The Checkers (19-12-3) and Rampage (16-15-2) conclude their four-game season series tonight, with San Antonio having taken two of the previous three contests. Goaltending has been the story of each match-up, with Mike Murphy (35 saves on Oct. 29), Jacob Markstrom (44 saves on Dec. 11) and Dov-Grumet Morris (33 save shutout on Tuesday) all playing well in winning efforts.
Following tonight’s game, the Checkers hit the road for a weekend trip through Milwaukee and Chicago before beginning a four-game home stand next week.
Tuesday’s game, the third contest in which the Checkers have been shut out this season, stalled the team’s momentum on several fronts. Besides having one of their longest point streaks of the season snapped, five Charlotte skaters also saw personal point streaks come to an end.
In addition, the team’s season-long streak of 23 consecutive penalties killed also came to a close, with San Antonio’s Greg Rallo scoring the eventual winning goal during a first-period man advantage. Rallo and teammate Bracken Kearns, who are part of the league’s 30th-ranked power play at 11.4 percent, are the last two players to score power-play goals against the Checkers.
“It was disappointing,” said coach Jeff Daniels of Tuesday’s effort. “We’re in no position to take nights off, because it’s going to be a mad scramble right until the end to make the playoffs.”
Despite the loss, the Checkers’ recent run of points earned has them as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed by way of their Midwest Division lead. The Milwaukee Admirals, who the Checkers visit on Saturday, trail by two points with four games in hand.
With Chris Durno joining fellow forward Justin Shugg on the sidelines due to injury on Tuesday, right wing Matt Beca, who Charlotte recalled earlier in the day, made his Checkers debut in the team’s 2-0 loss. The 25-year-old former Clarkson University standout was the Florida Everblades’ (ECHL) leading scorer at the time of his recall and had 6 goals in his last five games. Beca played five AHL contests with Springfield in 2009-10, scoring once in five games.
Update: Goalie John Muse will make his first AHL start of the season for Charlotte, ending Mike Murphy's career-best run of seven consecutive starts. Read more
Update: The Hurricanes have reassigned forward Zac Dalpe and assigned forward Derek Joslin (conditioning stint) to Charlotte. Both are expected to be available for tonight's game. Read more
11th Western Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
Though it appeared the Checkers may have caught a break when the Rampage decided to rest their normal starter in Markstrom, Grumet-Morris proved that would not be the case on Tuesday.
Grumet-Morris, a 29-year-old AHL veteran who was playing in Norway as recently as late November, earned his second shutout of the season and seventh of his career against the Checkers, saving his best performance for early in the third period when Charlotte took 14 shots while desperately trying to rally from their narrow deficit. Though he has only played in eight games and thus not enough minutes to rank among the league’s official goaltending leaders, his 1.44 goals-against average and .947 save percentage would each rank first in the AHL. With Markstrom expected to join the NHL’s Florida Panthers prior to their game on Thursday, Grumet-Morris could again start against the Checkers tonight.
While San Antonio used Tuesday’s win in Charlotte to climb above the .500 mark for the first time since Oct. 21, their record doesn’t do justice to their recent performances. The Rampage have taken points in eight of their last nine games (6-1-2) to get to within two points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Players with recent NHL experience have proven to be San Antoino’s most dangerous offensive players of late, with Mark Cullen, who was reassigned from Florida Tuesday morning, accounting for a goal and an assist against the Checkers that night. Evgenii Dadonov has points in both games (1g, 1a) since coming back from the NHL on New Year’s Eve.
• PESKY WEST: The Checkers are 6-8-1 against the West Division this season, making it the only division against which it has a losing record. Charlotte has already lost its season series with Houston (1-3-0) and trails against San Antonio (1-2-0) and Texas (1-2-0), but holds an advantage over the AHL’s No. 1 team in Oklahoma City (3-1-1). The Checkers will play their first games against Abbotsford later this month.
• MURPHY THE WORKHORSE: Dating back to Dec. 15, Charlotte goalie Mike Murphy has started a season and career-high seven consecutive games in goal, topping his previous regular-season mark, set earlier this season, by one game. Both streaks this season have come with teammate Justin Peters either injured or on NHL recall. Since re-joining the Checkers from his own stint with the Carolina Hurricanes, Murphy has posted a 3-2-1 record with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
• STREAKING: Tuesday’s loss ended the Checkers’ five-game point streak (4-0-1), which tied the team’s longest of the season (5-0-0 between Nov. 20 and 30). Since Nov. 20, the Checkers have also experienced a team-record five-game winning streak and tied a team record with a four-game losing streak (Dec. 5-15).
• SAMSON SHOOTS, SCORES: Charlotte forward Jerome Samson, the AHL’s shots on goal leader once again with 145 in 34 games, has scored four goals in his last six games to reclaim the team lead in that category (14). After briefly losing the league lead in shots to Hershey’s Chris Bourque last week, Samson, who finished with the AHL lead two seasons ago and was again the runaway leader at the time of his NHL recall late last season, posted six shots in back-to-back games last week.
Eight of Samson’s goals this season have come on the power play, tying him for third in the AHL. He is on pace to top his career high of 12 power-play goals set during his rookie season with Albany in 2007-08.
• HOME AND AWAY: The Checkers 24 points earned at home this season are tied with Milwaukee for second-most in the league behind Manchester’s 25. With a record of 11-5-2 this season, the AHL Checkers have improved to 33-18-6 all-time at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Checkers recently broke the .500 mark on the road for the first time since Dec. 9 and now have a season record of 8-7-1.
• Mike Murphy has started seven consecutive games in goal (Dec. 15-Jan.3; 3-2-1).
• Jan. 4 - (C) Zac Dalpe reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Jan. 4 - (D) Derek Joslin assigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Jan. 3 – (RW) Matt Beca recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
• Jan. 3 – (C) Mark Cullen reassigned to San Antonio by Florida (NHL)
• Dec. 30 – (LW) Evgenii Dadonov reassigned to San Antonio from Florida (NHL)