Checkers' camp full of old, new faces

Special CorrespondentSeptember 30, 2012 

The Charlotte Checkers opened up their third American Hockey League training camp under a cloud of intrigue. The National Hockey League lockout is still underway, and as a result, an above-average number of players went through their first workouts Saturday at the Extreme Ice Centre in Indian Trail under the watchful eye of Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels.

The Checkers’ season opener is Oct. 13 in Houston.

If the NHL players were not locked out, the Checkers would have approximately 15 players starting training camp, not 36.

“Right from the get-go, we have a bigger camp than we normally would,” Daniels said. “The first couple of days we’re usually looking at 15 to 16 guys as most of the guys are still up in Carolina trying to make the big club.

“On a positive (note), we have some pretty good guys players down here that we normally wouldn’t see as they’d be up in Carolina. On the flip side of that, we’ve got some tough decisions with guys that can definitely play on our team at this level, and are really battling for jobs right now.”

Two Hurricanes who likely would not be asked to play in Charlotte under normal circumstances are forward Jeff Skinner and defenseman Justin Faulk. Both have been assigned to the Checkers.

Skinner, the 2011 NHL Rookie of the Year, is eligible to play for the Checkers, but has elected to train in Toronto for now while he waits to see what happens with the lockout. If the lockout continues, Skinner could join Charlotte at some point during its AHL season.

Faulk, a promising 20-year-old defenseman who notched 22 points with Carolina last season in his rookie campaign, has reported to Charlotte and looks forward to his time with the Checkers. He said he hopes improve his game and stay sharp.

“You don’t want to be sitting on the couch at this age, or any age for that matter, with the league the way it is, getting faster and faster” said Faulk. “Taking a year off is not good for anybody, I don’t think. I’m excited to be here and excited to get the season going.”

The Checkers have four goalies in camp, including two who played in the NHL last season. Justin Peters split time between Charlotte and Carolina in 2011-12, and Dan Ellis played ten games with the Anaheim Ducks.

John Muse played 15 games with the Checkers last season, then helped the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) win the Kelly Cup Championship. He was named the league’s playoff MVP. Free-agent goalie Rob Madore is also in camp.

Charlotte’s training camp continues Sunday and all next week with daily sessions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.

The Checkers’ home opener is Sunday, Nov. 4 against the Chicago Wolves.

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