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Checkers’ James McGinn hopes for promotion to Hurricanes to play with younger brother

The Charlotte Checkers have had a slow start to their season.
The Charlotte Checkers have had a slow start to their season. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

The Charlotte Checkers have looked ordinary through their first three weeks, but the team gave a sign Monday of how it hopes to break from that rut.

The Checkers signed 31-year-old James McGinn, who has 11 seasons of professional experience and six different NHL teams on his resume, to add a bit of firepower to their front line.

They hope that, along with a bit more consistency from the defense and goaltenders, McGinn will ignite the switch for the defending AHL champions.

Charlotte is 3-3, with a victory and a loss on each of the season’s first three weekends.

The team endured its worst night of the young season Friday, with an 8-2 drubbing by Utica. But 24 hours later, the Checkers had arguably their best outing in a 7-3 romp at Syracuse.

Alex Nedeljkovic, last season’s AHL Goaltender of the Year, is 0-3 on the season. Team officials say they expect him to round back into form, noting that he got limited playing time in the preseason while in the Carolina Hurricanes’ camp.

If the goaltending comes around, what about the offense?

That’s where McGinn comes in.

He has played 617 NHL games, with 117 goals and 103 assists. McGinn was assigned to the AHL last season but missed most of the year with an injury.

“He’s a bigger guy, a power forward that we kind of lack a little bit,” Checkers’ coach Ryan Warsofsky said. “He’s an older, experienced guy who’s played in the National Hockey League.

“He knows what it takes to be a pro, so he’s going to help these young kids out, and he’s going to try and get his game back on the next level.”

The Checkers had a couple veteran players on last year’s championship squad but are fielding a young team this season.

McGinn, the older brother of former Checker Brock McGinn (now with the Hurricanes), says he feels ready to go physically.

“I took some time off this summer, which I really think let things heal,” he said. “Getting back into it now feels great.”

And if things go well enough, there’s a chance for McGinn to move up to Raleigh and play with his brother.

“Hopefully it can evolve to bigger things, and maybe I can go play with my brother Brock,” he said. “That would be pretty special.”

Here’s how the Checkers fared in the past week, and what’s ahead:

Friday: The Utica Comets pasted Charlotte 8-2, chasing Nedeljkovic less than 15 minutes into the game with the score 3-0. But Nedeljkovic’s replacement, Anton Forsberg, also was hard-hit, giving up five goals. Hunter Shinkaruk and Eetu Luostarinen scored for Charlotte.

Saturday: Luostarinen scored a short-handed goal about four minutes into the game, Morgan Geekie added a power-play goal a short time later, and the Checkers trounced Syracuse 7-3. Brian Gibbons (two goals, two assists) and Chase Priskie (one goal, three assists) led the offense.

Week ahead: The Checkers return home to Bojangles Coliseum for games Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (6 p.m.) against Lehigh Valley. Charlotte then travels to Cleveland for games Nov. 1 and 3.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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