The Checkers continue a three-in-three weekend and hope to continue their record point streak when they visit the Texas Stars tonight.
Though it let a late lead slip away and went on to lose Friday’s game at Houston in overtime, Charlotte now has points in seven consecutive games (5-0-2), tying a franchise mark set during the team’s inaugural season in 2010. The streak is tied with Toronto's for the longest active streak in the AHL.
The Checkers may not have a win against the Stars in two tries this season, they have appropriately earned a point in each of the previous two match-ups, both of which ended up as nine-round shootout losses in Texas. The teams will play a total of eight times this season.
Despite tying their franchise-record points streak, the Checkers will have certainly felt the sting from Friday’s outcome. Having come back from a goal down in the third period to take the lead, they then surrendered the tying goal on the power play with just under three minutes remaining before allowing the winner in overtime.
Tim Wallace and Chris Terry scored for Charlotte in the 3-2 loss, with Terry’s goal ending a personal 13-game goal drought that matched the longest of his career. Justin Peters took the loss as the Checkers out-shot Houston 32-21 on the night, with his three goals allowed matching his total from his previous four starts combined.
With the Checkers in the midst of their fifth set of three games in three nights this season (they were undefeated in the first game of those sets until last night), it will be Dan Ellis’ turn against the Stars tonight. Ellis, a second-round draft pick of the parent Dallas Stars of the NHL in 2000, has been outstanding in two starts against Texas this season, making 69 saves on 72 total shots, including a shutout in the 1-0 shootout loss in the most recent meeting on Nov. 17.
That game marked the only time the Checkers have been shut out this season and just the second time in team history that a shootout was needed to break a 0-0 deadlock. John Muse was in goal for the other against Chicago in February of last season, which the Checkers also lost.
Ellis has played just once in the Checkers' last five games, allowing four goals on 20 shots before giving way to Peters against Peoria on Dec. 20.
Already without veteran Marc-Andre Gragnani due to injury, the Checkers may also have to cope with the absence of Rasmus Rissanen on their defense tonight. The second-year player, who missed six games with an upper-body injury earlier in the month, left Friday’s game early in the first period and did not return.
If Rissanen is unable to play, the Checkers have a readymade replacement in fellow Finn Tommi Kivisto, a rookie who they recalled from ECHL Florida on Friday. However, if Rissanen were to miss the weekend, another recall would be necessary to prevent Justin Faulk from playing three games in three nights for the first time this season.
Kivisto, who has 13 points (3g, 10a) and a minus-5 rating in 30 games for the Everblades this season, made his AHL debut for the Checkers at San Antonio on Nov. 18.
The Checkers and their opponents are usually in the same predicament when it comes to three-in-threes, but the Stars have the advantage of being able to rest on Friday and await the Checkers’ late arrival from Houston. Texas has been off since Thursday, when it suffered a 5-4 home loss to the Oklahoma City Barons.
That loss was the third in a row for the Stars, one of which came in overtime at Houston on Wednesday. That streak, coupled with Friday wins by Houston and Oklahoma City, dropped Texas from second to fourth in a tight South Division, which the Checkers still lead by four points.
Goalie Cristopher Nilstorp, who made 22 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped eight of nine Checkers in the shootout to slightly edge Ellis in the 1-0 game on Nov. 17, was as hot as any goalie in the AHL 10 days ago, stopping all 48 shots he faced in two straight starts to record back-to-back shutouts on Dec. 19 and 21. However, he has since allowed eight goals on 43 shots in his next two outings, giving way to top prospect Jack Campbell after the second period of a 6-2 loss to Oklahoma City on Dec. 22.
Campbell, a first-round pick in 2010, started the team’s most recent game on Thursday, allowing five goals on 21 shots to see his save percentage fall to .886 for the season – a number that ranks 49th among 51 goalies who have played enough minutes to qualify.
Rookie Reilly Smith has been the Stars’ most productive forward of late, scoring seven points (4g, 3a) over the course of an active five-game point streak. With 19 points in 30 games, he trails only Cody Eakin (20 in 29) for the team scoring lead. Eakin, a former Hershey Bear, has four goals in his last four games against Charlotte.
The Checkers have earned points in each of their last seven games (5-0-2), tying a franchise record set during the team's inaugural season in 2010-11. The current streak (12 total points) edges that of two seasons ago, when the team went 4-0-3 from Oct. 29-Nov.7, 2010.
Their overall streak is currently tied with Toronto for the longest active streak in the AHL. They also have a five-game point streak at home that is the second-longest longest active streak in the league and a six-game point streak on the road that ties the AHL's longest active streak.
The Checkers' 10-2-3 record away from Time Warner Cable Arena gives them the best percentage of possible points earned (.767) of any AHL team on the road this season. Since going 6-2-1 on their nine-game road swing to start the season, the Checkers are 4-0-2 over the course of an active six-game point streak that ties Hershey for the longest active streak in the AHL. Over the course of the season, only two teams (Springfield's seven-game streak and Syracuse's 10-game streak, both now inactive) have posted longer point streaks on the road. Charlotte's last regulation road loss came on Oct. 31 at Milwaukee.
Terry Lights the Lamp
Checkers forward Chris Terry, the team's all-time leader with 59 goals over the last three seasons, ended a 13-game goal drought that tied his career high when he gave his team a 2-1, third-period lead at Houston on Friday. Terry, who enjoyed a seven-game point streak earlier in the season (6g, 3a) that is the second-longest posted by a Checkers player this season, had not scored since the Nov. 21 game at Norfolk. His nine goals on the season rank fourth on the team behind Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk (14) and Brett Sutter (10).
In the Driver's Seat
The Checkers' current seven-game point streak has allowed them to solidify the top spot in the South Division, which they've held since winning at Rockford on Oct. 20, a span of 68 days. They currently lead the Okalhoma City Barons and Houston Aeros, who are tied for second place, by four points.
The Checkers have a combined 10-1-2 record in games that are part of a three-in-three set this season, including a 4-0-1 mark in Game One, a 3-0-1 record in Game Two and a 3-1-0 mark in Game Three. They have swept two of their four three-in-three sets this season, marking the only 3-0-0 weekends in the three-year history of the AHL franchise (20 total attempts).
All time, the Checkers are 35-20-6 in three-in-three games, including a 11-7-3 record in Game One, a 14-3-3 record in Game Two and an 10-10-0 record in Game Three. They play seven sets of three-in-threes this season, five of which take place entirely on the road.
- Marc-Andre Gragnani has points in each of his last three games (Dec. 14-16; 1g, 2a)
- Brett Sutter has points in each of his last two games (Dec. 21-28; 1g, 1a)
- Jerome Samson has points in each of his last two games (Dec. 21-28; 1g, 1a)
- Brett Bellemore has assists and points in each of his last two games (Dec. 21-28; 0g, 2a)
- Marc-Andre Gragnani (lower body, Dec. 16) - missed three games