Archive for April, 2009

Pavelec returns

Ondrej Pavelec is back with the Thrashers, and that’s bad news, because it means the Chicago Wolves are out of the playoff hunt. The Wolves have fallen to seventh place in their division. Their season ends Saturday, just like Atlanta’s. A playoff run for the Wolves would have given some valuable experience to a few Thrashers prospects. As it is, they’re going to have long summers, just like the guys on the big team.

Pavelec replaces Dan Turple, who didn’t play a minute as Johan Hedberg’s backup. Pavelec is sure to play and give Don Waddell one last pre-summer look. There’s a decision to be made — if it hasn’t been already — about who will be the goalies on the Thrashers’ roster next season. Kari Lehtonen, Pavelec and Hedberg can’t all be on the team, and it’s difficult to justify leaving Pavelec in the AHL.

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Final road game up next

Greetings from Washington, where the Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing, which means I couldn’t get into a hotel room to get a nap after my 7 a.m. flight from Ft. Lauderdale. I type this from the eighth floor of a mall in the Virginia suburbs, where the Capitals have a practice rink that is gorgeous.

The drama here is Alex Ovechkin’s pursuit of Evgeni Malkin for the scoring title. Ovechkin has 104 points to Malkin’s 108, and Malkin has a game in hand. There’s also a team race: The Capiitals are in second place in the conference, two points ahead of New Jersey, and New Jersey has the more-victories tie-breaker.

“Alex wants to be No. 1 in everything, so it wouldn’t surprise me [if he is focused on the scoring title],” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said about 15 minutes ago. “As long as it doesn’t affect the way he plays. We don’t want guys staying out longer shifts. If it comes to that, we’ll stop him. But as far as the extra drive, I don’t think you’ve seen his overdrive …

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Boris back, Anssi out

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, …

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More Moose, less Lehtonen

Johan Hedberg has won three consecutive decisions and reached 100 career victories. It looks like he’ll get at least three more chances to boost that victory total this season.

Kari Lehtonen (upper body injury) did not participate in today’s morning skate. Thrashers coach John Anderson said Lehtonen, who went through half a practice on Tuesday, will not be in uniform tonight against Buffalo and probably won’t be available this weekend.

The Thrashers are 3-0 against the Sabres. If it gets to 4-0, the Sabres will be all but eliminated from playoff contention. Buffalo is six points behind eighth-place Montreal in the race for the final postseason berth; the Sabres have a game in hand, but their time is running out.

All three Thrashers-Sabres games this season have gone to overtime. If this one does, keep an eye on who scores the game-winning goal. The last two Thrashers to score the deciding goal against Buffalo are no longer with the team: Jason Williams in overtime and Brett …

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