and 0.00 goals-against average (Texas' Josh Robinson).

Muse, who has begun all three of his professional seasons at the ECHL level, is now 19-10-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 33 career AHL games.

Musical Goalies

By starting John Muse on Friday, the Checkers became the first AHL team to use four different goaltenders this season (Justin Peters, Mike Murphy, Jesse Deckert) - a feat that has since been matched by the Hartford Wolf Pack. That number could again increase to five if the Checkers use Allen York, who, like Muse, joined the team on a professional tryout contract from the ECHL level earlier in the week, against Rockford tonight.

When the Carolina Hurricanes dressed Peters and Murphy at Colorado on Friday, it marked the third consecutive season in which the two goalies on Charlotte's opening night roster would go on to be reunited in the NHL during the same campaign. Peters and Murphy also dressed for Carolina at the same time during the 2011-12 season, while Peters and Dan Ellis became Hurricanes teammates in 2012-13.

Power Surge

The Checkers scored three power-play goals on four chances Friday, marking the first time they had scored three or more power-play goals in a single game since Feb. 16, 2012. Having entered that game ranked 23rd in the AHL with a conversion rate of 11.8 percent (2-for-17), the Checkers are now tied for sixth at 23.8 percent.

Packing Up

The Checkers' current stretch of six consecutive road games is part of a single trip from Oct. 25-Nov. 2, making it the longest in team history in terms of consecutive days away from home. The Checkers are 3-0-0 on the road this season, making them one of just two AHL teams (Iowa) with a 100 percent record away from home (Bridgeport has yet to play a road game). The team's active three-game road winning streak is tied with Binghamton for the longest active streak in the league.

Change of Pace

After playing four games in the season's first 21 days, the Checkers are currently in the midst of their busiest stretch of the season by playing six in nine. All games will be played on the road, and never in consecutive locations. The Checkers' five total games played this season put them in a five-way tie for fourth-fewest in the AHL. By comparison, two teams, including West Division rival Oklahoma City, have already played nine times.

Floodgates Open

Checkers defenseman Mark Flood scored his fourth goal in five games on Friday, tying him with Chris Terry for the team lead. The 29-year-old defenseman is tied for second in the AHL in goal scoring by defensemen and has already surpassed his total of one goal from 52 KHL games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl last season.

Earlier this season, Flood became the first defenseman to score in his Checkers debut with a goal at Oklahoma City on Oct. 4. He is tied with Terry and Zach Boychuk for the team scoring lead with five points.

Terry Takes Off

With his power-play goal against Grand Rapids on Friday, Chris Terry continued his record as the only Checkers player to score at least one point in all five of the team's games this season (4g, 1a). He also has goals in three consecutive games, tying him with Mark Flood and Zach Boychuk for the team's scoring lead.

Terry, who has led the Checkers in scoring for each of the past two seasons, had five point streaks of five or more games last season, including a season-long, seven-game run from Oct. 21-Nov. 16 (6g, 3a). His current streak is tied for the fourth longest in the AHL this season.

Three in Threes

The Checkers are currently playing the first of four three-in-three sets this season, which marks the fewest in team history. By comparison, the team played eight three-in-three sets in each of its first two AHL campaigns before dropping down to seven last season.

The Checkers have an all-time record of 40-22-8 in games that are part of a three-in-three set, including a 14-7-3 mark in game one, a 15-4-4 mark in game two and an 11-11-1 mark in game three.

Quick Hits

  • Defenseman Michal Jordan had three assists on Friday, setting a new career high for most assists and points in a single game.
  • In addition to his season-high three points on Friday, Zach Boychuk also tied his career high with eight shots on goal, set twice previously.

Player Streaks

  • Chris Terry has points in each of his last five games (Oct. 4-25; 4g, 1a) and goals in each of his last three (Oct. 19-25; 3g, 0a)
  • Mark Flood has goals and points in each of his last two games (Oct. 20-25: 2g, 1a)
  • Victor Rask has assists and points in each of his last two games (Oct. 20-25: 1g, 2a)

Transactions

Incoming

  • Oct. 25 - (G) Allen York signed to professional tryout contract
  • Oct. 23 - (G) John Muse signed to professional tryout contract

Outgoing

  • Oct. 25 - (G) Mike Murphy recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
  • Oct. 24 - (G) Jesse Decert reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
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.