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Charlotte Checkers Game Preview

Game Preview: Checkers at Chicago (Oct. 27, 2013)

Charlotte Checkers at Chicago Wolves
The Checkers conclude a grueling weekend as they play their third game in as many days in Chicago this afternoon.

As they take on the Wolves for the first time this season, Charlotte will be looking to keep its road point streak to start the season (3-0-1) intact, having started their current trip with a 5-0 win in Grand Rapids on Friday and a 2-1 shootout loss in Rockford on Saturday. Only three other AHL teams have posted longer road point streaks this season.

Following today’s game, the Checkers continue their six-games-in-nine-nights trip, the longest in team history in terms of consecutive days spent on the road, with games in Grand Rapids, Rockford and San Antonio later in the week. The Wolves are also the Checkers' next opponent at home, as they come to town for two games on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9.

Charlotte

Game Information

Season Series

  • Oct. 27
    at Chicago (4 p.m.)
  • Nov. 7
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Nov. 9
    at Charlotte (7 p.m.)
  • Nov. 24
    at Charlotte (1:30 p.m.)
  • Dec. 29
    at Chicago (5 p.m.)
In the first three weeks of the season, the Checkers’ goaltending has gone from a strength to a potential weakness and back to a strength again.

With starters Justin Peters and Mike Murphy in the NHL due to injuries in Carolina, the Checkers have received outstanding performances from tryout signings John Muse and Allen York to start their road trip. Muse made 30 saves for his third career AHL shutout in Grand Rapids, while York made 29 saves in Rockford, only succumbing to a controversial trying goal midway through the third period before falling in the shootout.

Adding to that, news broke during Saturday’s game that the Checkers had signed Rick DiPietro, a former first overall draft pick, Olympian and NHL All-Star who has suffered through a long period of significant injuries with the New York Islanders, to a tryout contract.

All that leaves coach Jeff Daniels, who on Wednesday had only one goaltender on his roster in Murphy, with some options for today. The tight turnaround, along with his sterling performance on Friday, would seem to favor Muse, who shut out the Wolves in a 0-0 shootout loss in Chicago on Feb. 18, 2012 – his most recent AHL shutout until two days ago. Muse also helped the Checkers clinch a playoff spot with a 38-save shootout loss in Chicago on April 13 of last season.

DiPietro was reportedly scheduled to join the team yesterday, but may not be available to play until later in the week.

In terms of offense, defenseman Mark Flood and forward Chris Terry continue to lead the way, hooking up on the Checkers’ lone goal of Saturday’s game – Flood’s fifth in six games. Terry, who kept his six-game point streak alive with the secondary assist on that power-play goal, also scored the team’s only goal in the shootout.

Forward Adam Brace and defenseman Matt Corrente sat out Saturday’s game. In place of Corrente, a rugged veteran who should be lineup mainstay if able to play, Beau Schmitz made his season debut against the IceHogs.

Chicago

Team Statistics

 
Record
3-2-1 3-4-1
Standings
12th West 13th West
Goals/Game
2.50 (t-21st) 2.50 (t-21st)
GA/Game
2.67 (9th) 3.13 (20th)
Power Play
22.2% (8th) 10.5% (27th)
Penalty Kill
81.5% (18th) 89.2% (5th)
PIM/Game
16.7 (12th) 12.6 (2nd)
The Wolves could also be dealing with some potential fatigue issues for today’s game, as they conclude a stretch of playing three games in four days. That began with a shootout loss in Iowa Thursday and continued with a 3-2 home loss to Grand Rapids last night – a game that began while the Checkers were already on the two-hour bus ride from Rockford.

Arguably the AHL’s most active team in terms of free-agent activity in the offseason, the club has yet to gel this season. Off to a 3-4-1 start, they are on even points with the Checkers (3-2-1), who have played two fewer games. They have lost each of their last three home games, tying them with Bridgeport for the longest active streak in the league.

Leading the Wolves’ big-name additions are veteran forwards Keith Aucoin and Corey Locke, who captured back-to-back AHL MVP awards in 2009-10 (Aucoin) and 2010-11 (Locke). Locke, a 29-year-old center who leads the team with seven points in seven games this season, now has 527 in 544 career AHL games. Aucoin, a 34-year-old who spent parts of three seasons with the Hurricanes, is off to a slower start with three points and a minus-five rating.

Other signifcant newcomers on a team that switched NHL affiliations over the summer (Vancouver to St. Louis) include forward Mark Mancari, a first-team All-Star in 2011 who signed with the Blues, and defenseman Evan Oberg. In goal, Blues prospect Jake Allen has played five games, going 3-1-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, and could get the start today with Matt Climie playing yesterday.

Despite their firepower up front, the Wolves are tied with Charlotte for 21st in AHL goals per game (2.50) and are 27th with a power-play percentage of 10.5.

Checkers Notes

Musical Goalies

By starting Allen York on Saturday, the Checkers became the first AHL team to use five different goaltenders this season (Justin Peters, Mike Murphy, Jesse Deckert, John Muse) - a feat that they achieved in just six games. That number, which ties the team record set last season, would again increase to six if the Checkers use Rick DiPietro, who became the third goalie to sign a professional tryout contract with the team in the last four days.

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.

Shutout Streak

Dating from Iowa's goal against Jesse Deckert with a little over a minute remaining in the game on Oct. 20 to Rockford's goal against Allen York midway through the third period on Oct. 26, the Checkers posted a shutout streak of 110 minutes and 18 seconds. It was the longest the team had posted since almost exactly one year earlier, when Justin Peters and Dan Ellis shut out Peoria on back-to-back nights on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, 2012, which was part of a team-record streak of 167 minutes and 39 seconds.

Floodgates Open

Mark Flood
Checkers defenseman Mark Flood scored his fifth goal in six games on Saturday, giving him sole possession of the team lead. The 29-year-old ranks second among AHL defensemen in goals and is tied for first in power-play goals (three). He has already surpassed his total of one goal from 52 KHL games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl last season and is nearly halfway to his AHL career high of 11, set with Manitoba during the 2010-11 campaign.

Three of Flood's goals have come in his last three games, marking the longest streak of his career and tying him for the third-longest goal streak in the AHL. He also has goals in each of his last four road games, tying the longest streak of any AHL player this 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 Chris Terry for the team scoring lead with six points.

Muse Returns

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 three with a perfect 1.00 save percentage and 0.00 goals-against average (Texas' Josh Robinson and Syracuse's Kristers Gudlevskis).

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.

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 3-0-1 on the road this season, giving them an active four-game road point streak that is the fourth-longest by an AHL team this season.

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' six total games played this season put them in a four-way tie for fifth-fewest in the AHL. By comparison, two teams, including West Division rival Oklahoma City, have already played 10 times.

Terry Takes Off

With his power-play assist against Rockford on Saturday, Chris Terry continued his record as the only Checkers player to score at least one point in all six of the team's games this season (4g, 2a). His current streak is tied for the fourth longest in the AHL this season.

Terry, who has led the Checkers in scoring for each of the past two seasons, had three point streaks of six or more games last season, including a season-long, seven-game run from Oct. 21-Nov. 16 (6g, 3a). His career-long streak is eight games, set twice during the 2011-12 season.

Special Teams Spike

After starting the season with one power-play goal in their first 13 opportunities (7.7 percent), the Checkers have five goals in their last 14 chances (35.7 percent), including at least one goal in each of their last three games.

On the other side of things, the Checkers started by allowing at least one power-play goal in each of their first four games (72.2 percent), but have kept teams off the board in each of their last two (9-for-9).

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 40-22-9 in games that are part of a three-in-three set, including a 14-7-3 mark in game one, a 15-4-5 mark in game two and an 11-11-1 mark in game three.

Quick Hits

  • With 28 saves on 29 shots in Saturday's shootout loss to Rockford, goalie Allen York ranks fourth in AHL goals-against average (.940) and fifth in save percentage (.966) among goalies with enough minutes to qualify (60).
  • Defenseman Rasmus Rissanen has penalty minutes in each of his last four road games (10 total), tying the second-longest active streak in the AHL.
  • 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 six games (Oct. 4-26; 4g, 2a)
  • Mark Flood has goals and points in each of his last three games (Oct. 20-26: 3g, 1a)

Transactions

Incoming

  • Oct. 27 - (G) Rick DiPietro signed to professional tryout contract
  • 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 Deckert reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte