An unfortunate rash of injuries in Charlotte has recently forced a few key Checkers players to sit out, but that hasn’t stopped the team from winning seven of its last 10 games.
|Michael Smith |
Forward Nicolas Blanchard
broke his jaw in practice and has missed all four of the Checkers’ December games thus far. Drayson Bowman
, who started the season in Raleigh, has missed two games with a knee injury. Perhaps most notably on the Checkers’ injured list is defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti
, who will be out for the remainder of the regular season.
According to Jason Karmanos, vice president and assistant general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, Saguinetti has a small tear in the hip labrum. He underwent surgery on Dec. 9 to repair it and will be sidelined for 3-4 months.
“It’s hard for us to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but he was certainly playing through some discomfort in the hip area, and it checked out initially,” Karmanos said. “It’s something that needs to get corrected now so that he can get back to 100 percent as soon as possible.”
Sanguinetti, who hasn’t played a game since Nov. 19, could return for a playoff run, assuming Charlotte earns a playoff spot and rehab goes as planned.
“It’s a definite blow to him and the organization, but we’ve had examples over the years – Bret Hedican comes to mind – of players who have had hip surgery and come back to play at their top level.”
Injuries to Sanguinetti and other top players haven’t slowed the Checkers. After topping the Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears 5-3 at home on Sunday, the Checkers, who are 15-9-4 overall, moved into sole possession of third place in the East division.
The team’s winning ways have been bolstered by an explosive offense and solid goaltending. In the Dec. 6 win over the Syracuse Crunch, the Checkers scored 10 goals, including eight alone in the second period. On Dec. 10, in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Bears, goaltender Justin Pogge made 48 saves. Not to be outdone, goaltender Mike Murphy
has won his last five starts.
“The team has put it together, and they’ve been rattling off a lot of wins,” Karmanos said.
“They’re battling through the injuries as a team.”
In the absence of the injured, a few players have filled in the voids, one of them being Michal Jordan
. The 20-year-old, Czech-born defenseman was drafted in 2008 by the Canes and signed an entry-level contract this past April.
“He has stepped up his play as of late, and he’s really gaining confidence,” Karmanos said.
“Michal is in his first year pro, and for him to be showing this progress early on is pretty encouraging.”
The Checkers have closed out the calendar year at home and will now hit the road for a five-game swing that includes three games in a row this weekend. The road has been kind to Charlotte, as the Checkers have gone 7-4-1 away from Time Warner Cable Arena this season.
Karmanos said keeping this good fortune going on the road will depend on a complete, 60-minute effort backed by solid goaltending. Despite the injuries, the Checkers still have depth to their advantage.
“They are a hard team to contain, based on the depth up front,” he said. “That’s going to be a strength whether they are home or away. It’s going to be difficult to match up against the four lines the coaching staff is able to put on the ice.”Player Spotlight: Danny Biega
Rounding out the defensive group of higher-end draft picks playing collegiate hockey is Danny Biega
, a 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman from Quebec.
Biega followed his two older brothers, Alex and Michael, to Harvard, where he is currently in his sophomore season. Also like his siblings, he played his high school hockey at Salisbury School in Connecticut. As a senior there, he led the team to a New England Prep School championship and earned Defenseman of the Year honors. He was drafted this summer by the Canes in the 3rd round (67th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
“He really impressed us with his off-ice conditioning. He’s a really well-developed athlete,” Karmanos said. “He brings to the table incredible physical strength for his age and a strong character.”
Biega is among the few bright spots for a struggling 2-8 Crimson team. He is second on the team and leads defenseman in scoring with 5 points (1g, 4a).
“We see him as a guy that can really skate and handle the puck. He’s got a good skill level,” Karmanos said. “With that and the physical strength he possesses, we think he has good tools to be an NHL defenseman at some point in the future.”