The Checkers play game No. 3 of their six-game home stand with their first-ever match-up with the Texas Stars tonight at Time Warner Cable Arena. Like the Checkers, the Stars are in just their second year of existence and are looking to build a playoff appearance from their inaugural season.
Tonight’s game will mark the first of two consecutive meetings between the Checkers (13-6-2) and the Stars (8-10-1), with a rematch scheduled for Saturday night. The teams find themselves at opposite ends of their respective divisions, with the Checkers enjoying a five-point lead in the Midwest while the Stars enter Wednesday’s contest last in the West.
With a win tonight, the Checkers could extend their winning streak to a team-record five games. They’ve recorded three four-game streaks, including two this season.
Already coming off what was arguably their best game of the season in Sunday’s 5-1 win over Milwaukee, their closest divisional opponent thus far, the Checkers got a further boost by the return of captain Brett Sutter on Tuesday.
Sutter, who the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes reassigned to Charlotte following their waiver acquisition of Andreas Nodl from Philadelphia, played four games during his second NHL stint of the season, recording two assists. He’s roughly split the season between Charlotte and Carolina, having played 12 games for the Checkers and a total of eight with the Canes.
As per usual, Sutter, who has four points (2g, 2a) for the Checkers this season, will be counted upon for his defensive play, particularly on the penalty kill. His return gives the team 14 healthy forwards, meaning two will sit out as healthy scratches unless another roster move is made. Jared Staal has sat four of the team’s last five games, while Justin Shugg, a rookie recall from the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, who had earlier sat out this season, has three points (1g, 2a) in his last two games.
With Justin Peters earning the victory on Sunday, Mike Murphy’s turn in the rotation comes tonight. Center Cedric McNicoll and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti will not play due to injury.
The Stars enter tonight’s match-up with one win in their last four games, having most recently split a back-to-back, home-and-home set with Houston last weekend.
Rookie Matt Fraser is tied for third in rookie goal scoring with nine and ranks third in AHL shots on goal with 79, 15 fewer than the Checkers’ Jerome Samson. The undrafted 21-year-old is also tied for the rookie lead in power-play goals with six.
On the blue line, Jordie Benn, the older brother of the Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn, ranks tied for sixth in the AHL in points with 12, including four goals on the league’s third-best power play (26 percent). He’s been producing at a high clip lately to the tune of four points in his last three games, a mark equaled by teammate Scott Glennie, who was the eighth overall draft choice in 2009.
Dallas’ starting goalie Richard Bachman, who has played in 15 of the Stars’ 19 contests, was recalled by Dallas on Sunday, joining Texas’ fourth-leading scorer Tomas Vincour in the NHL. Backup Tyler Beskorowany is 1-4-0 on the season with a 3.21 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
Though Texas is among the league’s most disciplined teams, center Ryan Garbutt is tied for third in the league with 16 minor penalties. Texas ranks tied for 22nd in AHL penalty killing at 80.2 percent.
• Despite having played fewer home games than all but eight other teams, the Checkers’ 15 points earned at home rank second in the AHL, narrowly trailing Rochester’s 17. Charlotte has earned points in six consecutive home games, including three straight wins, to post the third-longest active home point streak in the AHL. The Checkers are now 7-1-1 at home this season.
• Checkers forwards Jon Matsumoto and Jerome Samson, who have exchanged bragging rights as the team’s scoring leader several times this season, currently find themselves tied with 20 points through 21 games played. Both players, who are currently among a group of seven players tied for 12th in AHL scoring, have been producing lately, with Samson recording six points and Matsumoto five over the Checkers’ last four games. Samson is the AHL’s leader in shots on goal once again with 94 – 11 more than any other player.
• With points in each of his last seven games (2g, 8a), forward Chris Terry is currently tied for the second-longest active point streak in the AHL and has matched the longest by any Checkers player this season (Jerome Samson – Oct. 23-Nov. 6). His streak also matches a career high that he’s achieved twice, most recently between Nov. 2-11, 2010. Having led the Checkers in goal scoring last season with 34, Terry now leads the team in assists, having posted 13 through 19 games.
• Despite playing in just 10 of the Checkers’ 21 games, forward Zach Boychuk ranks tied for third on the team in goal scoring with six. Five of Boychuk’s goals have come at home, including two separate two-goal efforts. Boychuk’s goals have come on just 19 shots, giving him a shooting percentage of 31.6 percent that ranks fifth in the AHL.
• Since returning from injury on Nov. 5, Checkers goaltender Justin Peters has posted a record of 5-1-1 with a .949 save percentage and 1.63 goals-against average. His season totals of .932 and 2.22 are good enough to rank him third and sixth, respectively. Since giving up a total nine goals in his first two games, Peters allowed just 12 goals over his next eight. Fellow goaltender Mike Murphy also ranks among the league leaders with a .924 save percentage (t-12th) and 2.43 goals-against average (t-15th), helping the Checkers post the league’s second-stingiest defense despite allowing more shots than all but six other teams.
• Nov. 29 - (C) Brett Sutter reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Nov. 29 – (LW) Francis Wathier reassigned to Texas from Dallas (NHL)
• Nov. 28 – (G) Jimmy Spratt signed to PTO
• Nov. 28 – (LW) Michael Neal recalled to Texas from Idaho (ECHL)
• Nov. 27 – (LW) Francis Wathier recalled to Dallas (NHL) from Texas
• Nov. 27 – (G) Richard Bachman recalled to Dallas (NHL) from Texas