Sunday, November 7, 2010

MoJo joins Hershey in Charlotte

With the Capitals playing so well at this moment, winners of 3 straight, and all the forwards seemingly healthy (quick...knock on wood) the Caps sent rookie pivot Marcus Johansson to Hershey yesterday. He is expected to play tonight as Hershey goes up against the Charlotte Checkers for the first time.

MoJo had one goal in 6 games with the Caps while playing on the 3rd line alongside Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr.

The adjustment from the Swedish Elite League to a more aggressive North American style has been slower than the organization was looking for. He has played well defensively but has been largely ineffective in the offensive end.

Watching him skate you can see the amazing natural skill that he possesses, very fluid and definitely fast. He obviously has tremendous upside.

But the Caps are looking to win this year and with the team getting off to a slow start they don't have time to wait for a rookie to get up to speed. So while his reassignment to Hershey might be for just a short while, don't be surprised if he doesn't hang out with the Bears for the foreseeable future.

All of that will depend on what injuries Washington will have to deal with. I would say that until someone gets hurt all of the 'call-ups' will remain in Hershey. The organization would rather see Johansson play in Hershey then sit on the bench in Washington.

In other roster news, Dmitry Kugryshev and Johann Kroll were assigned to South Carolina for the weekend. Due to the longer trip the Bears were traveling with a smaller team and instead of leaving the two in Washington they sent them to help the Stingrays in their 3 in 3 this weekend.

Both are expected back in Hershey after the 2 game trip to Charlotte.

Now onto tonight's game.

Let's talk about the Charlotte Checkers. They are the new/old affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season they were the Albany River Rats in the AHL. But the Charlotte Checkers were an ECHL team last year too. So it is kind of a new/old affiliate.

Either way most of the players on the roster were Albany River Rats last year...minus one big name...Justin Peters. Their top goalie from last year is now in the NHL backing up Cam Ward in Carolina. That has apparently hurt this team a little bit. Last year they challenged Hershey for much of the year and finished 2nd in the East division. This year, with many of the same players, they are in 5th place after 14 games with only 5 wins.

But you have to expect that at some point the big players will get the team together. 9 of the top 10 scorers from last year are still there including former Bear Oskar Osala. Joining him are Stefan Chaput, Zach Boychuk, Jacob Micflikier, Chris Terry, Drayson Bowman, Nick Dodge, Jerome Samson, and Bryan Rodney.

Add to that mix a few college players, Zac Dalpe (played 9 AHL games last year and scored 6 goals in them) and Riley Nash. As well as some guys who made the move from juniors to the A, Matt Kennedy, Jared Staal (yes another Staal brother), and Michal Jordan.

And a few veterans joined the team as well. C Jonathan Matsumoto comes over from Adirondack where he scored 30 goals and added 32 assists last season. (Matsumoto is currently playing in the NHL) D Ethan Graham joins the team after spending 09-10 with Texas, Norfolk, Milwaukee, and the ECHL version of the Checkers. Also coming over is D Bobby Sanguinetti who served on Hartford's blueline the past 2 years.

Expect this team to gel and find their legs going forward. Lots of talent and scoring depth returns from last year and plenty of new faces, young and old, team up with them.

So far this season they have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net more so than scoring it themselves. They have allowed the 3rd most goals against, 41, in the AHL so far. Justin Pogge and Mike Murphy have each played 7 games and neither has much to show for it.

This will be the Checkers 3rd game in as many nights (actually this is an afternoon tilt with a 3:00 start time) and then a 4th in 5 nights as the Bears and Checkers play again on Tuesday.

Those kind of schedules will be a common thing for the Checkers as teams have to travel further than usual to play them. That usually means a couple games back to back instead of traveling all that way just to play one game. Something they will likely adjust to as the season moves along.

Helping them get their legs this afternoon will be a Hershey team that hasn't played since last Sunday. That's a substantial amount of time between games for a team so it will be interesting to see how the Bears come out today.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 6-3-0-1 13 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 7-3 Win vs Manchester, 10/31
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 3-1-0-1
goals for ~ 40
goals against ~29
power play ~ 19.6% (9th)
penalty kill ~ 79.7% (21st)

Charlotte Checkers
record ~ 5-6-1-2 13 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Win @ Norfolk, 11/6
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-2
home record ~ 1-2-0-2
goals for ~ 38
goals against ~ 41
power play ~ 17.3% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 87.5% (7th)

last time teams met - First of 8 meetings this season. Hershey went 6-2 against the Rats last season including 2-2 in Albany. Hershey outscored Albany 41-21 over the course of the season and none of the games were really close as only 2 of the 8 games were with 2 goals and neither were 1 goal games.

Players to watch:


C Marcus Johansson (17) - Making his Hershey debut today. Hasn't played in a while and was more of a defensive center when he did play. How will Hershey use him today?
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Leads the Bears in goals with 7, and is 2nd on the team in points with 15.
RW Brian Willsie (18) - Promoted to the top line for the Manchester game, he has 5 goals and 6 assists on the season.


C Zach Boychuk (11) - Leading the team in points with 13 and second on the team in goals with 6 through 14 games.
RW Jerome Samson (17) - Last years top scorer is leading the team again in goals with 7 and is 2nd on the team in points with 11.
LW Oscar Osala (32) - Finished 2nd on Rats with 24 goals last season (16 of those were in Hershey), he has 2 goals and 6 assists to start this season.


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