Checking in around the division – the playoff outlook

February is always a crazy month in hockey, with the trade deadine coming, and teams making that push for the playoffs at all levels of professional hockey.

As I look at the Checkers schedule for the rest of the month, one thing is clear, and that’s the emphasis on the Midwest Division.  Five of the teams next six games are against Midwest Division foes, including the team’s first-ever visit to Peoria, Il.

What’s especially interesting is to look at the bigger picture, beyond the AHL schedule and standings and the upcoming Calder Cup playoffs, and see how the NHL is going to play into it.

The other four teams in the Checkers division all have NHL affiliates that are firmly rooted in the playoff race.  Vancouver (Chicago) is in second in the West, with St. Louis (Peoria), Nashville (Milwaukee) and Chicago (Rockford) in fourth, fifth and sixth.  The Hurricanes are the only team with an AHL squad in the Midwest who will not be making it to the post season (as much as I’d love to see them rally and make it to the eighth seed, realistically speaking, overcoming an 11-point deficit seems like a bit of a challenge.)

So, what does this mean for the Checkers?  There’s a good chance that the Hurricanes will be sellers at the deadline, get rid of pending UFA’s, and make room for the youth that is thriving in Charlotte.  Of course, come the end of the regular season, guys who may finish the year in Raleigh could still be assigned to Charlotte for what will hopefully be a long playoff run.  Clear Day Rosters aren’t due for another month and a half, so anything is possible between now and then.

As for the AHL playoff outlook, all signs point to YES for the Checkers, with Chicago and Peoria also in the top eight, and Milwaukee just barely on the outside looking in.

As for the other teams in the Checkers division, who knows.  Their parent clubs are pretty cemented in the standings, so the teams may not have to “buy” too many UFAs to make it into the playoffs, but they might be looking for veteran depth.  Of course, come playoff time (Stanley Cup and Calder Cup), an organizations Stanley Cup team is always the priority, and leaving an AHL team short handed is not uncommon.

In other Checkers and AHL News:

  • The AHL announced that the 2013 AHL Classic would be held in Providence, RI.  The last time Providence hosted the All-Star event was in 1995, when the Providence Bruins were in their third season of operation.  It’s interesting to note that the last time a Western Conference team hosted the event, it was 2007. Look at the list of sites, and it’s VERY Eastern heavy.
  • Congratulations to Coach Jeff Daniel’s father, Wayne Daniels, on being named an inductee to the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame.  Wayne spent 30 years as an athletic trainer working with the Oshawa Generals.
  • Sounds like the Checkers will be without Mike Murphy again this weekend, as the team embarks on a three-in-three, including two games in Illinois and Wisconsin.  The team has signed a third PTO goalie to fill in.  Fortunately, the team is in good hands with John Muse, who has racked up a 7-1-0 record this season (1.67 GAA, 0.948 SV%).
  • Chris Durno, Justin Shugg and Chris Murray will also be sidelined for another weekend.  Durno has begun practicing with the team in a limited, no-contact capacity.
  • Drayson Bowman remains with the Hurricanes, after being recalled last month.
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