Checkers win! Charlotte defeats Peoria 4-2, maintain division lead.

What a change of pace from last Saturday’s night in Peoria.  It was a different set of goaltenders (this time, Peoria started their back up, Jake Allen, and Charlotte started John Muse).  Prior to the puck drop, the Rivermen learned that St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak was injured, and a recall by Ben Bishop was a possibility, and risking him to injury in an AHL game was not worth is, so Allen filled in.

Justin "The Shuggernaut" had two points in his first game for the Checkers since December 15. He was injured for most of that time, and spent last week with the Everblades.

The Checkers were victorious after 60-minutes in Peoria, defeating the Rivermen by a score of 4-2.  Justin Shugg and Zach Boychuk had two points each (1G, 1A), and AJ Jenks finished the night with a pair of helpers.  The official gamesheet is here.

Last weekend, the first period saw PTO signee and Checkers first-time starter David Caruso face 47 shots, 42 of which he stopped.  The first period saw Charlotte put only two shots on goal.  Tonight, the Checkers had 12 SOG in the first, had a 3-0 lead at the end of 20 minutes.

The third period was a typical one for Charlotte… they were outshot and outscored, but fortunately, were still able to come out on top.

Yikes, Checkers. After a great first 40-minutes, they dropped the ball (or puck, rather) in the third period.

 

By allowing two goals by Peoria, and only scoring one of their own in the third, the Checkers increased their third-period negative goal differential.  They’ve scored 43 goals during third periods this season, but allowed 56.  That is not a statistic to be proud of!

But the good news is, the Checkers won the game, and it was an important two-points against a Rivermen team that has been winning a lot lately, and making steady progress at chipping away at Charlotte’s Midwest division lead.

The Checkers are Chicago bound via a bus tonight, for two more games this weekend against the Wolves.  It’s about a three hour drive to Rosemont, where the Wolves play, which is nothing compared to recent three-in-three weekend travel.  The next two games are crucial, as the Midwest Division is becoming a tighter one with every game played.  Charlotte leads Chicago by four points, but the Wolves are two games back, with 50 games played versus Charlotte’s 52.  The next two games are big ones for both clubs.

 

With that in mind, Let’s Go Checkers!

Quick Hits: Sutter named Captain, and the Defense numbers game in Raleigh

A few quick hits:

  • Justin Shugg and Mike McKenzie were sent to Florida today.  McKenzie is on an AHL contract with the Checkers, and Shugg is in his first year of an Entry Level deal with the Hurricanes.  After his stellar performance in the preseason games this weekend, I’d hoped Shugg would make the cut.
  • Brett Sutter will wear the C for the Checkers this year. (Photo - J. Propst)

    Brett Sutter will be wearing the C this year.  Newcomer (to the Checkers) Chris Durno and Nicolas Blanchard will each serve as Alternates.  Watching Sutter in camp this year makes me VERY confident in Coach Daniel’s decision.  I firmly believe Sutter is going to be the guy to watch on the team this year.  He might not score as many goals as Zach Boychuk or Chris Terry, but there is a whole lot more to being a superstar than goals!

  • Drayson Bowman has already been called up and sent back to Charlotte once, and Riley Nash was assigned to the Checkers yesterday by the Hurricanes.  Both Nash and Bowman will be travelling with the Checkers to Norfolk this weekend.
  • Justin Faulk remains in Raleigh with the Hurricanes.  He is currently defenseman number nine on their roster.  (Not in playing time/ranking, simply in the numbers game).  Considering the Hurricanes typically dress only six defensemen each game, they are clearly overstaffed at that position.  Ryan Murphy could be sent to his OHL team after no more than nine games, leaving them at eight, but that is still a high number.  The Hurricanes can do a number of things to alleviate the number crunch at this position.  They can bury one of their contracts in Charlotte (assuming the player clears waivers and remains unclaimed), but they would be paying a full contract price on an expensive blueliner.  (Four of the current Hurricanes D are making over 2.5 million this season, and two are making over 4 million).  The Hurricanes have always said they will not keep players in Raleigh who aren’t getting playing time, and with this in mind, I am not convinced they will carry eight or nine defenseman.
  • The Hockey News printed their yearly preview of the AHL rankings.  They listed the Checkers as number one in the West.  While I don’t disagree completely with this assessment, their rationale was Justin Faulk, and the forwards of Jerome Samson, Zach Boychuk and Jon Matsumoto.  Fellow Midwest division Peoria and Chicago were ranked 2-3, respectively, while Rockford and Milwaukee fall to 11 and 15.  Milwaukee has a roster full of NHL caliber players, and finished in the West last year with the most points, so it’s a bit absurd to think they are going to fall from first to last.  My friends at The Admirals Roundtable have a much better rant about it all.
  • The Checkers are on a bus to Norfolk as I type this.  My work schedule changed last minute, and I’m pondering a VERY last minute roadtrip to the Virginia coast.  Anyone else headed to see the team play opening weekend?  Games are on Friday and Saturday night at varying times between 7 and 7:30 p.m.

The one about future Checker Justin Shugg

Two posts in an hour!  According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Carolina Hurricanes have signed Justin Shugg to a three-year entry level contract.

In 2010, Shugg draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, coming in the fourth round as the 105th pick.  He’s only 19, but with four full seasons of CHL experience under his belt, he is eligible to compete in the AHL.

Shugg just finished his full season in the Ontario Hockey League, and made his third-straight Memorial Cup appearance.  (He won two Memorial Cups with the Windsor Spitfires in 2009 and 2010).  He spent his final year in the OHL with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, who hosted the 2011 Memorial Cup, and lost to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the championship.

A left wing, Shugg comes to Carolina at  5’11 and 195 pounds.  In 66 games with the Majors this year, he had 87 points (41G, 46A).  He’s very offensively minded, and does a good job reading offensive plays and contributing in that way.  Scouting reports say he needs to continue to work on defensive techniques such as shot blocking and using his body in a more physical way, but he is known for being a hard worker who puts a lot of time and effort into improving his game.