Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Checkers fall 3-2 in battle of NHL goaltenders

Viktor Fasth won the battle of NHL goaltenders on conditioning stints on Wednesday night, out dueling the Checkers' Justin Peters on the way to a 3-2 win for the Norfolk Admirals at Scope Arena.

Despite seven power-play opportunities for the Checkers (24-26-2), Fasth -- who has a career record of 17-8-3 (2.32 goals against average) in two seasons with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks -- needed just 22 saves to record the win. 

Peters, who made his second start since rejoining the Checkers, stopped 21 of 24 Admirals' (29-17-7) shots. 

Philippe Cornet put Charlotte on top early with his ninth goal of the season 1:35 into the first period. However, Norfolk countered with the game's next three goals, with Antoine Laganiere (8:32 into the second), John Kurtz (19:14 into the second) and Rickard Rakell (6:08 into the third while on the man advantage) doing the honors. 

Rakell's goal, which was his 13th of the season, wound up being the game-winner after a Chris Terry shot deflected off Brett Sutter and into the back of Fasth's net with 3:22 remaining in regulation. 

The goal came on a power play that began with 4:20 to play in regulation after Dave Steckle was hit with a double-minor for high-sticking. 

With two minutes still remaining on the man advantage after Sutter's seventh goal of the season, the Checkers were unable to capitalize. They finished the game 1-for-7 on the power play. 

Defenseman Ryan Murphy picked up assists on both of the Checkers goals to extend his current point streak to eight games. He now has 14 assists in 12 games since joining up with Charlotte. 

With the loss, the Checkers -- who mustered just 12 shots through the first two periods on Wednesday -- saw their GEICO Challenge Cup points advantage over Norfolk drop to 8-6, with the home team winning all six games. 

Three games into their franchise-record 10-game road trip things aren't looking great for the Checkers (0-2-1), who now head to Hershey to take on a Bears (29-19-3) team that currently sits just one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 

Notes: The loss kept Charlotte seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with just 23 games remaining. ...  Ryan Murphy is just one game shy of tying the longest point streak posted by a Checker this season (Chris Terry holds the current mark with a nine-game stretch back in October). ... Greg Nemisz (skating during non-contact drills in practice), Brendan Woods (out 4-6 weeks) and John Muse (limited in practice) missed the game due to injury. ... Defenseman Keegan Lowe was a healthy extra.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Peters solid in Checkers 3-2 shootout loss

Justin Peters turned away 34 shots in the first game of his conditioning stint with the Checkers, keeping Charlotte neck-and-neck with the Texas Stars all the way to the seventh round of a sudden-death shootout on Saturday.

After surrendering two goals in regulation, Peters stopped three of the Stars first six shootout attempts before Matej Stransky netted the game-winner to hand Texas the 3-2 overtime win at the Cedar Park Center in front of 6,863.

Philippe Cornet and Mark Flood took care of the scoring in regulation for the Checkers, while Chris Terry – who did his best T.J. Oshie impression in the shootout – saw his three-game scoring streak come to an end.

Terry improved to a perfect 5-for-5 (3-for-3 with Charlotte and a 2-for-2 with Carolina) this season on shootout attempts.

Defenseman Ryan Murphy, however, was able to continue his point-streak – now at seven games – with his 12th assist in 12 games since being assigned to Charlotte from the Hurricanes, the longest active streak of any AHL blue-liner.

The goal for Flood was his career-high 12th of the season, and extended the Checkers record (which he already had) for most goals by a defenseman in a single season. 

Texas netminder, Cristopher Nilstorp (34 saves), started the seventh round with a save on Checkers captain Brett Sutter to pick up the win.

Aaron Palushaj, Terry and Brody Sutter each scored shootout goals for the Checkers, who finished their two-game set in Texas with one point.

Peters, in his first game at any level since his last start for Carolina on Jan. 19, helped Charlotte end an ugly streak of nine-straight games where it allowed three of more goals in regulation.

Ironically enough, the last time the Checkers had successfully held a team under three goals in regulation was Jan. 31 (a 1-0 loss) with Carolina goalie Cam Ward in net on a conditioning stint of his own.

The Stars put their league-best power-play (27.9-percnet) to work against the Checkers on Saturday, scoring on two of their three opportunities with a man-advantage.

The Checkers will now return to Charlotte for a few days of practice before heading out to face the Norfolk Admirals for two (beginning on Wednesday) and Hershey.

Greg Nemisz, Brendan Woods and John Muse missed the game due to injury, while defenseman Matt Corrente was the healthy extra on defense.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Terry scores in third straight, but Checkers fall 4-1

With the newly assigned Justin Peters still a day away from game-shape, the goaltending duties fell to Mike Murphy on Friday night in Texas, and for the fourth consecutive start, the Checkers all-time leader in wins, surrendered four goals.

The end-game was a 4-1 loss for the Checkers and an end to their two-game winning streak, despite Chris Terry -- who played in his 350th AHL game -- scoring for the third consecutive game.

The goal tied Terry (18g, 27a) with Zach Boychuk (23g, 22a) for the Checkers lead in points with 45 and was assisted by defenseman Ryan Murphy, who now has 11 helpers in 11 games with Charlotte since his assignment from the Hurricanes.

After snapping a 13-game scoreless streak, Terry now has four goals in his last three games and six points (4g, 2a) overall.

After allowing three goals on 13 shots on goal in the first period, Mike Murphy rebounded to stop 17 of the next 18 the Stars threw at him, but the damage had already been done. Christopher Nilstorp turned away 36 of Charlotte's 37 shots on goal -- five of which (a team-high) came from the stick of Aaron Palushaj.

Brett Ritchie led the Stars with goals 13 and 14 of the season.

John Muse and Greg Nemisz missed the game due to injuries, while Keegan Lowe and Matt Marquardt sat out as the healthy scratches.

The Checkers will look to rebound in the second game of their franchise-long 10-game road trip Saturday night against Texas at the Cedar Park Center at 8 p.m. It's likely Peters, who was assigned to Charlotte on Thursday for a conditioning stint, will get the start in net.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Justin Peters assigned to Charlotte on conditioning stint

Per team release...

RALEIGH, NC – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has assigned goaltender Justin Peters to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL) on a conditioning stint.

Peters will join the Checkers as they travel to Austin, TX, for back-to-back games against the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday.

Peters, 27, was recalled from Charlotte on Oct. 14, and has posted a 7-9-4 record, a 2.50 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 21 NHL games played with Carolina this season.

The Blyth, Ont., native started the season with the Checkers and earned a 1-0-0 record and a 2.00 goals-against average in one game prior to his recall. Peters (6’1”, 210 lbs.) has posted a 22-31-8 record, 3.05 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 68 career NHL games with the Hurricanes since making his NHL debut on Feb. 6, 2010.

Carolina drafted Peters in the second round, 38th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.


With John Muse of the Checkers leaving Tuesday night's win over the Norfolk Admirals with an apparent leg injury, the timing of Peter's arrival could loom large for Charlotte -- who currently stands six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 26 games to play.

Mike Murphy, who entered Tuesday's game in relief of Muse in the third period, allowed two goals on 10 shots. The Checkers all-time leader in wins has not looked strong this month, allowing 17 goals in 252:03 of ice time (4.05 GAA) on just 117 shots (.881 SP) over six appearances.

If Muse is out for an extended period of time, Peters could stick around for a bit longer with the Checkers with the Hurricanes already carrying Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin. More will be known following the Olympic break when the Hurricanes resume play on Tuesday.

The longest the Hurricanes could leave Peters with the Checkers -- per the NHL's CBA -- would be 14 days. A span that would cover six games of the Checkers upcoming 10-game road trip. For Peters to remain with Charlotte for a longer period, he'd need to pass through waivers. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Boychuk helps Checkers hold on for second straight win

What looked like it was going to be one of the Checkers best-played games of the season, turned into 4,913 Charlotte fans simultaneously holding their breath as the final 60 seconds ticked slowly off the clock on Tuesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.

After taking a 4-1 lead four minutes and 58 seconds into the third period, Charlotte goaltender John Muse suffered a leg injury and had to leave the game, opening the door for the Norfolk Admirals, who had only put one of their 27 shots in the back of the net to that point.

On the Admirals third shot on Mike Murphy, who replaced Muse, they cut the lead to two goals. Eight and a half minutes later, they dropped Charlotte’s advantage to one, setting up a tense final minute of play before the game came to a close with the score 4-3 in the Checkers favor.

“I’m not crazy about the goals against,” said Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels, whose squad won its second in a row. “I thought we made it more interesting than it should have been.”

Murphy stopped 10 of the 12 shots he faced, but looked far from steady for the second-straight time out.

Asked if he felt the injury changed the game’s momentum, Daniel’s kept his reply short.

“Yeah,” he said.

Pushed to explain, Daniel’s added, “We’ll just leave it at that.”

On the offensive side of things, the Checkers (24-24-2) turned in a solid performance all the way around, with Chris Terry (1g, 1a), Michal Jordan, Zach Boychuk (1g, 2a) and Sean Dolan each finding the back of the net.

After a scoreless first period in which the Checkers outshot the Admirals, 14-7, Charlotte successfully carried momentum into the second period, scoring three goals to take a 3-1 advantage entering the third.

Terry got the scoring started with his third goal in the last two games during a Checkers power play, with Boychuk and Aaron Palushaj assisting.

Prior to a two-goal one-assist performance in the Checkers come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win over the Abbotsford Heat at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Sunday, Terry had gone a career-long 13 games without registering a goal.

“It’s huge (to have Terry scoring),” said Daniels. “He’s a big part of our team, both offensively and defensively. He’s a guy that puts a lot of pressure on himself to step up in those big moments and he’s done that the last couple games.”

At the 9:08 mark in the period, Boychuk again played the role of facilitator, when he set up Jordan for his third goal of the season with a quick pass to the backside of the net.

With the karma of two assists behind him, Boychuk then scored one of the strangest goals of his career with five minutes to play in the period and the Checkers on the power play, when he weakly flipped a puck in on Admirals goaltender Brad Thiessen (39 saves).

The Norfolk goalie never saw it until it had floated over his shoulder and into the back of the net.

“It’s probably one of the (weirdest goals I’ve had) for sure,” said Boychuk, who tied his career-high for goals in a season with 23. “I’ve had some crazy ones go off my butt, off my leg, off my head – but that one was just a little floater that nobody saw.”

With 26 games remaining this season and Boychuk already at his career-mark, Daniels took stock in his 24-year-old forward's play this season. 

"Day in, day out he’s skating," said the Checkers coach. "He’s always been a guy that if you give him the puck around the net there’s a good chance he’s going to score. Right now, his game’s a lot more consistent then it has been in the past. It’s shown not only when he’s been here, but up in Carolina. They’ve been real happy with him."

Boychuk agreed with his coach's assessment. 

"I feel like this year has been a big step forward for me," he said. "I think I took a bit of a step backwards last year, and coming into this season I really wanted to prove some people wrong and I’m trying to do that."

The Admirals Devante Smith-Pelly then scored the first of his three goals on the night to close out the second-period scoring.

Just under five minutes into the final frame Dolan, who centered the third line with Terry and Justin Shugg on his wings (because of a last-minute scratch of Brody Sutter), scored his first goal of the season.

"It’s a different game playing with Chris and Justin," said Dolan. "They’re two very skilled players and it’s fun to get that opportunity. I’m glad we made the most of it."

The Checkers will now head out of town for a season-long 10-game road trip beginning on Friday when they'll play their first of two games against the Texas Stars.

"Obviously being down against Abbotsford 4-1 in that first period (on Sunday), we could have shut it down and quit a little bit," said Boychuk. "But we stuck together as a group and fought back and we’ve been playing some good hockey the last five periods. Hopefully, we can take that on to the long road trip that we have. It’s going to be a grind, but we need these points right now." 

Notes: Checkers coach Jeff Daniels had no updates immediately following the game on John Muse's condition. ... Should Muse be out for an extended period, Charlotte could see its 10th different starter in net this season -- a franchise-record by four already. ... According to Daniels, Brody Sutter's injury is one that the team will monitor day-to-day. He'll likely be back in the lineup on Friday. ... Defenseman Ryan Murphy recorded his 10th assist in 10 games with the Checkers this season and is on now a five-game point streak. ... Boychuk's power play goal was his 13th of the season and set a new franchise-record for the Checkers. ... Sean Dolan's goal was first since the playoffs last season. ... Coming into the night, the Admirals had allowed just four goals over their last 240 minutes of play. ... For the first time in seven games, the Checkers held an opponent below four goals. ... Greg Nemisz missed his fourth straight game due to injury. ... Keegan Lowe was a healthy scratch. 

Game 50 Preview: Norfolk Admirals at Charlotte Checkers

Checkers coach Jeff Daniels shuffled his forward lines in search of a more consistent offensive attack prior to Sunday's game with the Abbotsford Heat at PNC Arena in Raleigh and it seemed to spark the Charlotte offense.

Daniels dropped a seemingly snake-bitten Chris Terry from the top line down to the third with Brody Sutter and Justin Shugg and slotted Philippe Cornet on to the top line. The Checkers coach also shifted Victor Rask back to the second line, surrounding the talented youngster with a playmaker in Aaron Palushaj and a hard-nosed tough guy in Nicolas Blanchard.

The newly created lines -- especially the third -- played well on Sunday and were able to turn a 4-1 first period deficit into a critical 5-4 overtime win.

Terry snapped a 13-game scoreless streak with two goals and an assist, while Aaron Palushaj, Justin Shugg (1g, 1a) and Brett Sutter (who score the game-winner in OT) also made their way into the scorer's book.

Scouts have been clamoring to see Rask up on one of the Checkers' top two lines. It should be interesting to see how he fares if Daniels decides to keep him pared with Palushaj and Blanchard. Rask began the season as a top-six forward and put up 10 points (5g, 5a) in his first 10 games before a slow November led to a demotion to the third line.

With just 27 games remaining this season, and a 10-game road trip looming after today's game with Norfolk, it's now or never for the Checkers who currently sit eight points out of a playoff spot.

"I think that was the most positive our team has been in the locker room with having guys' backs and picking guys up when they're down," Brett Sutter told Checkers team writer Paul Branecky following Sunday's game, which snapped a five-game winless streak for Charlotte (0-4-1).

The Checkers have won their last three games against Norfolk this season and recorded a season-high 52 shots in a 4-3 shootout win in their most recent showdown on Jan. 19. 

Puck Drop: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV/Radio info: Video AHL Live / Audio 730 AM Charlotte

Records: Checkers 23-24-2, Admirals 27-15-7

Projected Checkers lineup: (Updated)

Philippe Cornet-Brett Sutter-Zach Boychuk
Nicolas Blanchard-Victor Rask-Aaron Palushaj
Chris Terry-Sean Dolan-Justin Shugg
Matt Marquardt-Brendan Woods-Jared Staal

Michal Jordan-Danny Biega
Mark Flood-Ryan Murphy
Rasmus Rissanen-Matt Corrente 

John Muse
Mike Murphy

Healthy scratches: Matt Marquardt, Keegan Lowe.

InjuredGreg Nemisz, Brody Sutter. 

StorylinesAfter suffering through a 13-game scoreless drought, Checkers forward Chris Terry broke out in a big way on Sunday at PNC Arena with two goals and an assist in a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win for Charlotte. ... The victory snapped a five-game (0-4-1) winless streak for the Checkers. ... Charlotte has allowed four or more goals in six consecutive games and is 2-16-1 this season in such games. ... With 27 games to play the Checkers are eight points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. ... Tuesday marks Charlotte's final home game before it embarks on a season-long 10-game road trip. ... Since joining the Checkers from the Hurricanes on Jan. 24, Ryan Murphy (9a) has nine points in nine games, good for third among Charlotte defensemen this season. ... The Checkers ( No.12 Palushaj, T-No. 13 Boychuk, T-No. 13 Terry) along with the Texas Stars are the only two teams in the AHL to have three or more players in the top 16 in points in the league. ... Charlotte has won three of its four meetings this season with the Admirals, but two of those required extra time. Each team has scored 15 goals against the other. ... Emerson Etem (12g, 19a) leads the Admirals with 31 points this season, with rookie Rickard Rakell (11g, 19a) just a point behind.

GEICO Challenge Cup Standings: 6-4 in favor of the Checkers.  

Western Conference standings update:


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Terry, Sutter and Shugg lead Checkers to OT win in Raleigh

One period into Sunday afternoon's matchup with the Abbotsford Heat it looked as though the Checkers were on their way to a second consecutive loss in front of the Hurricane's brass at PNC Arena in Raleigh and sixth straight overall. 

The Heat, who had already defeated the Checkers on three separate occasions this season -- including a 5-1 loss on Saturday -- held a 4-1 advantage and seemed to be rolling. 

However, four unanswered goals by Chris Terry (in the second period and early in the third), Justin Shugg, and Brett Sutter in overtime sent Abbotsford out of town shaking its head following a 5-4 loss. 

Terry, who finished the game with three points (2g, 1a), put an end to a 13-game scoreless streak that had tied the longest such drought of his career. Mike Murphy (28 saves) recovered from a shaky first period, where he allowed four goals on 13 shots, to record his fourth win of the season in net. 

“I think everyone gets to take a breath of fresh air now,” Sutter told Checkers team writer Paul Branecky. “This game is so much about confidence and when you’re on a bit of a skid it weighs on you mentally. Tonight we found a way.”

After allowing a breakaway goal just 24 seconds into the first period, Aaron Palushaj's 18th goal of the season evened the game at 1-1 just a minute and 10 seconds later. However, the Heat then countered with three consecutive goals to claim a three-goal edge entering the second period. 

According to reports, Daniels let his players do the talking during the first intermission, with Justin Shugg's voice figuring prominently. 

Daniels also shook up his lines dramatically prior to the puck drop on Sunday, dropping Terry and Brody Sutter to the third line with Shugg, while bouncing Victor Rask up to the second line and Philippe Cornet to the top line. 

The move paid off for the third line, which combined to record nine points, with Terry posting a team-high nine shots on Abbotsford goaltender Joni Ortio (37 saves).

Terry began the comeback midway through the second period when he finished his own rebound. On the third line's next trip out onto the ice, Terry found Shugg with a drop pass that led to his 13th goal of the season to bring the Checkers to within one goal of the West Division-leading Heat.

In the opening minutes of the third, the Heat's Max Reinhart was called for interference and Terry made sure his team paid for it with a blast from the left point to tie the game at 4-4.

Later in the third, Terry looked on the verge of capping a spectacular individual performance when the Checkers were awarded a penalty shot after Derek Smith played the puck with his hand while it was in the Abbotsford crease, but his attempt came up empty when the puck leaked off his stick sending the game into overtime.

Checkers captain, Brett Sutter, did the honors 1:53 into the extra period.

Charlotte -- who did not commit a penalty in the win -- will now return to Time Warner Cable Arena for the conclusion of its five-game home (technically) stand on Tuesday when they'll face the Norfolk Admirals.