The Thrashers sure timed this one right. Anssi Salmela, who took a blow to the chin in Wednesday night’s victory over Buffalo, won’t be making the trip to Florida and Washington this weekend and will be evaluated again next week. Salmela didn’t practice with the team on Thursday, but he told me he’s feeling better. Stepping in to replace him on defense will be Boris Valabik, who is returning from a dislocated shoulder. Valabik got hurt at Pittsburgh March 17. He and Thrashers coach John Anderson both said he could have played Wednesday night. Valabik said he’s glad he didn’t; having one more practice under his belt today made a huge difference, and he expects to be more effective Friday night than he would have been against the Sabres.
This is the Thrashers’ final road trip. They can really help themselves if they beat the Panthers, who are a point behind the Canadiens in the race for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. (The Canadiens also have a game in hand.) Remember, the Mathieu Schneider trade included a conditional draft choice based on how Montreal fares in the postseason. If Montreal doesn’t get to the postseason, the Thrashers will have to give away a third-round pick in June. If the Canadiens win a playoff series, it becomes a fourth-round pick. If they win two series, it becomes a fifth-round pick.