During the season, Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya checks in each week with his 10 Thoughts - a series of observations about the team and the hockey world in general.
1. Janne Koukkanen is recovering from a lower-body injury that sidelined him from the AHL All-Star Game. He's been dealing with the issue for a few weeks but practiced today and might return to action tomorrow against Cleveland. Koukkanen, selected to represent Charlotte at the All-Star Game because of his stellar year, will be a needed addition to the team once he recovers and gets going full speed.
2. When you're 30 years old and had several months between competitive hockey games, it takes a little while to get back to game shape. Bobby Sanguinetti, the three-time AHL All Star and US Olympian, is getting better with every shift. The third period against Providence on Friday night was a window into the remarkable skill he possesses. With Fleury going up, Bobby continues to give the team another threat on the blue line.
3. I don't remember a better weekend of goaltending than we witnessed on Friday and Saturday. Alex Nedelkjovic, who is playing the best hockey of his career, was spectacular on Friday in an overtime loss. The following night, Scott Darling displayed the kind of poise and efficiency that made him a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. The only thing the Checkers goalies didn't do to help was score a goal.
4. One of the issues the Checkers have had as of late is the underperformance of several forwards who helped carry this team earlier this season. The team will not be able to rely solely on its first line to score every night. They must get contributions from everyone. The only way you can ascend to the top of the standings is by having all 20 players working together. Right now, the team record only indicates what they accomplished in the past.
5. Tom Brady is the greatest athlete in the history of professional football. Nick Lidstrom is the greatest of all time in any sport ever. That is all.
6. The Checkers are ahead of the Monsters in the AHL standins by 21 points. Having said that, there is never an easy night against anyone. Every team that steps on the ice against Charlotte wants to measure themselves against the league's best. I doubt Tuesday or Wednesday will be any different at the Coliseum. The one break Charlotte gets is that former Checkers forward Zac Dalpe is out injured. Dalpe, who was drafted by Carolina and played over 170 games for the Checkers over three seasons still remains a legend here.
7. Hurricanes' captain Justin Williams was not happy his team lost to the Flames yesterday afternoon. The entire squad came out flying and if it wasn't for the goaltending of David Rittich, the outcome would've been different. Against the top team in the Western Conference, Carolina stood toe-to-toe. Former Checkers captain and overall great guy Derek Ryan ended up being the difference maker when the smoke cleared. Even though they get paid to play and they're expected to bring their best to the ice every night, emotion plays a major factor and can propel players to do great things. The mental is to the physical what three is to one.
8. Flyers goalie Carter Hart is turning heads with his performance since being called up. He has a .928 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average in 15 games played with a record of 9-5-1. I think he will be a good goalie but I also think an adjustment period will come sooner rather than later.
9. Andrew Poturalski and Aleksi Saarela are going to put up career numbers this year. Right now, they are the best offensive threats on the team. As long as those two are going the way they have all year, this team will be competitive every single night.
10. It looks like Martin Necas is getting more comfortable playing center. With the loss of Greg McKegg to Carolina, Necas has no choice but to lead the way as the team's first-line center. He's getting there with the help of coach Mike Vellucci.
Broadcasts for both games this week begin at 6:45 p.m. on AHLTV and ESPN 730 with puck drop at 7 p.m.