The Checkers have only three games left in the regular season, tonight against Norfolk and Friday and Saturday against Worcester. All three may have a playoff-like fight coming from the opponent. Norfolk is in the race with Charlotte for the highest seed possible in the Atlantic division, and Worcester is just fighting for a playoff bid, no matter what seed, as they are in a three-way race for the final two spots in the East division between.
Charlotte’s record vs. Norfolk: 7-2-0-2
Last meeting vs. Norfolk: 3/27 – Charlotte 8, Norfolk 2
PIM leaders in CLT vs Norfolk games (aka who I predict may drop the gloves at some point tonight):
Zack Fitzgerald – 44 PIMs
Brett Sutter – 32 PIMs
Brad Herauf – 23 PIMs
Nicolas Blanchard – 23 PIMs
Alex Barry – 43 PIMs
Radko Gudas – 33 PIMs
Pierre-Cedric Labrie – 29 PIMs
What to expect: A VERY physical game. This is the Checkers final of 12 meetings with Norfolk, so there is a lot of history (and bad blood) on the ice. Last weekend, Pogge almost fought the other goaltender at one point, and there were a lot of scrums.
The injury front: Goaltender Mike Murphy is still out, but hopefully he is close to returning. I want to see him get ice time before the playoffs, because if/when we meet the Penguins, I firmly believe he is the right choice in goal against them, and he has been strong and stable against Hershey as well.
Mike McKenzie and Oscar Osala are still out as well. Fingers are crossed they get better soon. There were some near-misses with defensemen on this road trip, seeing Bobby Sanguinetti and Casey Borer go down at different times. Both returned to the ice, but with the playoffs on the horizon, all injuries worry me more than usual!
Players to watch: Cedric McNicoll has been on fire since his recall, scoring seven points in his last six games. He’s not on the Checkers clear day list, but with the injuries and recalls to the Hurricanes we have, my assumption would be he would be eligible to play in the Calder Cup Playoffs due to “emergency” circumstances.
Zac Dalpe has 15 points in 10 games vs. Norfolk (7G, 8A). In the last game vs. Norfolk, Zach Boychuck had a three-point night (1G, 2A).
As far as players who are watching, I’d guess that will be Jared Staal, from the press box per usual. My beef isn’t that he isn’t playing in Charlotte, it’s that he’s not playing AT ALL. Isn’t it better for development to be competing (even if it’s in Florida and not here) than just playing with his phone in the press box? Just an observation anyway… maybe there is more to his story we aren’t privy to!