THE MATCHUPThe defending champs are coming to town, as the Checkers welcome the Hershey Bears to the Coliseum for the first time this season. The last time these two squads faced off was the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, where the Bears eliminated the Checkers in round two en route to their title. Hershey has come out of the gates this campaign with the best record in the AHL, while the Checkers are battling through ups and downs thus far, but currently sit a single point out of third place in the Atlantic.
Searching For ScoringCharlotte’s offense has had a tough time producing over the most recent stretch of games, scoring two or fewer goals in four of the last five contests - a drought that has dropped the team into the bottom half of the league scoring rankings. The Checkers will have their work cut out for them with a Hershey team that is surrendering the few goals per game in the league and is coming off a stretch earlier in November in which they allowed no more than one goal in four straight games.
On a positive note, the Checkers bucked their trend in a big way in their first meeting with the Penguins last week when they racked up six goals en route to a big win. Hershey, on the other hand, gave up five goals on Wednesday night in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Kinnunen Lights The LampAfter starting the year on a tear of helpers, Santtu Kinnunen has found his scoring touch as of late. The blue liner has found the back of the net in back-to-back games heading into this weekend, and he now ranks second on the team with 12 points through 17 contests.
Killing itDespite surrendering a power-play goal in two of their last three games, the Checkers still stand atop the AHL when it comes to penalty-kill percentage. Going back across the last five contests, the Checkers have successfully killed 24 of the last 26 times that they’ve been shorthanded.
Waeber Called UponAfter playing just twice over the first 11 games of the season, Ludovic Waeber has been called into action in five of Charlotte’s last six games. The Swiss netminder has allowed nine goals over that five-game stretch, surrendering two or fewer tallies in four of those tilts.
THE ONES TO WATCH
- Rasmus Asplund - 3 points in last 2 games
- Mackie Samoskevich - 3 points in last 4 games
- Justin Sourdif - 3 points in last 2 games
- Alex Limoges - 3 points in last 3 games
- Joe Snively - 4 points in last 3 games
- Chase Priskie - 4 points in last 3 games
THE QUOTESHead coach Geordie Kinnear on the focus of this week of practice
We’ve talked about what’s important at the time for the group to get better - if it was recovery we did that, if it was to work on the power play we worked on the power play.
Kinnear on his team creating chances offensively
Not consistently enough. I feel like there’s probably plays to be made that we’re not making - whether it’s chemistry or whatever it is. We need next-level execution and that’s part of what we worked on this week. There’s a lot of good, it’s just about taking another step.
Kinnear on finding chemistry in the lineup
I’m trying to put guys in a position to know where everybody is and where they’re supposed to be. At some point it’s on the line as individuals to develop chemistry. If it doesn’t work then it’s my job to mix it up and try to find that.
Kinnear on Ludovic Waeber
I thought he had a really good road trip. I asked him to go above and beyond with how I set up the schedule. Every player wants those opportunities and it’s a major building block for him. He watched a lot of hockey and then all of a sudden it was reversed. But he’s a great guy who loves to come to the rink and get better. No one’s more grateful when I see him come to the rink than that guy.
Casey Fitzgerald on the key to getting the offense going
Execution. We’re getting a lot of chances and a lot of shots, we just have to bear down. That’s something that I think will come if we keep playing the right way. We’re going to get the bounces we want and we’re going to get rewarded. Just bear down.
Fitzgerald on facing a red-hot Hershey team
I’d say just don’t get in a track meet with them. They’re a fast, skilled team. We’ve got skill ourselves but obviously they’re a pretty good hockey team. We’ve got to figure out what the X factor is for us to stop them. I think just playing that hard, 200-foot game - we’ve got a lot of 200-foot players who can play on both sides of the puck and that’s going to play to our advantage. Just play them through the body and let our skill do the rest.
Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. - Checkers vs. Hershey
- Share the Warmth presented by Piedmont Natural Gas - holiday stocking cap giveaway to the first 1,500 fans courtesy of Piedmont Natural Gas
Saturday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. - Checkers vs. Hershey
- Superhero Night presented by Discovery Place - ticket package including chain necklace starting at $30 total. Click here to purchase