It wasn’t quite perfect, but the Checkers will take it.
While Sunday’s shootout loss in Texas, which featured the loss of a two-goal lead in the third period, might be freshest in their minds, the team was feeling optimistic about how it fared over the season’s opening weekend. After all, when looking at the big picture, a 1-0-1 road trip is never a bad thing.
“You never want to lose a lead, but getting three out of four points on the road is huge for us, especially so early in the season,” said defenseman Justin Faulk.
There were still a few issues that didn’t escape the scrutiny of coach Jeff Daniels, but even he feels those are correctable.
“I thought we were real good on Saturday and in spurts on Sunday, but in both games we got ourselves into penalty trouble in the third period that really took away all the flow from our game,” he said. “On the flip side, the penalty kill stepped up.”
That penalty kill, which has allowed just one goal on 13 chances so far, did get plenty of practice. The Checkers are among the AHL’s leaders with 19 minor penalties, but that was also the case last season when the team ended up being one of the league’s best-disciplined teams.
“It’s just getting out of bad habits from the summertime,” said Daniels. “It’s just little things like getting your stick up when you don’t have to, because it seems like they’re always cracking down on that stuff at this time of year. We’ve just got to keep moving our feet.
“Most importantly it’s just getting some games under these guys, because most of them only got to play the one preseason game.”
Now that the regular season has begun, the Checkers will still have to find ways to allocate playing time to a large group. The team took 24 players, four more than are in the lineup on a given night, with all but two – forwards A.J. Jenks and Justin Soryal – suiting up for at least one of the games.
Of course, the unforeseen does happen, as evidenced by Zac Dalpe’s sudden illness that caused him to miss the season premiere. With a set of three games in three nights coming up on Friday, having some handy reinforcements may not be a bad idea. With another three-in-three set for the weekend after that, the crowd may not thin for some time.
“We don’t have a set rotation or anything like that planned, but everyone is sticking around for now,” said Daniels.