The Charlotte Checkers played a solid week of hockey starting on Friday (Jan. 27) with a 4-1 victory against the Manitoba Moose. They would unfortunately come up short the very next day on Saturday (Jan. 28) by score of 2-1.
Three stars of the week
Lucas Wallmark had one of the best weeks out of any Checker. He tallied the team’s third and fourth goals during their game Friday night. He was able to do so by going to the front of the net and looking for a centering pass from teammates as they were battled in the corners or behind the net for the puck. Wallmark has been racking up the points as of late and is now leading the team in goals by five and is second in points, behind Andrew Poturalski. If he continues this level of play, it could be only a matter of time before he overtakes Poturalski as the team’s point leader. Eddie Lack proved he was fully back from injury and NHL ready with his performances in both of the Checkers’ games. This article from Sunday has mini-recaps of both of Lack’s 2 weekend starts with the Checkers. He made 59 saves out of a total 62 shots for a .951 save percentage and a 1.50 GAA. Most importantly, Lack looked extremely comfortable back in net at the professional level, and he did not display any signs of rust in his game while down with the Checkers. He looked calm when going out to handle the puck behind the net even when there was pressure coming at him, and he did not make any unforced turnovers. His rebound control was also exceptional, as he did everything in his power to give the Checkers a chance to win both games. Andrej Nestrasil has quietly been very productive during his time down in Charlotte. The 75th overall pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, had a goal and two assists during the past week of play. He now has six points in eight games and has provided the team with valuable minutes on the top two lines. Although not delivering as many standout moments as some of his teammates, he has been playing smarter than almost any player on the Checkers’ right now. He consistently places himself in excellent positions on the offensive end of the ice to receive a passes for a big solid scoring chances around the net.
Jake Chelios delivered with one of his most solid weeks of the season. The son of former NHL player and now Hall of Famer, Chris Chelios, tallied two assists during Friday night’s game and he finished the game as +2 in the +/- category. It has been a season of ups and downs for the veteran AHL’er, but he has been picking up his play as of late and is doing a better job of choosing when to jump into the offensive rush. Earlier in the year he had a tendency to jump up in an offensive rush and then fail to get back on defense in time when the opposing team regained control of the puck. It is encouraging to see Chelios stay more disciplined on defense and take fewer risks when he is on the ice. Valentin Zykov looked to have found an extra step in his game that he was missing the past few weeks. The big Russian only contributed one assist during the team’s game on Friday night, but he looked noticeably quicker and played with more energy than previously exhibited. Zykov looks primed for a hot streak soon, as he has not really had one since the beginning of the year when he was playing with Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn.
Mitchell Heard is still in search for his first goal of the season. He was signed over the offseason after playing last year in the Calgary Flames’ organization, and he has given the Checkers some decent fourth line minutes. He will get a quality scoring chance here and there, but nothing about his play has made him standout amongst any player that has suited up in a Checkers’ uniform this season. Hopefully for Heard, his first goal will be sometime in the near future.
Injuries and roster notes
Sergey Tolchinsky and Brendan Woods missed both games due to injury. Erik Karlsson, Kyle Hagel, Kevin Raine, and Alex Nedeljkovic were all healthy scratches. The Hurricanes called up goalie Eddie Lack on Sunday (Jan. 29)
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Lucas Wallmark-Valentin Zykov
- Second line: Andrej Nestrasil-Andrew Poturalski-Patrick Dwyer
- Third line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Andrew Miller
- Fourth line: Kris Newbury-Mitchell Heard-Levko Koper
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Haydn Fleury-Jake Chelios
- Second pairing: Trevor Carrick-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Dennis Robertson-Keegan Lowe