Tonight’s meeting is the fifth in the eight-game season series between Charlotte (25-15-4) and Rockford (18-21-4), with the Checkers having earned at least one point in each of the previous meetings (3-0-1). Two of the games have gone to a shootout, including the most recent contest in Rockford on Dec. 30, with each team taking one victory.
The following two games mark the IceHogs’ final visit to Charlotte, with the teams next facing off in Rockford on April 10 and April 14.
With Mike Murphy injured during the pregame warm-up period of his scheduled start in Norfolk on Tuesday, the Checkers have signed goalie Pier-Olivier Pelletier to a professional tryout contract. Pelletier, most recently of the CHL’s Evansville IceMen, will back up John Muse for at least the next two games.
Muse, a rookie out of Boston College who started the season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, has started two of the Checkers’ last three contests. Tonight’s game will mark the first time he has been handed consecutive starts at the AHL level, with his four appearances this season stretched out over the last six weeks.
Tuesday’s 29-save effort in the 4-2 win over Norfolk improved Muse to 4-0-0 in the AHL this season with a 0.81 goals-against average and .976 save percentage. Though two of his three goals allowed this season came in against Norfolk, that performance may have been his most impressive as he was frequently tested against the AHL’s No. 2 offense.
Chris Terry and Bobby Sanguinetti remain red hot for the Checkers, as each will carry a six-game point streak into tonight’s contest. Terry has 13 points (4g, 9a) during his run, while Sanguinetti has 10 (3g, 7a). Sanguinetti’s streak is the longest of his four-season professional career and includes 9 points on the power play, helping the Checkers to convert 10 of their last 32 chances (31.3 percent).
New Checkers Evgenii Dadonov, A.J. Jenks and Joe Sova, who arrived via a pair of Carolina Hurricanes trades last week, are set for their home debuts. Dadonov recorded his first two points with the team on Tuesday, recording a goal and an assist.
Charlotte currently has 13 healthy forwards and seven healthy defensemen on the roster, with Jared Staal and Ryan Donald sitting out Tuesday’s game.
15th Western Conference
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Though they trail the Checkers by 14 points and rank last in the Midwest Division, the IceHogs enter tonight’s match-up having won a season-high four consecutive games. That run includes two victories over Chicago and one over Milwaukee that helped Charlotte gain some ground on their main divisional competition to this point.
A big part of the recent turnaround has been the play of goalie Carter Hutton, who was named AHL Player of the Week on Monday. For the week ending Jan. 22, Hutton, who started the season with the ECHL Toledo Walleye as Rockford’s third-string goalie, went 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.
Like many teams around the league, including Charlotte with the return of Zac Dalpe, Rockford has been bolstered by its parent club reassigning its top players during the NHL’s All-Star break. Leading scorer Brandon Pirri (41 points in 41 games) and forward Ben Smith (21 points in 22 games) returned from the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Both players have four-game point streaks at the AHL level.
Brian Connelly, who will join Pirri at the All-Star Classic, ranks second on the team and second among AHL defensemen with 36 points (5g, 31a). He has 4 points in his last three games (1g, 3a).
• FINDING MUSE: In 222 minutes of AHL hockey this season, Checkers rookie John Muse has allowed just three goals, including his first career shutout on Jan. 20. Muse, who started the season with ECHL Florida, is 4-0-0 with a 0.81 goals-against average and .976 save percentage our appearances with the Checkers.
• TERRY STREAKS AGAIN: Forward Chris Terry, who set a team record with an eight-game point streak earlier this season, has put together a streak of six games dating back to Jan. 12. Though his current streak is still two games shorter than his record, he already has more points (13) than he did in his previous run (11). Terry, named to this year’s AHL All-Star Classic, also holds a share of the team’s longest goal (three games) and assist streaks (five games) this season. He is just two assists away from tying his career high of 30 that he posted in each of his first two AHL seasons and is on pace to set a new personal best with 66 points.
• SANGUINETTI ADVANTAGE: Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti has 10 points (3g, 7a) during a six-game streak that marks the longest of his four-season AHL career. All but one of those points has come on the power play, as he now ranks second on the team in power-play points (16) behind Chris Terry (18). Despite not playing in 11 games this season, he is on pace to set new career highs in assists (37) and points (43) and currently ranks third among active Checkers with 22 points in 33 games.
• POWER SURGE: The Checkers have at least one power-play goal in each of their last six games, marking their longest such streak of the season. They have scored multiple power-play goals in three of their last four, including a three-goal performance in Abbotsford on Jan. 20 that tied a season high. They have converted 10 of 32 total chances during that span (31.3 percent) and have seen their AHL ranking climb from 12th in the league on Jan. 12 (19.1 percent) to their current ranking of sixth (20.8 percent).
• DIVISIONAL DOMINANCE: The Checkers are 10-3-1 against fellow Midwest Division teams this season, earning 21 of a potential 28 points (.750). That gives them the best combined record of any AHL team against its own division. Chicago is the only other Midwest team that is over .500 against the division (14-11-1).
• HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: The Checkers’ 31 points earned at home this season are the most in the AHL. With a record of 14-6-3 this season, the AHL Checkers have improved to 36-19-7 all-time at Time Warner Cable Arena.
• Bobby Sanguinetti has points in each of his last six games (Jan. 12-24; 3g, 7a).
• Chris Terry has points in each of his last six games (Jan. 12-24; 4g, 9a).
• John Muse has won each of his last four games (Dec. 16-Jan. 24).
• Zach Boychuk has assists and points in each of his last three games (Jan. 20-24; 3a).
• Jan. 26 – (G) Pier-Olivier Pelletier signed to professional tryout contract
• Jan. 24 – (C) Zac Dalpe reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Jan. 23 – (RW) Matt Beca reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 20 – (D) Joe Sova acquired from Albany
• Jan. 20 – (C) Cedric McNicoll assigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 25 – (RW) Ben Smith reassigned to Rockford from Chicago (NHL)
• Jan. 25 – (C) Brandon Pirri reassigned to Rockford from Chicago (NHL)
• Jan. 25 – (C) David Gilbert reassigned to Toledo (ECHL) from Rockford
• Jan. 19 – (C) Brett McLean released by Chicago (NHL)