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Roster changes keep Charlotte Checkers’ goaltenders on their toes

Charlotte Checkers goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic slides across the crease to make a stick-side save on a shot off the stick of Hartford Wolf Pack winger Shawn St. Amant during the first period Thursday at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
Charlotte Checkers goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic slides across the crease to make a stick-side save on a shot off the stick of Hartford Wolf Pack winger Shawn St. Amant during the first period Thursday at Bojangles’ Coliseum. cnoble@mccnewsdesk.com

Being a goaltender for the Charlotte Checkers this season means being ready for anything.

A series of roster changes by the Checkers’ parent NHL club, the Carolina Hurricanes, has resulted in a shuffle on the roster.

The Checkers’ normal starter, Alex Nedeljkovic, has spent time with the Hurricanes this season. Callum Booth has divided time between Charlotte and the next step down on the minor league rung, the ECHL’s Florida Everblades.

Thursday night, Checkers coach Mike Vellucci started Nedeljkovic in goal against the Hartford Wolf Pack. But the Hurricanes notified the Checkers that they might need Nedeljkovic for an NHL appearance the next night.

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Charlotte Checkers’ Cliff Pu (16) beats Hartford Wolf Pack’s Vinni Lettieri (95) to the puck during the first period Thursdayat Bojangles’ Coliseum. Christopher Noble cnoble@mccnewsdesk.com

So Vellucci lifted Nedeljkovic after two periods, with Charlotte leading 1-0, and replaced him with Booth.

“They didn’t want him playing back-to-back’s, so we pulled him,” Vellucci said of Nedeljkovic.

Booth performed admirably, making six saves and completing the 1-0 shutout.

“He was put in a very difficult situation and he answered the bell,” Vellucci said of Booth.

Booth said he understands his role.

“You’ve just got to take it as it comes,” he said. “You’re given an opportunity and you’ve just got to do your best and seize it.”

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Charlotte Checkers’ Dennis Robertson scores the game-winner against the Hartford Wolf Pack with a shot through traffic during the second period Thursday. Christopher Noble cnoble@mccnewsdesk.com

One other part of the goaltending puzzle has been veteran Scott Darling, who has struggled with the Hurricanes and was sent down to Charlotte earlier this month. Darling is back with the Hurricanes.

Nedeljkovic, by the way, was not called up after Thursday’s game.

Here’s a look at the Checkers’ past week and what’s ahead:

Thursday: Nedeljkovic made 17 saves in the first two periods, and Booth completed the 1-0 shutout of Hartford.

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In anticipation of the puck drop against Hartford, Charlotte Checkers’ Nicolas Roy leans in during the first period at Bojangles’ Coliseum. Christopher Noble cnoble@mccnewsdesk.com

Saturday: A crowd of 7,852 at Bojangles Coliseum donated more than 2,000 teddy bears to charity, and the Checkers edged Hartford 3-2. Nedeljkovic made 27 saves and earned his American Hockey League-leading 14th victory. Nicolas Roy scored the winning goal, completing Charlotte’s comeback from a 2-1 deficit.

Sunday: Aleksi Saarela’s goal 22 seconds into overtime lifted the Checkers past the visiting Utica Comets 2-1. Booth made 28 saves, and Charlotte won its sixth in a row, padding its big first-place lead in the Atlantic Division.

Week ahead: The Checkers are at home three times, facing the Utica Comets at 7 p.m. Tuesday and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday. All games will be at Bojangles Coliseum.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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