Thursday, March 13, 2014

Muse makes career-high 43 saves in Checkers win

What's happened with the Checkers this season has been difficult to fully explain, or even understand.

Justin Peters was supposed to be their starting goaltender. However injuries to the Hurricanes' Cam Ward and backup Anton Khudobin led to Peters being needed elsewhere.

In the meantime, Charlotte has started a franchise-record nine different goalies this season.

Here's a refresher: Allen York (1 game), Ward (2 games), Rob Madore (1 game), Peters (6 games), John Muse (33 games), Khudobin (2 games), Mike Murphy (16 games), Jesse Deckers (1 game) and finally, Rick DiPietro (5 games).

Muse, who leads the team in starts in net by 17 games, wasn't even on the opening day roster.

None of the players have admitted as much, but the revolving door in net has had a lot to do with the volatile nature of the Checkers season.

In games started by Peters, Murphy, Khudobin, Ward, and Muse, the Checkers have gone 30-23-1-3. Otherwise, they've gone 0-5-1-0.

A four-point month of November put Charlotte in a huge hole in the Western Conference. But 14 points in December and 14 more in January put them right back in the thick of things.

Just when it seemed like they'd hit their stride, a five-game winless streak in February threatened to undo everything.

However, with Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Texas Stars, which concluded a franchise-record 10-game road trip, the Checkers have secured 12 of a possible 14 points in the month of March and are once again within three points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 16 games still to play.

After beginning the road trip with three consecutive losses, the Checkers will return to Charlotte tomorrow with a record of 6-3-1 in their last 10.

It took a career-high 43 saves (on 44 shots) from Muse on Wednesday night and goals from Zach Boychuk, Nicolas Blanchard, and Chris Terry for the Checkers to defeat the Stars at the Cedar Park Center in Texas.

The goal for Boychuk was his 28th of the season. It leaves him six goals short of Terry's franchise-record mark of 34, set during the 2010-11 season.

Texas entered the game as the Western Conference's top team, but played without two of its top scorers in Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour, who were recalled to Dallas after Rich Peverley's frightening collapse during Monday's game between the Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Just prior to the six minute mark in the first period, Matej Stransky scored the Stars first and only goal of the game.

In the second period, Boychuk got the Checkers on the board, with Aaron Palushaj registering the assist at the 5:39 mark. Less than two minutes later, Blanchard's sixth goal of the season put Charlotte on top for good.

With Texas attempting to rally in the final minutes of the third, Terry potted an empty-netter to put the game away.

The Checkers, who now have points in seven of their last nine games (6-2-1), are set to return to Time Warner Arena on Saturday when they'll host Lake Erie.

Notes: Charlotte (30-27-3) is currently in 10th place in the Western Conference, though it is now just three points behind Milwaukee (eighth place with one fewer game played) and Oklahoma City (ninth place with one more game played). … According to, the Checkers now have a 26.75-percent chance of making the playoffs (up from 9.43-percent following their 3-2 loss to Norfolk on Feb. 26) . ... Charlotte finished its eight-game season series against the Stars at 3-4-1. … Michal Jordan was in the lineup after the Carolina Hurricanes reassigned him to Charlotte on Tuesday. … Terry (1g) now has points in 11 of his last 13 games (7g, 8a), while Aaron Palushaj (1a) has nine points (2g, 7a) in his last six games … Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods missed the game due to injury. ...  Austin Levi was the healthy scratch.