For Charlotte (26-16-4), the game against Oklahoma City (30-11-5) begins a stretch of playing seven of their next eight games on the road. They play just three home games during the month of February, two of which will conclude the eight-game season series with the Barons at the end of the month.
The Checkers are one of the few teams to have success against Oklahoma City this season, having gone 3-1-1 against them thus far. The Barons took the last meeting in overtime on Dec. 20 in Charlotte.
The Checkers will be missing two forwards from their most-recent game, a 3-2 loss to Rockford, as Riley Nash and Drayson Bowman both joined the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week. As one might assume from their recalls, both had ranked among the team’s top scorers of late. In the Checkers’ last six games, Nash had 6 points (3g, 3a), while Bowman had 8 (3g, 5a).
The return of Jerome Samson from Carolina should help fill that void, particularly on the power play. Despite missing the Checkers’ last nine games, Samson still leads the team in goals (15), power-play goals (8) and shots on goal (160). Tonight will mark his return to action from suffering an upper-body on a hit from Zdeno Chara three games into his recall with the Hurricanes, which saw him score his first NHL goal in his season debut on Jan. 10.
Despite the forward turnover on the power play, the Checkers will look to remain hot (36.8 percent in their last eight games) with Bobby Sanguinetti and Chris Terry still running things from the point. Both players have an eight-game point streak, tying Terry’s team record set earlier this season.
Veteran defenseman Mathieu Roy could potentially play his first game since Jan. 4, as he has made the trip west with the team. Forwards Chris Durno and Justin Shugg, defenseman Chris Murray and goalie Mike Murphy remain out due to injury. On Thursday, the Checkers signed Scott Darling of the Mississippi RiverKings to a tryout contract to back up John Muse over the weekend.
Jared Staal, a healthy scratch for the past five games, should re-enter the lineup barring any additional roster changes. Zac Dalpe, who left the team’s most recent game in the second period and did not return, is expected to play tonight.
OKLAHOMA CITY STATS
1st Western Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
The team with the best record in the AHL – with 65 points, the Barons are at least five clear of any other team – also happens to be the hottest team in the AHL. They took that honor from San Antonio just last night, beating the Rampage 3-0 in a head-to-head meeting for their seventh consecutive win on the strength of Yann Danis’ shutout. The Rampage had a seven-game win streak of their own heading into that meeting.
The Barons boast two of the league’s top three goalies in terms of goals-against average, with David LeNeveu (2.00 – 2nd AHL) holding a slight edge over Danis (2.04 – 3rd). The two have split the workload against Charlotte, with Danis starting three of the five games, recording one shutout. The Barons have far and away the league’s best team defense (2.17 goals-against average) and are the AHL’s best team when scoring first (21-1-2).
Danis, who leads the AHL with 18 wins, was the only one of six goalies to record a perfect period in last weekend’s All-Star Classic, making 11 saves in the second period for the Western Conference. He joined leading scorer Ryan Keller (36 points), leading goal scorer Philippe Cornet (21) and defensive plus/minus leader Alex Plante (plus-14) in Atlantic City.
Cornet, who is tied for fourth in the AHL in goals, is currently on NHL recall with Edmonton. The 21-year-old recorded an assist in his NHL debut on Tuesday. Magnus Paajarvi, Josh Green, Colten Teubert, Taylor Chorney, Teemu Hartikainen and Plante, all of whom have played for Edmonton this season, will be with the Barons for tonight’s game.
• RECORD STREAKS: Forward Chris Terry and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti have recorded at least one point in each of their last eight games, tying a team record set by Terry earlier this season. Terry, who will play in his first AHL All-Star Classic on Monday, has 15 points (4g, 11a) while Sanguinetti has 12 (4g, 8a) dating back to the Checkers’ Jan. 12 game against Hershey. The streaks are the second-longest active runs in the AHL.
Terry, in his third professional season, has already equaled his career high in assists (30) and is on pace to set a new personal best in points (67). He also has an active five-game assist streak, which ties another one of his team records from earlier this season. Despite missing 11 games this season, Sanguinetti, in his fourth AHL season, is on pace to set new career highs in assists (37) and points (45). Terry ranks first on the team and tied for 10th in AHL scoring, while Sanguinetti ranks fourth on the team and tied for 12th among league defensemen in points.
• POWER SURGE: The Checkers have scored at least one power-play goal in each of their last eight games, setting a new team record. During that span, which dates back to Jan. 12, they have converted 14 of 38 chances (36.8 percent) to pull into second in the AHL with a season mark of 22.1. Bobby Sanguinetti (11 power-play points), Chris Terry (9) and Drayson Bowman (7) have been the top individual contributors as the team has scored multiple power-play goals in four of those contests, twice tying a single-game season record with three.
• FINDING MUSE: Prior to suffering a 3-2 loss against Rockford on Friday, John Muse began his AHL career with wins in each of his first six appearances. Starting with his professional debut with Portland at the conclusion of his college career last season and continuing through five Checkers games this season, Muse is 5-0-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .950 save percentage at the AHL level. Muse, a 23-year-old undrafted free agent signed by the Checkers this offseason, began the season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, where he posted a 7-3-2 record, 2.31 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
• THIRD PERIODS: The Checkers have been out-scored 50-36 in third periods this season, their only period in which they have a negative goal differential (-14). They have suffered a league-high six regulation losses when leading after two periods, including each of their last three regulation losses, but have also found themselves in that situation 27 times, the most of any other AHL team. Conversely, Charlotte has a +10 goal differential in the first period and is +13 in the second. Four of the Checkers’ six regulation losses when leading after two periods have come on home ice.
• Bobby Sanguinetti has points in each of his last eight games (Jan. 12-27; 4g, 8a).
• Chris Terry has points in each of his last eight games (Jan. 12-27; 4g, 11a).
• Feb. 2 – (G) Scott Darling signed to a professional tryout contract
• Feb. 1 – (LW) Drayson Bowman recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 31 – (RW) Jerome Samson reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Jan. 30 – (C) Riley Nash recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 28 - (G) Pier-Olivier Pelletier released from professional tryout contract
• Jan. 27 – (D) Ryan Donald reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 31 – (LW) Philippe Cornet recalled to Edmonton (NHL) from Oklahoma City