Thursday, April 10, 2014

Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry come through again, as Checkers blank Grand Rapids to stay in playoff race

It’s become a familiar sight.

With the Checkers on the power play, Zach Boychuk will slide down to an open section of ice, usually near the opposing goaltender’s left circle.

There he’ll wait with his left-handed shot already coiled.

That’s where Chris Terry comes in. The veteran forward spends a good deal of time running the point when Charlotte has a man advantage. There, his job is to take the shot if it’s there, or reverse the puck quickly to Boychuk if it’s not.

On Thursday, Terry chose to send the puck to Boychuk and the AHL’s leading goal scorer didn’t miss, netting his 36th of the season to give the Checkers a 3-0 lead in the first period on their way to a win by that same score over the Grand Rapids Griffins in front of 6,709 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“It just seems that we have chemistry,” said Terry who has assisted on nine of Boychuk’s 18 power-play goals this season. “We always know where each other is going to be. Tonight, I just knew that he’d be coming around the net and all I had to do was put it there for him.”

The win was huge for the Checkers (37-33-3), who entered the day in 10th place in the Western Conference with just four games remaining. It temporarily vaulted them back into 8th place with Rochester (33-27-10) not playing.

The win also snapped an ill-timed losing streak for the Checkers, who for the first time in franchise history, failed to secure a point in a stretch of three games in three days this past weekend.

After taking the last three days to recover, the Checkers came out of the gates flying on Thursday.

Victor Rask (1 goal, 1 assist) put the team up 1-0 four minutes and seven seconds in, when he batted home his 15th goal of the season. Just over six minutes later, Brett Sutter matched the rookie’s output with his 15th goal as well to put Charlotte up two.

After the Griffins’ David McIntyre was sent to the box for boarding Michal Jordan at the 12:23 mark, Boychuk and Terry went to work.

“The guys kind of make fun of (Terry and I),” said Boychuk, who was named to the AHL’s Second All-Star Team earlier in the day. “We’re pretty good friends and they call us the Sedin sisters, so we try to make plays like them – maybe note quite as pretty – but it was nice to get another one to go.”

Terry credited Brett Sutter with coming up with the nickname a few years back, but claimed Boychuk misspoke.

“I don’t think it’s the Sedin sisters,” Terry said. “It’s the Sedin twins. I think (Boychuk) switched the lingo on that one.”

John Muse, who surrendered a heartbreaking goal to the Oklahoma City Barons in the final game of the Checkers three-in-three set this past Sunday, wasn’t letting Thursday’s points slip away.

He finished the night with 30 saves, to record his fifth shutout of the season and pulled even with Justin Peters for the Checkers all-time lead in clean sheets, with seven.

The Checkers, who will play the Griffins (45-22-6) again on Sunday afternoon, now have some scoreboard watching to do, with the eighth-placed Americans set to play Toronto on Friday and Hamilton on Saturday.

“You do look at the standings to see where you’re at,” said Boychuk. “But we need to focus on what we can control. We took care of business tonight and now we’ve got to have two good practices this weekend and be ready to go again on Sunday.”

Notes: Aaron Palushaj (upper-body injury), Nicolas Blanchard (undisclosed) and the newly reassigned Ryan Murphy (day-to-day) all missed the game due to injuries. ... John Muse is one shutout away from tying Justin Peters for the Checkers' most in a single-season with six. ... Phil Di Giuseppe appeared in his second-straight game for the Checkers, finishing the night with one shot on goal. “He shows good speed,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. “Even in practice, the way he handles the puck, you can tell he wants it on his stick. He has the ability to make plays. He has a good shot and hopefully that can translate into some offense for us. He’s come in during a tough time of the year, where points are important, and I thought he was better tonight than he was in his first game and I didn’t mind him in his first game.”