The Checkers conclude their two-game home set against Rockford looking to avenge Friday night’s frustrating shootout loss.
In that contest, the Checkers out-shot Rockford 50-33, including a 21-7 advantage in the first period, but needed Zac Dalpe’s late goal to send the game into overtime. The visitors would then prevail in a shootout, scoring three goals to the Checkers’ one.
By winning tonight and extending their points streak against divisional rival Rockford (6-8-1) to three games, the Checkers (9-6-2) could extend their Midwest Division lead by as much as two points over Peoria, which saw a four-game winning streak halted last night.
The Checkers will have to do without one of their offensive heroes from Friday’s game, as the Carolina Hurricanes recalled Dalpe on Saturday. Dalpe factored in on both of the team’s goals that night, also earning an assist on defenseman Michal Jordan’s tally while recording a game-high seven shots.
Dalpe will play in the Hurricanes’ Sunday tilt against Toronto if Patrick Dwyer, listed is a game-time decision due to injury, is unable to suit up.
The loss of Dalpe will come as a blow to a Checkers team that has been struggling to score goals recently. After starting the season as one of the AHL’s most prolific teams, Charlotte has steadily fallen to 22nd in the league in goals per game (2.65), with Friday’s inability to capitalize on more of their offensive pressure a microcosm of that fact.
Dalpe’s recall gives the Checkers 12 healthy forwards, meaning that Jared Staal is expected to re-enter the lineup after serving as a healthy scratch on Friday. Mike Murphy will likely get the start in goal, taking his turn in the rotation that saw Peters face Rockford in the first meeting at home.
Improved special teams will be a focus for the Checkers on Sunday, as the team allowed two power-play goals on four chances while failing to score in four of their own. Though Rockford’s power play received a significant boost by the addition of Rostislav Olesz on Thursday, its penalty kill ranks 27th in the league at 75.7 percent.
Goaltender Alec Richards earned every bit of his first-star honors from Friday’s game, making 48 saves against the Checkers – the most by any AHL goaltender in a single game this season. With that effort, Richards improved his goals-against average to 3.87 and his save percentage to .892, ensuring that the IceHogs’ losing streak would end at three games. With a win tonight, Rockford could post back-to-back victories for the first time since taking the season’s first two games on Oct. 8 and 9.
With a day off between games, the IceHogs could again turn to Richards, who has played 10 of the team’s 17 games. Teammate Alexander Salak, who owns the better goals-against average of the two even after Richards’ Friday heroics, was pulled in his last start, allowing four goals on 16 shots.
Olesz, playing his first AHL game in almost exactly five years following an assignment from the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, provided a clear spark for Rockford on Friday. The former first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2004 (seventh overall) was a key contributor on both of his team’s power-play goals, scoring one and adding an assist on the other. For the season, Rockford’s power play checks in at 12th in the AHL (19.2 percent), just one spot ahead of Charlotte (19.0 percent).
• Charlotte defenseman Michal Jordan scored his third goal of the season on Friday, pulling him into fourth place among active skaters behind Jerome Samson (7), Jon Matsumoto (6) and Drayson Bowman (5). Jordan, who leads all Checkers defensemen with 7 points, is now just one goal shy of matching his rookie total.
• The goaltending tandem of Mike Murphy and Justin Peters has combined to give the Checkers a goals-against average of 2.53, which ranks tied for fourth in the AHL despite the Checkers allowing an average of 32 shots per game, more than all but nine other teams. Both goaltenders have contributed equally with nearly identical statistics on the season – they share a .926 save percentage to rank tied for 8th in the league, while Peters’ goals-against average (2.28 – 14th AHL) narrowly eclipses that of Murphy (2.36 – 16th AHL)
• Checkers winger Drayson Bowman enters tonight’s game as one of two Checkers players with an active point streak, joining Chris Terry with one assist in each of his last three games. Known more as a goal scorer, Bowman's streak marks the longest run of assists in his three-season AHL career, though he has thrice scored goals in three or more consecutive games, including a three-game run in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs in in his first three AHL games on Oct. 3-10, 2009. Bowman, who did not finish either of his first two AHL seasons with a positive plus/minus rating, currently leads the Checkers at plus-6.
• Jerome Samson is the AHL’s leader in shots on goal with 86 – 11 more than any other player. He has recorded an average of 5.06 shots per game this season, which is the highest pace of his five-year AHL career. Samson has finished the 2009-10 season (an average of 4.48 shots per game) as the league leader in shots, and ranked first at the time of his Feb. 19 recall to the Carolina Hurricanes last season (4.62 shots per game).
• Nov. 19 – (C) Zac Dalpe recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• Nov. 17 – (D) Justin Faulk recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• Nov. 17 – (C) Zac Dalpe reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Nov. 17 – (RW) Ben Smith recalled to Chicago (NHL) from Rockford
• Nov. 17 – (LW) Rostislav Olesz assigned to Rockford from Chicago (NHL)
• Nov. 13 – (RW) Chris DiDomenico assigned to Toledo (ECHL) from Rockford