Eight games, and a maximum of 16 points are on the line in the next two weeks.
The Checkers play the next four games at home, then play four more during the final week of the regular season (three of which I will be at, live and in person!).
The race to the post season in the west is a tight one. Only three points separate positions four through nine in the conference.
Here’s a brief look at Charlotte’s remaining opponents:
Milwaukee Admirals – The Checkers face them three times in the next two weeks. Twice at home, and once on April 15, the final game of the regular season for both teams. While Milwaukee isn’t currently in the playoffs, if they were to take all six points from Charlotte, the post season wouldn’t be out of the picture. The Admirals have a record of 34-28-2-4 on the season, and have 74 points in 68 games played. They are 1-3-1 against Charlotte, the only victory coming last November in Milwaukee.
Abbotsford Heat – The Checkers have back-to-back matinee games against the Heat next weekend at home. Abbotsford is fourth in the conference with 80 points. They are in what is probably the toughest division in the entire league, and are one of four teams from the West currently sitting in a playoff position. The Checkers are 1-1 against the Heat after they split a pair of games in January in Abbotsford.
Rockford IceHogs – Currently in 11th, the IceHogs are just on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but if they took four points from Charlotte, that could potentially be enough to get them into the post season. The Checkers are 4-1-0-1 against the IceHogs, and both games in Rockford resulted in wins for Charlotte. With two more games there in a five-day stretch, those two games will be crucial to the Checkers playoff hopes, and quest for not only a spot in the post season, but home ice advantage that will probably require them to sit atop the Midwest division.
Peoria Rivermen – The Checkers have a record of 5-2 against Peoria this season, and face them one more time during the final weekend of the season. The Rivermen are currently in eighth place in the west with 78 points in 71 games played. Mike Murphy is 3-0 against the Rivs this season, so I for one hope he gets the start in two weeks against them in Peoria.
Other teams to watch out for:
Chicago Wolves – I’ll be doing a lot of scoreboard watching regarding the Wolves. They currently sit atop the Midwest division, and are three points ahead of Charlotte with 82. The scheduling gods were smiling on Charlotte when they made up the Wolves final weeks of the season. From April 4-13, Chicago has a five-game roadtrip that has them play Oklahoma City, all three Texas teams, and finally a game in Grand Rapids, Michigan before returning home for their last two games of the season. Needless to say, I’ll be cheering for their opponents over the roadtrip stretch. With the Vancouver Canucks playoff future bright, there’s also the chance of losing valuable prospects to the NHL club, something the Wolves never had to worry about during their tenure with the Atlanta Thrashers.
San Antonio Rampage – Currently in a three-way tie with Charlotte for fourth place, the Rampage have 79 points in 70 games played. Five of their final six games are at home, a factor that may prove to be incredibly beneficial.
Houston Aeros – The other third of the Checkers three-way tie, the Aeros have 79 points in 70 games played. They are 32-23-5-10. Yes. They have lost 15 games after 60 minutes of play, including 10 lost shootouts. That’s an incredibly crazy stat if you ask me, and is the highest number of loser-points given to a team in the entire league.