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Checkers’ coach, 2 players named to all-star team

Mike Vellucci of the Charlotte Checkers will coach in the AHL All-Star Game.
Mike Vellucci of the Charlotte Checkers will coach in the AHL All-Star Game.

Coach Mike Vellucci and at least two players will represent the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League All-Star Classic later this month.

Vellucci won the honor to coach the AHL’s Atlantic Division team when the Checkers finished the month of December atop the division standings.

Also named to the team were forward Janne Kuokkanen and defenseman Trevor Carrick. Additional players could be added before the event, which is scheduled for Jan. 27-28 in Springfield, Mass.

Vellucci was a two-time Ontario Hockey League Coach of the Year, spent three seasons away from the ice as assistant general manager of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, then took over as Checkers coach last season while retaining his post with the Hurricanes.

Including Sunday’s 5-0 blanking of Toronto, Vellucci has a 73-35-7 record with Charlotte.

Carrick, 24, was an all-star pick in 2016. He is 15th in the AHL in scoring this season, with five goals and 16 assists. Kuokkanen, 20, is a first-time all-star. His 11 goals ranks second on the Checkers this season, and he also has 17 assists, despite spending segments of the season with the Carolina Hurricanes.

And it was a busy week for the Checkers, in terms of comings and goings:

▪  Kuokkanen was called up again by the Hurricanes early in the week.

▪  Forward Saku Maenalanen was called up by Carolina. It was his first NHL promotion of the season.

▪  Center Martin Necas returned to the Checkers after competing with the Czech Republic team in the World Junior Championships. Necas had six points in six games there.

▪  Forward Greg McKegg was promoted from Charlotte to the Hurricanes, and he scored a goal for Carolina in his first appearance.

▪  The Checkers signed veteran defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, who played from 2010-13 with Charlotte and spent the past few seasons in the Swiss pro league. Sanguinetti, who was very popular with teammates in his first Charlotte stay, was a three-time AHL all star.

▪  Defenseman Haydn Fleury, who spent last season with Charlotte, was sent down to the Checkers by the Hurricanes. Fleury missed most of December’s games with a concussion.

▪  Last year’s goal-scoring leader for Charlotte, Valentin Zykov, is now with the Las Vegas Knights of the NHL. He started the season with Carolina, was signed by Edmonton off waivers in November, then signed off waivers by the Knights late last month.

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

Monday: Charlotte fell behind host Toronto 4-1, but rallied to tie in regulation before falling 5-4 in overtime. McKegg scored two goals.

Friday: Aleksi Saarela and Andrew Poturalski scored in a two-minute span of the second period, breaking a 1-1 tie and lifting the Checkers to a 4-1 victory at the Belleville Senators.

Saturday: Belleville took a 1-0 lead after just 21 seconds, Charlotte tied it 14 seconds later, and the Checkers eventually pulled away to a 6-3 victory. Julien Gauthier scored twice.

Sunday: Alex Nedeljkovic made 34 saves and the Checkers ran their winning streak to three, blanking Toronto 5-0. Necas and Poturalski each had a goal and an assist.

Next week: The Checkers open a six-game home stand by facing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle