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Tracking the Storm

Checkers Come to Raleigh for Weekend Slate

Tuesday, 02.11.2014 / 2:00 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Checkers Come to Raleigh for Weekend Slate
This weekend\u2019s games against the Abbotsford Heat mark the second consecutive season in which the Checkers will play at PNC Arena.
THE GAME

Paul Branecky
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This weekend’s games against the Abbotsford Heat mark the second consecutive season in which the Checkers will play at PNC Arena. In their debut last season, they defeated Norfolk 3-1 in front of 10,000 fans on a day that also happened to coincide with the end of that season’s NHL work stoppage.

Tickets for this season’s games (Saturday at 5:00 and Sunday at 1:30), which coincide with the NHL’s Olympic break, start at just $15. Originally, the first game was slated for Friday, Feb. 14 at 7:30, but inclement weather and travel concerns forced its postponement to Saturday, Feb. 15 at 5:00. Sunday’s game will feature a giveaway of player trading card posters to the first 2,000 fans, courtesy of ImageMark, and a post-game Skate with the Checkers event, presented by the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

Admission to the Skate with the Checkers event is $20 and includes skate rental. A game ticket is required to attend the skate and all proceeds will benefit the Charlotte Checkers Charitable Foundation.

THE SEASON

The Checkers’ campaign has been defined by highs and lows. After a solid start despite a tough early schedule, the team set a franchise record with seven consecutive regulation losses in November. They then began to steadily bounce back, leading into a stretch in which they won eight of 10 in January only to enter this weekend’s game on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) that included an overtime loss in their most recent game on Sunday.

This weekend’s games are the Checkers’ first since coming out of the AHL All-Star break. They hope to make a push for the playoffs in the second half, as they currently find themselves ranked 12th in the Western Conference.

THE CAROLINA CONNECTION

Of the 24 players on Charlotte’s roster, nine have played at least one game for Carolina. They are: goalie Mike Murphy, defensemen Michal Jordan and Ryan Murphy, and forwards Nicolas Blanchard, Zach Boychuk, Aaron Palushaj, Jared Staal, Brett Sutter and Chris Terry. Of that group, five (Ryan Murphy, Boychuk, Palushaj, Sutter and Terry) have played for Carolina this season.

Four additional players – defensemen Matt Corrente and Mark Flood and forwards Philippe Cornet and Greg Nemisz – have played in the NHL for other organizations. A total of 13 Checkers players are Carolina draft picks, a group that includes 2011 second-round choice Victor Rask (42nd overall) and 2010 third-round choice Danny Biega (67th overall).

Charlotte head coach Jeff Daniels, who won a Stanley Cup as a player for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992, played for the Hurricanes from 1999-2003 and was a member of the 2002 team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Now in his sixth season as head coach of Carolina’s AHL affiliate, he began his coaching career as an assistant with Carolina, helping it earn the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship.

THE TOP PERFORMERS

Boychuk, Carolina’s first-round pick in 2008 who has played 94 total NHL games with Carolina, Pittsburgh and Nashville, ranks fourth in the AHL with 22 goals, just one shy of his career high. He is also tied for first in the league and for the Checkers’ single-season franchise record with 12 power-play goals.

In his first season within the Carolina organization, Palushaj leads the Checkers with 42 points, 28 of which have come in his last 24 games. Two of his 68 NHL games have come with the Hurricanes this season, with the others spent with Montreal and Colorado.

Terry, the Checkers’ all-time scoring leader, has resumed his typical near-point-per-game pace with 37 (14g, 23a) in 41 this season. Since netting the game-winning goal in his NHL debut with Carolina last season, Terry has played an additional nine games, including seven this season that saw him go a perfect two-for-two on shootout attempts. He still leads the Hurricanes in shootout goals this season.

Mark Flood, who played one previous stint with the Hurricanes organization from 2006-2009, has already tied the Checkers’ franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a single season with 11, a record previously held by former Hurricane Bobby Sanguinetti. He ranks tied for second in the AHL in goals by defensemen.

THE ALUMNI

Of the 23 players on Carolina’s roster, 10 have played at least one game for the Checkers, including five this season (goaltenders Anton Khudobin, Justin Peters and Cam Ward and forwards Elias Lindholm and Manny Malhotra).

Drayson Bowman, Riley Nash, Brett Bellemore and Peters were all key Checkers players in recent years before graduating to the NHL full-time this season, with Jiri Tlusty playing five games on a conditioning stint during the 2010-11 campaign. Prior to being named to the U.S. Olympic team, defenseman Justin Faulk made his professional debut and recorded his first professional goal and point while playing a total of 56 Checkers games starting with the 2011 playoffs.

Other Hurricanes who have played in the AHL include Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Nathan Gerbe, Ron Hainsey, Andrej Sekera, Patrick Dwyer, Jay Harrison and Mike Komisarek. Roughly 87 percent of current NHL players are AHL alumni. In the Checkers’ four AHL seasons, the Hurricanes have recalled 27 different players from Charlotte.



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 49 28 13 8 145 125 64
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 49 18 22 9 110 137 45
15 CAR 48 17 25 6 104 125 40
16 BUF 50 14 33 3 94 179 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 43 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 48 10 19 -13 29
E. Lindholm 48 9 11 -12 20
R. Nash 48 7 13 -4 20
J. Tlusty 41 12 7 -12 19
J. Skinner 43 10 9 -8 19
N. Gerbe 44 5 13 -4 18
V. Rask 48 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 46 1 14 -6 15
J. McClement 48 1 9 -2 10
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 11 17 4 .914 2.37
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .914 2.41