The Checkers’ goaltending situation took another blow today, with the Checkers confirming that Michael Leighton won’t be returning to the ice anytime soon.

“He is going to have surgery,” said head coach Ulf Samuelsson. “He’s probably out for a ballpark of four-to-six weeks.”

The veteran netminder has been sidelined for the last month after exiting Charlotte’s game on Feb. 17 in Milwaukee with an injury. Despite missing the last 10 games, Leighton is still tied for fourth in the AHL with a 2.17 goals-against average and is responsible for the majority of the Checkers’ wins this season.

Samuelsson’s four-to-six week estimate puts Leighton’s return right at the end of the regular season in a best-case scenario. In the meantime, Charlotte is going forward with the newly-formed tandem of Tom McCollum and Daniel Altshuller.

Acquired from Stockton at the AHL trade deadline, McCollum shined in his Checkers debut.

“What a start he had,” said Samuelsson of McCollum. “That was a terrific chance for him to get a fresh start in a new organization and he took full advantage. He played and gave us a very good chance to win.”

Asked whether he is still looking for one of his netminders to grab the starting job as opposed to a rotation, Samuelsson left it up in the air.

“I think this late in the season, with this few games left, we need to get hot and get all the points we can,” said Samuelsson. “But Altshuller played a very good game in his last outing. We have two very good options right now.”

In a separate roster move, the Checkers have recalled Mitchell Heard from Florida. In his first ECHL stint of the year, the fourth-year forward piled up six points (3g 3a) in five games with the Everblades. He now returns to Charlotte, where he has three assists in 32 games this season.