Thursday, January 2, 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
20-9-2-3, 45 pts
#4 Western Conference
atCharlotte Checkers
14-17-0-1, 29 pts
#11 Western Conference
January 2nd at 6:00 PM
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

UPDATE: Colton Sceviour has been recalled to Dallas with the flu bug still affected the Dallas Stars.

The only game on the AHL schedule for today has the Stars heading to the Tar Heel state for a matchup with the Charlotte Checkers. Despite being in the same division, Texas and Charlotte have yet to play a single game against each other this season. Their last matchup was in April 2013. In another scheduling oddity, the Stars will be back in Charlotte on January 17th and 18th to complete their season schedule in North Carolina before the Checkers visit the Cedar Park Center even once.

The Checkers are not the same team as last season for sure. They opened the year going 7-12-0-1 in October and November. Their December campaign found them on the winning side in the month (7-5) but still overall three games below .500 on the season so far. One possible reason for their struggles has been goaltending. Eight goaltenders have played for Charlotte this seaason, including some familiar names. Former Texas Star Allen York, former New York Islander Rick DiPietro, former Houston Aero Anton Khudobin and the ever-tricky Rob Madore have all put on the red and black in the 2013-14 campaign. Among all eight, only John Muse (11-7) and Justin Peters (1-0) have winning records. Former #1 pick DiPietro went 0-4. Muse and Mike Murphy are the expected goalies on the roster for tonight.

The Checkers are allowing goals, a lot of them. At 3.13 goals against per game, they are fifth worst in the league in that respect. They only score 2.69 goals for on average, so those numbers don't work out too favorably. Texas itself is only midpack on goals against (2.76) but makes up for that with absurd goal scoring (3.53, 2nd in league).

To make matters worse, the Checkers just lost their top scorer, Zach Boychuk, to NHL recall. Boychuk has 14-13-27 in 29 games. Aaron Palushaj is tied with him now at 9-18-27 through 32 games. One player to watch for the Checkers would be Elias Lindholm. Just sent down by the Hurricanes, Lindholm was the NHL squad's first round pick in the 2013 draft, fifth overall. The Swedish forward has already played in 21 NHL games and is returning to Charlotte after a short stint in the AHL in November. Rookies are an enigma mostly in the league, but there is always good reason for a player to be drafted in the top five. Keep an eye on him to see what scouts thought was so special and what the Canes hope to build around for years to come.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour, Gaunce (callup)
Nemeth, Glennie, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Website: gocheckers.com
Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Blog (unofficial): Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @mikelappan (PR)
Twitter: @PaulBranecky

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