On Friday, the league-leading Admirals (44-18-3) topped Charlotte by a 7-2 score to win their 17th consecutive game. Another win today would give them sole possession of the all-time AHL record, with their last loss coming all the way back on Feb. 5. The inaugural GEICO Cup Challenge is also up for grabs, with Norfolk now holding a one-point lead in the eight-game season series with Charlotte that concludes today.
In addition to those storylines, Charlotte (32-21-8) is simply hoping to improve its playoff positioning. With both Chicago and Peoria now ahead of them in the Midwest Division race, the Checkers have fallen to seventh in a tight Western Conference that has just four points separating the third and 10th seeds. The Checkers do have games in hand, as they have played fewer times than any other AHL team.
The Checkers will be without one of their key players today, as defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti heads to the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes for the second time in a week after having two wait two years between previous recalls. Sanguinetti has five points (1g, 4a) in his last two AHL games, including assists on both Checkers’ goals against Norfolk on Friday.
With veteran Mathieu Roy still questionable on the blue line, the Checkers have recalled defenseman Ryan Donald from ECHL Florida to take Sanguinetti’s spot in the lineup. Donald, a second-year pro who played collegiately at Yale, will be making his home debut for the Checkers but did appear in two January road games in Abbotsford. Donald, who the Checkers signed to an AHL contract during the offseason, has played a total of 18 career AHL games with Springfield, Providence and Charlotte.
The Checkers should continue to be healthy up front, with the return of Riley Nash pushing rookie Justin Shugg out of the lineup on Friday. During the previous meeting with Norfolk, Zach Boychuk led the way offensively with both Checkers goals – one on a first-period power play to make it 2-1 and another in the third period to set the final score at 7-2.
Though both of Charlotte’s goalies played Friday’s game without much success, veteran Justin Peters will likely get the start today as the team continues its usual rotation. Peters stopped 12 of 15 shots in relief of Mike Murphy, who saved 13 of 17.
1st Eastern Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
The Admirals currently have all the momentum in the season series with Charlotte that has seen each team go on streaks. Norfolk opened the season with back-to-back wins in October with Charlotte then rattling off three in a row prior to the Admirals’ current two-game run. Both of Norfolk’s recent wins have come during their historic streak, with a victory in Charlotte on Feb. 12 counting as game No. 3 of 17.
In a move that will perhaps balance out the Checkers’ loss of Sanguinetti, the Admirals will be without No. 2 scorer Trevor Smith for tonight’s rematch. Smith, who has 62 points (22g, 40a) in 58 games this season, joined the Tampa Bay Lightning during Saturday’s off day in the weekend series. Smith recorded two assists on Friday, giving him six points in six games against Charlotte this season.
The Admirals should still have the services of the red-hot Tyler Johnson, who recorded two points on Friday to extend his point streak to nine games (8g, 12a). He also has goals in six consecutive games, marking the second-longest streak posted by any AHL player this season. His goal and point streaks are both the longest active runs in the league.
In goal, Jaroslav Janus continues to shoulder the load with normal starter Dustin Tokarski in Tampa Bay. Janus has won nine consecutive games, including a 28-save performance against the Checkers on Friday, and will almost certainly see the start tonight as the Admirals go for history. Pat Nagle, the other half of ECHL Florida’s goalie tandem along with the Checkers’ John Muse, will continue to provide backup.
BOYCHUK IN BUNCHES: Charlotte’s Zach Boychuk recorded his fourth two-goal game of the season on Friday, tying him with Jerome Samson for the most multi-goal games of any Checkers player this season. Boychuk has now found the back of the net 16 times this season, with multi-goal games accounting for exactly half of that total. Boychuk has one career hat trick, one of two in team history, which was registered at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 23 of last season.
TOUGH LOSS: Friday’s 7-2 setback to Norfolk marked the most lopsided loss in the Checkers’ two-year history, with the team previously never having lost by more than four goals. Charlotte had not lost by more than three goals at any time this season, with all of its four-goal losses coming during its inaugural campaign last season.
• (C) Brett Sutter has points in each of his last three games (March 10-16; 1g, 2a)
• (LW) Zach Boychuk has points in each of his last two games (March 11-16; 2g, 2a)
• (D) Mathieu Roy – missed one game, last played March 11 vs. Chicago
• (LW) Justin Soryal – missed one game, last played March 11 vs. Chicago (out for season)
• (D) Justin Krueger - missed eight games, last played Feb. 18 at Chicago
• March 17 – (D) Ryan Donald recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
• March 17 – (D) Bobby Sanguinetti recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
• March 16 – (RW) Jerome Samson reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• March 12 – (D) Chris Murray reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• March 17 – (C) Trevor Smith recalled to Tampa Bay (NHL) from Norfolk
• March 11 – (F) Bryan Brutlag released from professional tryout contract
• March 11 – (LW) Casey Haines released from professional tryout contract