The Charlotte Checkers are in a dogfight with the Cleveland Monsters, for the final playoff spot in the AHL’s Central Division. They would best the Monsters 4-1 on Thursday (Mar. 30) and the Grand Rapids Griffins by a score of 3-1 on Friday (Mar. 31). The Checkers would then go on to lose to the Chicago Wolves 5-3 on Sunday (Apr. 2), but they would rebound beating the San Antonio Rampage 3-1 on Tuesday (Apr. 4) and 5-2 on Wednesday (Apr. 5).


Charlotte Checkers three stars of the week

While he only suited up for two of the five games the Checkers played in, Phil Di Giuseppe’s presence on the ice was clear to see. After being sent back down to Charlotte by the Hurricanes, he recorded three assists all in the Checkers 5-2 victory on Wednesday night. Most of the time Di Giuseppe is one the ice, he looks like he’s on a whole other skill level compared to most of the others players on the rink. He was speedy, with quick acceleration and he also displayed a terrific snapshot that created multiple rebound opportunities. Watching Di Giuseppe play for the Checkers, it is clear as day that he is an NHL caliber player. It has been unsettling for Hurricanes fans that he hasn’t been able to put together a consistent offensive game at the NHL level yet. But if he continues to improve at the rate that he is now, then I just don’t see any reason why he won’t eventually pan out someday for the Canes. Aleksi Saarela has not been disappointing anyone with his early Checkers play. The 20-year-old Finnish product, tallied four goals and added two assists in a spectacular performance. He illustrated a wickedly accurate shot that allowed him to pick the top corners of the net for goals on multiple occasions. Saarela also has terrific acceleration that allowed him to blow past opposing defenders standing in between him and the net. Hurricanes fans need to start getting excited about this guy, because he looks more and more like the real deal each game that he plays. Who in the world is going to slow down Andrew Miller? The former Bakersfield Condor put up a whopping three goals and five assists in the team’s past week of play. Simply put, Miller is the engine that is keeping the Checkers offense running right now. He was on a five-game point streak before the Rampage held him scoreless during the team’s game Wednesday night. An interesting stat about Miller’s five assists, is that each one of them was a primary assist. That shows serious play making ability and a great knack of finding your teammates in open areas of the ice. He should only get more dangerous for opposing teams as he gains more chemistry with his new line mate; Aleksi Saarela.


Who’s hot?

He may have only tallied points in one game, but boy did Patrick Dwyer make that one game count. The former Carolina Hurricane scored a hat-trick in the Checkers win on Wednesday night. He did a tremendous job of moving without the puck and getting to the open areas of the ice for his teammates to find him for high quality scoring chances. Dwyer also had a couple of one on one opportunities, where he was able to maneuver around defenders for great scoring chances at the net. Another player Hurricanes fans should be getting excited about is Haydn Fleury. The big defenseman tallied a goal and two assists while giving solid minutes to the Checkers on the blue line. I think it is fair to say at this point in the season that Fleury is definitely the best Charlotte defensemen. His play has consistently improved as the season has progressed, and he just looks comfortable out on the rink now which is not something you could 100 percent say earlier in the season.


Who’s not

Sergey Tolchinsky has not had the season that everyone had hoped for early in the year. The small, undrafted free agent from Russia has only recorded 7 goals and 15 assists in 57 games of play. He has been plagued by some injuries this season, and he’s looked like he hasn’t been able to get into a flow or rhythm so he can impact the game the way he wants to. Tolchinsky has loads of offensive skill and that is easy to see when you watch him. He suffers from trying to do too much with the puck at times on offense and he will end up over stick handling himself into a turnover when he’s not careful. As of right now I can’t see any spot for Tolchinsky on the Hurricanes roster.


Charlotte Checkers roster notes and injuries

Danny Kristo, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Hagel, and Michael Leighton all missed games due to injury. Hudson Elynuik, Kris Newbury, Levko Koper, Sergey Tolchinsky, Clark Bishop, Brendan Woods, Tyler Ganly, and Jake Bean were all healthy scratches at least one game. The Carolina Hurricanes called up Andrew Poturalski and Bryan Bickell on Monday (Apr. 3). The Hurricanes sent down Phil Di Giuseppe and Lucas Wallmark on Monday (Apr. 3).


Forward lines as of now

  • First line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Lucas Wallmark-Patrick Dwyer
  • Second line: Valentin Zykov-Aleksi Saarela-Andrew Miller
  • Third line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Andrej Nestrasil
  • Fourth line: Brendan Woods-Clark Bishop-Sergey Tolchinsky


Defensive pairings as of now

  • First pairing: Trevor Carrick-Jake Chelios
  • Second pairing: Dennis Robertson-Roland McKeown
  • Third pairing: Hadyn Fleury-Philip Samuelsson



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