Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate) vs Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes AHL affiliate)
Records: ONT – 17-6-2-1; CHA – 17-11-1-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL)
Saturday, January 2, 2016, 6 p.m. PT
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, CA
Reign pregame notes
–The last time the Reign faced Charlotte was seven games ago and a player named Michael Mersch was still in the lineup. The Reign went 2-0 at Charlotte in Mersch’s last weekend before his call-up to the Kings, with wins of 3-1 and 5-1. Ontario had eight different goal scorers in that back-to-back, their best display of offensive flair of the season, which leads us to …
–In their last seven games with Mersch out of the lineup, the Reign have averaged just 1.86 goals per game, something head coach Mike Stothers expressed his frustration with after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to visiting Stockton. “You’ve got to find a way to score,” Stothers said. “You’ve got to truly go out there and believe that you can and will score. And when you get that opportunity you better bloody well be ready to put it in. So, put it in the back of the net. Don’t whiff on it, don’t miss the net, don’t have it jump over your stick. Be ready to score.” It should be noted as well that the Reign has also been without Adrian Kempe for five of those seven games as he’s competing for Sweden at the World Juniors. Kempe had a goal and an assist on Saturday as Sweden advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0 win over Slovakia.
–The Reign have not scored a power play goal in their last seven games and are 0-for-29 during that span. Their last power play tally was on Dec. 6, the 5-1 win at Charlotte. Captain Vincent LoVerde had this to say following Thursday’s loss: “Our power play hasn’t been very sharp for the past 5 or so games. At the end of the day, everyone, including myself, I’m on the power play, we have to be better out there.”
–This is the Reign’s first game of 2016 and their second of a five-game homestand. It will be their third game without suspended defenseman Kurtis MacDermid, who was suspended for 12 games by the league for his Dec. 26 hit on the Gulls’ Matt Bailey.
Scouting the opposition
–The Checkers had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Barracuda on Wednesday. The Central Division team is in the midst of a six-game California road trip. They went 1-0-0-1 against San Jose and will play the Reign today and tomorrow before traveling to face San Diego next Friday and Saturday.
–Center Derek Ryan (12 g, 16 a = 28 pts) is the Checkers’ leading scorer, but has been held off the scoresheet in their last two games.
–For more from the Checkers’ side for tonight’s matchup, here’s some solid work by their Manager of Communications, Nicholas Niedzielski.