Archive for February, 2009

Waiting for the skate to drop

It’s strange times these days around an NHL team. Nobody’s sure whether the guy next to him in the locker room will be there a week from now. The trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Niclas Havelid’s five years (four seasons) with the Thrashers are almost certainly about to end. He told me he hasn’t had any input on where he will go and that experience has taught him not to get too worked up about things he can’t control. He’s not the No. 1 defenseman on the market, but he’d be a great addition for a team needing a veteran stay-at-home guy.

Marty Reasoner and Eric Perrin also are unrestricted free agents this summer unless they re-sign before July 1. Reasoner could be useful enough for a playoff-contending team to be willing to give up a draft pick to rent him for the rest of the season. It probably would be tougher to find a taker for Perrin.

Erik Christensen remains in the lineup tonight with Jim Slater out again. They’re both restricted free agents this summer. Maybe …

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Slater off IR

Jim Slater is back officially on the roster and likely to play Saturday night at Philips Arena.

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An alarming skate

The Verizon Center fire alarm went off as the Thrashers were finishing up their morning skate today. Hey, they are 3-1-1 over their last five games, but they’re not really on fire.

Some storylines tonight:

—Ilya Kovalchuk vs. Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has a league-best 11 goals in February. Kovy has 10. Alex ends the month at Boston on Saturday; Ilya plays at home against Carolina. Ovechkin is three goals shy of tying his best month of his career (March 20088).

—Four of the Thrashers’ final 20 games are against the Capitals.

—The Capitals were front-page news in today’s Washington Post, with a story talking about how they’re the hot sports story in DC. The Wizards and Nationals are awful, and the Redskins aren’t good. Meanwhile, the Capitals tonight will have a franchise-record-tying 10th consecutive sellout. It helps to have Ovechkin, but there’s more to this team and the Verizon Center atmosphere than just him. This is the best Capitals team ever through 60 games …

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Power play gets tweak

You might not have noticed it, but Tobias Enstrom got a promotion Tuesday night. He played the point opposite Ilya Kovalchuk on the No. 1 one power play unit, the one with Slava Kozlov, Todd White and Bryan Little. It’s partly a recognition of Enstrom’s offensive ability. It’s also a change for Ron Hainsey, who remains on the power play but with the second unit.

“Ron’s been playing very well but just struggling offensively a bit,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said Wednesday. “It will just take some of the pressure off him a little bit to kind of regroup.”

Hainsey hasn’t scored since Dec. 2 but has five assists in the last seven games. He used to lead the team in time on ice and now ranks second to Enstrom, with Enstrom at 22 minutes, 58 seconds and Hainsey at 22:46.

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Happy homecoming, so far

After going 2-1-1 on their longest road trip of the year, the Thrashers lead 3-1 through one period of Tuesday night’s home game against the Colorado Avalanche.

The Kings, Red Wings and Blackhawks are here scouting this one.

The Thrashers looked shaky defensively in the first 90 seconds but then, bang-bang-bang built a 3-0 lead, before giving up a power play goal near the end of the period.

Atlanta goals by Enstrom, Kovalchuk and Reasoner. Colorado goal by Hejduk.

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Slater might return this week

Center Jim Slater practiced with the Thrashers today for the first time hurting his shoulder Jan. 20 against Montreal. (Incidentally, that was the team’s last home victory.) Slater and Jordan LaVallee skated as a fifth line, with another player joining them to complete three-man drills. (Eric Boulton returned to the fourth line after sitting out Saturday’s game at San Jose.)

“It actually felt good,” Slater said of the practice. “First time out there with the guys. Finally got to pass the puck a little bit and receive good passes. With one guy out there [the past couple of weeks], you can only do so many drills. It’s good to be out there with the guys. You can do a lot of different drills, especially with goalies out there.

“I don’t think I’m ready yet. I’m hoping by the end of this week. It’s a lot different once you get in a game. I feel good. It’s coach’s discretion, but hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be looked at.”

Coach John Anderson said he liked what he saw.

“It’s …

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What to watch for

The Thrashers are back at Philips Arena for five of their next six games, beginning Tuesday night against Colorado

Some things to watch for:

—Can they play as well at home as they have lately on the road? They’ve lost four consecutive home games but won four of their last six road games and earned a point by taking one of the other two to a shootout.

—The trade deadline is March 4. Are guys playing better at the last minute in hope of finding another place to play? What moves will the Thrashers make? I would expect at least one more veteran defenseman to be traded.

—Thrashers fans get their first in-person look at Jordan LaVallee.

—Will Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryan Little and Slava Kozlov stay hot?

Also, I’d like to thank, and link to the page of, Jon Swenson. He’s got some great photos from Saturday’s game against the Sharks. Jon was the source of the quotes from Evgeni Nabokov about Ilya Kovalchuk that appeared in Sunday’s Thrashers Report; Jon lent me his tape of the …

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Best of the West

The Thrashers have gotten five points out of the first three games of their western swing and try for more today here in San Jose against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference.

Columbus, Tampa Bay and Boston are scouting, according to the press box seating plan.

Kari Lehtonen is in goal, with Nathan Oystrick and Eric Boulton scratched, meaning Boris Valabik plays for the first time since Feb. 8.

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LaVallee excited to be back

Jordan LaVallee went through his first practice today as an Atlanta Thrashers player since preseason camp. He’s psyched to be back. His role:

“They want me to play a big man’s game,” he said. “They want me to go out there and be physical, be first on the puck, take the man every chance I get.”

LaVallee, 6-3, 220, expected to have a chance to make the team in training camp and was disappointed when that didn’t happen and he had to start the season in Chicago, where he already had played two seasons.

“It took me a little while to bounce back from it,” he said. “Mentally I felt like I turned it around after the All-Star break.”

He practiced on the fourth line Friday alongside Eric Boulton, Eric Perrin and Chris Thorburn. Coach John Anderson said he will play some but not necessarily all of the games on the upcoming four-game trip out west — Anaheim, LA, Phoenix, San Jose.

Jim Slater (shoulder) is not traveling with the team, Anderson …

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