Thursday Caterwaul: Florida Panthers Open Forum

Checkers solidify hold on first place in AHL’s Atlantic

The Florida Panthers deal for Claude Giroux paid off on the American League level last night as former Philadelphia Flyers prospects German Rubtsov and Connor Bunnaman each scored their first goals as members of the Charlotte Checkers in a big 4-1 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Zac Dalpe notched his team-leading 29th goal to open the scoring 1:56 into the first period. Dalpe is now tied for fifth with Stockton’s Matthew Phillips in AHL goal-scoring.

Rubstov put the Checkers up by a pair 9:56 later and Bunnaman scored shorthanded at the 12:53 mark of third period to restore Charlotte’s two-goal advantage after Fillip Hallander got the only Penguins goal in the second.

Professional rookie Cole Schwindt picked up his 20th assist of the season on Alexander True empty-netter that completed the scoring with 1:12 remaining in the game.

Joey Daccord stopped 27 of 28 shots as the Checkers collected their 40th win of the campaign.

With the AHL playing an unbalanced schedule, the division will be decided by points percentage. Charlotte is on top of the Atlantic Division at .625. Trailing them are the Providence Bruins and Springfield Thunderbirds at .603. The Checkers, who have four games remaining, are playing 72 games, as are the P-Bruins. The Thunderbirds chose to play 76 games. Although Providence is playing 72 games, they have five games in hand on Charlotte.

The Checkers will continue their season-ending five-game road trip in Springfield with a key back-to-back against the Thunderbirds starting on Friday.

In last night’s NHL action, the New York Rangers moved within two points of the first place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Alexandar Georgiev made 28 saves, and Kaapo Kakko scored two goals for the Rangers.

Jack Roslovic scored twice for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide Arena. Roslovic has five goals in the past two games after he scored a hat trick in a 5-4 overtime victory in Detroit on Saturday.

Nathan MacKinnon poured in three goals and tied his NHL career high with five points to power the Colorado Avalanche to a 9-3 rout over the Los Angeles Kings at Ball Arena. The Avalanche have won seven straight games and lead the Panthers by two points in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Los Gatos will return to action tomorrow night when they host desperate, but not serious Winnipeg Jets. It is Florida’s last regular season game against a Western Conference foe.