Checkers: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

If you were to ask me what the worst game of the season was so far it would be an easy answer. When the Milwaukee Admirals lost 5-1 to the Charlotte Checkers at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena a week ago I’d say that was the new rock bottom. The Checkers looked awful, shaky, sloppy, and they were still outplaying the Admirals on sheer effort.

These last two efforts for the Admirals have been good. They just haven’t had any offensive production to reward some pretty good defensive performances. The offense right now is a big issue for the Admirals. They have recorded only two goals from their last 249:43 of ice time and are on a power-play drought of nineteen straight without scoring. Things need to change.

This losing streak of four defeats in regulation was the first of its kind since the 2011-12 season. On that occasion the group lost five straight games in regulation (1/22/12–2/3/12). If the Admirals are to avoid matching that they’re going to need that offense to snap out of it.

As for the Checkers, they are entering this two-game set on a three game winning streak and are no longer at the bottom of the Central Division or Western Conference standings as was the case a week ago. They hold a record of 16-20-2-0 (34 points, 0.447 points percentage). Only the Rockford IceHogs (0.410 points percentage) are worse off now.

The Checkers and Admirals are at the bottom of the league when it comes to playing games at home as of this date. The Admirals are starting a four-game road trip. Meanwhile the Checkers are two games into an eight game homestand. Once all games are completed this Saturday night – no team in the AHL will have played fewer home games than the Admirals.

Good news? C.J. Motte, the goaltender who stopped 30/31 shots against the Admirals last week, isn’t with the team. Bad news? Michael Leighton, the AHL’s all-time shutout king, is.

Leighton’s 2016-17 season has been a bit of a scramble. That said, he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes in the hopes of more NHL time and he has logged three games this season up top. The bulk of his work has been in the AHL: 8-5-2-0 record from 16 appearances with a 2.17 goals against average, 0.923 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. In mid-November he lost to the Admirals in overtime stopping 26/29 shots.

During the Checkers current three-game winning streak they have seen great contributions by their top two scorers this season, Andrew Poturalski and Lucas Wallmark. They have combined for 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) during the streak.

Poturalski has 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists) and Wallmark has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists). Meanwhile, they man with the best points per game average on the team is Phil Di Giuseppe who has tallied 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 22 games for the Checkers this season.

Something else to keep an eye on tonight and tomorrow is the Checkers composure. This team on this three-game run hasn’t allowed for multiple opportunities on the power-play. These three games that they have won have seen one power-play chance afforded to their opponent in the entire course of a game. The Admirals will want to use their speed and create hustle plays to see if they can cause some havoc and change that trend.

Expectations for tonight’s game? Is this the right opponent for the Milwaukee Admirals to get that offense reignited? Considering how few home games that the Admirals have played do you consider this road heavy start to their season to be a negative or a positive?

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