The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, but their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers clinched fourth place in the Western Conference of the AHL and will play Edmonton Oilers’ affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons.
- Game 1 at Oklahoma City: Friday, April 26 at 8 p.m.
- Game 2 at Oklahoma City: Saturday, April 27 at 8 p.m.
- Game 3 at Charlotte: Wednesday, May 1 at 7 p.m.
- Game 4 at Charlotte: Friday, May 3 at 7 p.m. (if necessary)
- Game 5 at Charlotte: Saturday, May 4 at 7 p.m. (if necessary)
- Nov. 24 Barons 4 at Checkers 2
- Nov. 25 Barons 7 at Checkers 2
- Jan. 11 Checkers 7 at Barons 0
- Jan. 12 Checkers 4 at Barons 3
- Jan. 31 Checkers 2 at Barons 1
- Feb. 1 Barons 7 vs. Checkers 3
- March 3 Checkers 3 vs. Barons 1
- March 4 Barons 4 at Charlotte 2
Fortunately for the Checkers, it looks like the Barons will not be adding Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to their playoff roster. The three of them played in the AHL earlier this season helping the Barons to a fast start. Nugent-Hopkins is injured, while it appears Hall and Eberle will be playing at the World Championships.
Nail Yakupov is also expected to play at the Worlds. He did not play for the Barons earlier this season, opting to play in his native Russia during the lockout.
However, 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.
The Checkers feature a nice mix of skill and grit on offense, which will be crucial in a five or seven game playoff series.
Losing Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins on offense looked like it could have spelled doom for the Barons, but Toni Rajala made up for the loss of the three stars. The Finnish forward was playing in the ECHL, while the three were playing for the Barons, but when he returned he took control of the Barons scoring at almost a point-per-game pace and ending with 45 points in 46 games.
Besides Rajala, the Barons feature Mark Arcobello, who led the team with 68 points and Jonathan Cheechoo, the infamous player that once scored 56 goals for the San Jose Sharks, but has since bounced around the AHL. However, Cheechoo does have 32 points in 35 games this season.
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.
The Barons have less skill on their defense than on offense. The defense features Alex Plante and Colten Teubert, who are known more for their defensive play rather than offensive. The team does have former NHL-defenseman Randy Jones, who can supply some offense from the back end.
Goaltending used to be the Checkers forte with Justin Peters winning 22 games this season, but he was called up because of Cam Ward‘s injury and cannot rejoin the Checkers. The team first went to John Muse, an undrafted free agent, to replace Peters, but he could not get the job done. The Checkers turned to Rob Madore, another undrafted free agent, who has done a better job in net.
Checkers’ coach Jeff Daniels has not announced who will be the starter, but Madore sports a better record, save percentage and goals-against-average.
The Barons are distinct opposites to the Checkers in goaltending. The team has former-Montreal Canadien Yann Danis in net, who won the AHL’s goaltender of the year last season and will be the sure-fire starter when the series starts.