Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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:

source: www.theahl.com