The Checkers look to make it a clean sweep of their three-game road trip and win their fourth in a row overall as they take on the Griffins in Grand Rapids tonight.
Charlotte is coming off of the most lopsided wins in its history, a 8-2 thumping of the Milwaukee Admirals last night that set or tied a number of franchise records. After a four-and-a-half hour bus ride overnight, they face a quick turnaround from Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. start and today’s 4 p.m. tilt against the Griffins, who did not play on Saturday.
This game marks the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs this season, with the Checkers winning two of the first three, including a 6-4 win in Grand Rapids on Oct. 26. The Checkers are 6-1-0 all-time against the Griffins, having lost for the first time in the teams' most recent meeting in Charlotte on Jan. 17.
Though Saturday’s win was notable enough in and of itself, it actually continued a few trends that had been building over time. One such trend was the team’s white-hot power play on the road, which scored a franchise-record five times, most in the AHL this season, to improve to 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) in its last four road games.
The Checkers already had the best road power play in the AHL coming in, which is now at 28.1 percent after Saturday’s 5-for-8 performance. The game boosted the Checkers from having the league’s No. 7 overall power play at 19.9 percent to No. 3 at 21.5 percent.
Charlotte has now scored at least two power play goals in each of their last four road games. The old record for most power-play goals in one game was four, tied once previously this season when the Checkers went 4-for-8 to erase a 4-1 deficit in their previous visit to Grand Rapids.
On an individual level, Riley Nash (2g, 2a) and Brett Sutter (4a) set career highs and tied the franchise record for most points in a single game, a feat that has been achieved 10 times over three seasons and four times this season. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani is a member of that club, having accomplished the feat with four power-play assists in the team's last visit to Grand Rapids. Also on Saturday, Chris Terry had three points (2g, 1a) for the second time in his last five games, while Jeremy Welsh chipped in two goals as the Checkers had three players record multiple goals in the same game for the first time in team history.
Charlotte became the first AHL team to win by six or more goals three times this season, with all three games coming on the road. The Checkers are now 17-6-4 away from Time Warner Cable Arena this season, tying them for the most road points in the AHL (38).
Justin Peters should get the start tonight, with John Muse making 30 saves to improve to 3-0-0 this season on Saturday. Peters has started 11 of the team’s last 14 games, going 6-5-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and one shutout.
Zac Dalpe, who had a goal and an assist on Saturday, should be in the lineup after leaving that game due to injury, as the forward was hit with a shot and did not return. The Checkers do have an extra forward if he is unable to dress, with Matt Beca and Justin Soryal alternating as healthy scratches in the first two games of the trip.
Much as the rested Checkers were able to take advantage of a Milwaukee team that had played the night before, Grand Rapids, which has won three in a row at home, will hope to do the same this afternoon.
Not only were the Griffins off Saturday night, but they played at home the night before, which should give them an advantage as the road-weary Checkers complete the most grueling travel leg of their three-games-in-four-nights adventure through the Midwest. They’re coming off a win, having topped Lake Erie by a 5-3 score on Friday.
The division leaders have experienced a healthy amount of roster turnover of late, with forwards Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar and All-Star goalie Petr Mrazek currently with the parent Detroit Red Wings. However, scoring leader Gustav Nyquist, tied for fourth in the AHL with 45 points in 47 games, is back after making a one-game sting with the Wings. He scored twice in his last AHL game on Feb. 9, helping the Griffins check in with the AHL’s fourth-best offense with 3.27 goals per game.
There’s a good chance that goalie Jonas Gustavsson, a 28-year-old who played 107 games over the previous three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be in net today after joining the team on a conditioning stint yesterday. He has only played one game for Detroit this season – a 19-minute relief appearance in the Wings’ season opener on Jan. 19.
The Checkers set a new franchise record with five power-play goals in Milwaukee on Saturday (5-for-8), becoming the only team in the AHL to accomplish that feat this season. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was the last team to do so on Jan. 12, 2012.
The game also marked the team's fourth consecutive road game with at least two power play goals (11-for-21, 52.4 percent). For the season, the Checkers rank third in the AHL with a 21.5 percent success rate on the man advantage and first with a 28.1 percent success rate on the road.
Forward Riley Nash (2g, 2a), who has 20 points in his last 17 games, factored in on all four power-play goals, making him the second Checker to record four power-play points in a single game this season (Marc-Andre Gragnani - 4a at Grand Rapids on Oct. 26).
Forwards Riley Nash (2g, 2a) and Brett Sutter (4a) each recorded four points on Saturday to tie the franchise record for most points in a single game. That feat has now been accomplished 10 times in the Checkers' three AHL seasons, including four times this season (Marc-Andre Gragnani and Tim Wallace had the others).
The four-point game marked single-game career highs for both players. Additionally, Nash's night allowed him to achieve a new career high for points in a single season (35), while Sutter tied his own career high (29).
Another Big Win
Charlotte's 8-2 win in Milwaukee Saturday marked the team's third win by six or more goals this season - the most in the AHL. All three games were on the road, including a 6-0 win over Peoria on Oct. 28 and a 7-0 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 11.
Saturday's win was one goal short of tying franchise records for largest victory margin (seven goals) and most goals scored on the road (nine).
Riley Nash, Chris Terry and Jeremy Welsh each recorded two goals on Saturday, marking the first time in team history that three players have recorded multiple goals in the same game. The two-goal outings tied career highs for each player.
Terry Catches Fire
Checkers scoring leader Chris Terry recorded three points on Saturday (2g, 1a), marking his second three-point game in his last five outings. The third year forward now has 24 points (10g, 14a) in his last 19 games, pulling him into 17th in AHL scoring with 40 points (19g, 21a) in 48 outings. He has recorded at least one point in 15 of the team's last 19 games.
Terry also leads the team and ranks tied for first in the AHL with six game-winning goals, not including an additional winner in the shootout. He has nine points (4g, 5a) in his last four road games, tying him for the second-longest active road point streak in the AHL.
Gragnani's Helping Hand
Despite missing 21 games this season due to injury and illness, Checkers defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani is tied for third in the AHL with 15 power-play assists. With the two players ahead of him playing in the NHL, he is in a two-way tie for first among active league skaters. Gragnani, the only player in the AHL to record four power-play assists in a single game this season (at Grand Rapids on Oct. 26), has three power-play assists in his last two games. Sixteen of Gragnani's 19 points this season have come on the man advantage.
With two months left in the 2012-13 season, several Checkers players have met or are approaching career highs in various statistical categories. Milestones through 50 games:
- Riley Nash has 35 points, three more than his career high set in 2010-11
- Brett Sutter has 29 points, tying his career high set last season
- Chris Terry has 19 goals, three more than all of last season
- Zac Dalpe has 32 points, tying last season's total
- Justin Shugg has eight assists, tying his total from his rookie campaign last season. His 12 points are one away from tying last season's total.
- Defenseman Brett Bellemore has 11 points, one more than his career high set in each of the last two seasons. He has also tied career highs with two goals and nine assists.
- Forward Jared Staal has three goals, tying last season's career high
- Bobby Raymond has six points, two more than his career high from last season
- Rasmus Rissanen has five assists, two more than last season's career high
Peters Shoulders the Load
Checkers goalie Justin Peters has played in 12 of the Checkers' last 15 games, marking the busiest stretch of any of the team's three goaltenders this season. It is also the busiest period for a Checkers goaltender since John Muse played 12 of 13 games from Jan. 24-Feb. 25 of last season.
For the season, Peters ranks tied for eighth in the AHL with 33 games played and tied for fourth with 19 wins. He is also tied for second with five shutouts and is tied for 13th with a 2.42 goals-against average.
The Checkers have compiled a record of 17-6-4 on the road, giving them a total of 38 points that is tied for Syracuse for most in the AHL (18-6-2). Charlotte is currently in the midst of a six-game road swing that marks the third time they have played six or more consecutive games away from Time Warner Cable Arena this season.
- Riley Nash has goals, assists and points in each of his last two games (Feb. 14-16; 3g, 3a)
- Chris Terry has goals, assists and points in each of his last two games (Feb. 14-16; 3g, 2a)
- Marc-Andre Gragnani has assists and points in each of his last two games (Feb. 14-16; 0g, 3a)
- Jerome Samson has points in each of his last two games (Jan. 4-6; 1g, 1a)
- David Rutherford (upper body, Feb. 5) - missed four games
- A.J. Jenks (upper body, Jan. 17) - missed 10 games
- Jerome Samson (upper body, Jan. 6) - missed 15 games
- Feb. 14 - (D) Tommi Kivisto recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
- Feb. 14 - (RW) Matt Beca recalled to Charlotte from South Carolina (ECHL)
- Feb. 14 - (D) Michal Jordan recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte