Shut Down Line (www.shutdownline.com)
The Checkers roster has gone through a ton of changes this year, but they’ve had a lot of guys who have consistently produced and one of those players is Chris Terry. He currently leads the team in goals with 25 and has 60 points in 70 games. You could make the case that Terry has been Charlotte’s best player this year, as he has managed to produce even after Charlotte’s roster changes and having to adjust to different centers. Of course, it helps that Charlotte is a very strong team down the middle and their center depth has helped them survive this wave of injuries. Both Brett Sutter and Jeremy Welsh have been strong pivots for Charlotte and their depth will get even better once Riley Nash returns. The mid-season acquisition of Luke Pither also helped them, as he has been almost a point-per-game player since being traded for.
One area where the Checkers are at a disadvantage is goaltending because both of their starting goalies were lost to the NHL and they can’t get Justin Peters back without him passing through waivers. This means their goaltending tandem will consist of John Muse, Rob Madore and Mike Murphy. Muse helped the Everblades win the Kelly Cup last year, but he has a sub-.900 save percentage in 16 AHL games played this season so that is a concern. Madore, on the other hand, has been fantastic in nine games played with the Checkers this year but one has to wonder how long he will be able to hold up since this is his first year in the AHL. If he doesn’t pan out then they can always turn to Murphy, who has playoff experience but is rusty from not having played many games in awhile.
Go Checkers (www.gocheckers.com)
Murphy, the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-round draft choice (12th overall) in 2011, has only been with Charlotte for a little over a week after his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers, lost in the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. Thanks to a solid AHL debut last week (two assists in three games) and some injuries on defense, it looks as though he may again fill a key role as the Checkers begin their quest for the Calder Cup against Oklahoma City this weekend.
Cardiac Cane (www.cardiaccane.com)
The Checkers will be adding to their offense. Riley Nash and Tim Wallace were sent down on Wedneday and Nicholas Blanchard is expecting to rejoin the team once the NHL regualar season is over. Nash has 37 points in 51 games in the AHL this season.
On offense, Charlotte is led by Chris Terry, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe, who have all scored over 20 goals this season. Brett Sutter has scored 19 while adding 29 assists.
The Checkers feature a nice mix of skill and grit on offense, which will be crucial in a five or seven game playoff series.
The Checkers added arguably the Hurricanes’ best prospect in Ryan Murphy about two weeks ago to the defense after his team was knocked out of junior playoffs. Murphy only played in three games but recorded two assists and adds an offensive element to the defense.
The defense also has Marc-Andre Gragnani that can contribute in the offensive category. Brett Bellemore, who played a few games in the NHL this season is relied on for defensive play and will have to focus on Rajala for the Checkers to beat the Barons.
Charlotte Observer (www.charlotteobserver.com)
The Carolina Hurricanes have reassigned center Riley Nash and forward Tim Wallace to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate, which opens its Western Conference Quarterfinals series Friday at Oklahoma City.
Nash, 23, has posted NHL career highs this season with four goals, five assists (9 points) and 32 games played. With Charlotte, he set AHL career highs in assists (24) and points (37), and ranked fourth in assists and fifth in scoring among team skaters, despite playing 51 of the team’s 76 regular-season games.
Wallace, 28, scored one goal and earned one assist (2 points) in 26 NHL regular-season games with Carolina this season. The Anchorage, AK, native also scored nine goals and earned 13 assists (22 points) in 47 AHL games this season with Charlotte.