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Charlotte Checkers

Florida Panthers Get Lots of Help from the Charlotte Checkers

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Florida Panthers center Zac Dalpe celebrates with the bench after he scored what would be his team’s lone goal against the Lightning on Saturday in Tampa. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Due to the Florida Panthers salary cap situation, a lot of good players are not with the team but playing for their American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte.

The quality of players the team has playing for the Checkers has been on display this past week.

With the Panthers losing players such as Sasha Barkov, Anton Lundell, Patric Hornqvist, Radko Gudas and Spencer Knight, the Charlotte Shuttle has been working overtime.

Florida has brought up Zac Dalpe, Chris Tierney, Alex Lyon and Matt Kiersted to try and fill some gaps. Aleksi Heponiemi, who had been playing in place of Barkov, was sent back to Charlotte.

Not only have the call-ups from Charlotte been filling roster spots, but they have been playing big roles with the Panthers as well.

“I feel good. I have been playing a lot down there so I have built the confidence up and am feeling pretty good about my game,” said Chris Tierney, an NHL veteran of 564 games who scored Florida’s first goal in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

“It is is nice to get on the scoresheet. … Being confident and being able to play your game. We have been working hard out there, getting on the forecheck and capitalizing on our chances. Hopefully this continues.”

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Dalpe and Tierney have been playing together in Charlotte all season and Florida coach Paul Maurice made the obvious move to keep the pair together.

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The two were called up in the wake of Florida losing Lundell to an illness and Hornqvist being placed on long-term injured reserve due to a concussion sustained in Seattle.

Dalpe made an immediate impact, scoring Tuesday night in Winnipeg.

He got his second in three games on Saturday against the Lightning.

“Having someone to talk to on the bench that they naturally communicate with … those are little things that aren’t coached,” Maurice said. “They have that comfort level on the ice.”

Dalpe’s first goal came in his second game with the Panthers as he has spent the vast majority of his two seasons with the organization serving as the captain of the Checkers.

A veteran of 157 NHL games with six teams including Carolina and Columbus, Dalpe has built a nice life for himself and his family in Charlotte.

He played for the Checkers earlier in his career while a prospect with the Hurricanes and that is where he met Maurice for the first time.

Now the two are back together in Florida.

While Dalpe will likely be back in Charlotte soon, he is making the most of his time being back up in the bigs.

He is also keeping his hot hand going as he leads the Checkers with 10 goals this season after scoring 30 in Charlotte last year.

Of course, he would like to score goals in games the Panthers win. So far, he’s 0-2.

“It feels good but we’re here to win and the coach likes the lineups when they win,’’ said Dalpe, whose previous NHL goal came before Tuesday night came in Sunrise in a game against the Panthers in 2021 while a member of the Blue Jackets.

”I am taking it day-by-day, soaking it all in and having a good time with it. But it still stinks.”

As for Lyon, he made two starts for Carolina last season — including one against the Panthers — and could be in net for Florida on Sunday against Seattle.

Knight was ruled out of Thursday’s game due to the illness which seems to be working its way through the Panthers.

Before leaving the Panthers during training camp to become the starter in Charlotte, Lyon said he understood his situation with the Panthers and chose to come here anyway.

Florida has both Knight and Sergei Bobrovsky entrenched as the team’s two goalies so Lyon is content to try and help the Checkers win the Calder Cup — something he did with the Chicago Wolves last summer.

“The two guys here are extremely good. I have found myself learning a lot just being around them,’’ Lyon said before going to Charlotte.

“That has elevated my game in some capacity. If they are successful, it makes my job easier and makes my life more successful. I would love to be in the NHL and have that opportunity. Everyone wants that.

“But I just want a good solid situation. And winning the Calder last year, I invested a lot into the American League team and it paid off. I enjoyed that. Winning championships is a a little like (a drug): You want to win again. I have high hopes for the team down there and we’ll see how that goes.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

SEATTLE KRAKEN AT FLORIDA PANTHERS 

  • When: Sunday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Season Series (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Kraken 1 (Dec 3)
  • Last season: Kraken won 2-0
  • All-time regular season series: Seattle leads 2-1-0
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.

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