For Scott Darling, going on waivers and being assigned to the Charlotte Checkers was not a totally pleasant experience.
Going to the minors, the Carolina Hurricanes goalie could handle. Darling has been there before. That’s the hockey side of things and he accepts it.
“But it has been kind of a logistical nightmare,” Darling said an interview Monday. “Car here, house here, girlfriend here, dog here. Going to Charlotte, living in a hotel, not having a car, that stuff is a little annoying.
“But the guys on the team are awesome. They’ve been great to me, the staff has been great to me, the coaches, everybody. That was nice.”
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Now, he’s back. Recalled Sunday by the Canes as goalie Curtis McElhinney continues to recover from an injury, Darling returned to practice Monday and was to be Petr Mrazek’s backup in Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at PNC Arena.
Darling, 29, was placed on waivers Nov. 29 by the Canes, who decided three goalies on the roster was one too many. With McElhinney, a waiver-wire pickup from the Leafs, playing well and Mrazek returning from an injury, Darling went on NHL waivers, cleared the next day and was sent to the Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate.
Following a three-game stretch in which Darling allowed eight goals on 105 shots and twice beat his old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, he gave up eight goals on 43 shots in losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders. He was 2-4-1 for the season, with a 3.14 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.
After a troublesome first season with the Canes, Darling returned this year in much better physical shape and with a self-professed more positive attitude. But he injured a hamstring in the Canes’ last preseason game and never found a consistent goaltending groove.
General manager Don Waddell said he talked with Darling and his agent about why Darling was going on waivers.
“I think it was pretty clear,” Darling said.
And to be assigned to the Checkers?
“It was fine with me,” Darling said.
‘I felt good’
Darling started four of the Checkers’ five games, going 2-1-0 with a 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage. It was his second assignment with Charlotte this season, having gone down for a conditioning stint after his preseason injury.
Asked to assess his play, Darling said, “Good. I felt good. One period wasn’t my best, but it was kind of a shootout game and the period ended 3-3. Other than that I thought I played well.”
The Checkers played a road game Friday against the Hartford Wolf Pack, winning 7-4, then the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday to complete a back-to-back. Darling started both games, but left the Springfield game after the second period as Jeremy Helvig took over in net.
“I had some cramps in my legs,” Darling said. “It’s been a couple of years since I played back-to-back with some some travel and stuff like that. Nothing major. I’m fine.”
Back with the Canes
Darling said he was watching on a TV monitor when the Checkers scored twice in the final minute of regulation to tie the score — after an empty-net goal by Springfield made it a 4-2 game — and then won 5-4 in overtime on Trevor Carrick’s goal. Helvig earned his first AHL win.
“Those guys down there, when their backs are against the wall, can score,” Darling said. “At Hartford we were down down 3-1 and (Janne) Kuokkanen scored two goals in about 20 seconds. They’ve got some talent down there.”
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he watched replays of the Checkers games. And Darling’s play? “He was fine,” he said.
With McElhinney still sidelined, Darling is back with the Canes. It’s hard to say when or if he will get a start.
“There’s not much that needs to be said,” Brind’Amour said. “He knows what his job is. He’s got to come here and work hard and if he