This season Carolina hockey fans enjoyed the ability to check in regularly with the Hurricanes' prospects in the AHL playing with the Charlotte Checkers. So names and faces of the young guns like Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman, Jon Matsumoto, Bryan Rodney, Justin Faulk, Mike Murphy and so on and so forth are very familiar in these parts.
Tonight they begin their 7-game series at home vs the Binghamton Senators, to determine the Eastern Conference Champion and earn the right to play the Western Conference counterpart for the AHL's Calder Cup. If you can't make it to Charlotte, Time Warner Cable customers can watch live on Channel 520 in the Carolinas. With Game 7 between the Sharks and Red Wings not starting till 9pm, this ought to be the perfect way to kick back and enjoy some hockey viewing this evening.
As familiar as you are with our Checkers after the success they've enjoyed thus far, how well do you know the Binghamton Senators, many of whom spent a significant part of the regular season in Ottawa playing NHL hockey before returning to the AHL club for their Calder Cup run? After the jump, I've got six names to know before the puck drops tonight.
|NHL Stats - 5 NHL games in 10-11||G||A||P||+/-||PIM|
|2010 - Corey Locke||0||1||1||-1||0|
Corey Locke – Though he didn't see much time in Ottawa this year, Locke was the leading scorer in the AHL in the regular season with 86 points (21 Goals, 65 Assists) in 69 games. He was injured early on in the playoffs, but came back vs the Portland Pirates and went right to work, with 6 assists in his 6 games.
|NHL Stats - 26 games in 10-11||G||A||P||+/-||PIM|
|2010 - Bobby Butler||10||11||21||-16||10|
Bobby Butler – A NCAA standout that somehow went undrafted, Butler was Hobey Baker Finalist at UNH, and was named Hockey East Player of the Year in 2010. In 47 games with Bingo, he put up 33 points (22 G, 11A) and finished +5. In the playoffs, he has 9 points(7G, 2A) in 13 games.
|NHL Stats - 7 games in 10-11||G||A||P||+/-||PIM|
|2010 - Ryan Potulny||0||0||0||-1||0|
Ryan Potulny – This veteran leads for post-season scoring in the League with 19 points (10G, 9 A) in 13 games. With 126 career NHL games with the Flyers and Edmonton Oilers, he leads this squad in NHL experience. The Sens acquired Potulny from Chicago Blackhawks in the Chris Campoli trade in February.
[signed in May, no NHL games]
Jared Cowen – Ottawa’s first round pick (9th overall) coming out of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. At 6’5", 228 lbs he will the biggest man on the ice this series. With the Chiefs, he reached 48 points (18 G, 30 A) in 58 games, finishing the season with a plus/minus of +44. He joined the team earlier this month and has only played one game with this group.
|NHL Stats - 8 games in 10-11||G||A||P||+/-||PIM|
|2010 - Andre Benoit||0||1||1||-1||6|
Andre Benoit – Veteran AHL defenseman wears an A for this club. He won the Calder Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007. Quick and offensively minded, Benoit contributed 55 points (11 G, 44 A) in 73 regular season games in Binghamton this season, which was second-best in the League for blueliners (to Portland/Buffalo's Marc-Andre Gragnani )
|NHL stats 10-11||GP||MIN||W||L||EGA||GA||GAA||SA||SV||SV%||SO|
|2010 - Robin Lehner||8||341||1||4||20||3.52||178||158||.888||0|
Robin Lehner – This 19-year old Swede is considered by some to be among the Top 5 rated goaltending prospects playing now. He spent a year with the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie before joining Binghamton last season. While his regular season stats don't jump out at you (22 games, 10-8-2, 2.7 GAA, .912 sv%), by all accounts he's the real deal and the future of the Ottawa goal tending position. This playoff run is for him, like for the Checkers' Mike Murphy, the best chance he's had to show what he's capable of accomplishing.
For a look at both rosters in detail, check out our latest, printable Canes Country's Game Guide: Checkers vs Senators (Game 1).
For a few more previews
VIDEO: Checkers, Senator set to take ice in Eastern Conference finals - News14.com This 2 minute video with Murphy, Coach Jeff Daniels, Boychuk and Justin Faulk aired on Sportsnight last night.
Checkers face off against a high-powered offense | CharlotteObserver.com Checkers coach Jeff Daniels sees similarities between the two teams. "They're a lot like us. They're well-balanced. Four lines that can score. They're a very strong club. It's going to be a tough match," he said Wednesday.
Boychuk, Checkers move on - Airdrie Echo - Alberta, CA "I didn't play as many games up there as I'd hoped to, but you've got to look at the bright side," said Boychuk. "I'm developing right now and I'm still playing hockey. It would suck to be back home in the cold weather and watching the playoffs every day."
B-Sens vs. Checkers: Two upstarts square off in AHL conference finals | Press & Sun-Bulletin Dig up the preseason predictions for the American Hockey League's Eastern Conference, and you'll find the Charlotte Checkers in the middle of the pack and the Binghamton Senators further down the list.
Matchups: Look for B-Sens to continue offensive show | Press & Sun-Bulletin On paper, the Binghamton Senators and Charlotte Checkers have undeniably similar tendencies.