Archive for December, 2009

Thrashers limping to the halfway point

The Thrashers’ season will be at the exact midpoint after Saturday’s game againt the Islanders. At 39 games in, the Thrashers stand at 18-17-4.  A six-game losing streak looms and it’s not the only thing that has changed (or remained unchanged in terms of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract) since the quarter mark.

The Thrashers were once at the top of the league in special teams. The penalty kill, once the best in the NHL, has slipped to No. 20. The power play has slipped to ninth.

While the goaltending has been strong, but it’s worth noting that Ondrej Pavelec has allowed three or more goals in his last nine starts. He’s been pulled from three of them.

The Thrashers continue to be outshot. The total is now up to 29 of their 39 games. Add the two games where the shots-on-goal totals were even and Atlanta has only held the advantage in eight contests.

We are still talking about the Kovalchuk contract negotiations. The offseason has come and gone as has training camp, the start of the …

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Where has the penalty kill gone?

Remember just a short time ago when the Thrashers were top five in the NHL on both the power play and penalty kill?

Well, not anymore.

The Thrashers have slipped to 19th in the league on the penalty kill with a 79.7 success rate. They have allowed seven goals on 13 power-play chances during their current five-game losing streak (0-4-1). That might explain the recent woes. The Thrashers have allowed 22 goals over these five games. That means 32 percent of their goals allowed came on the opponent’s man advantage.

The power play is slowly working its way down the statistical leaders. The Thrashers now are tied for sixth in the NHL (with the Rangers and Blue Jackets) with a 21.6 percent success rate. They are 0-for-7 over the past three games and 2-for-15 during the five-game slide.

Special teams, which was just a strength early in the season, have become problematic.

What are your thoughts on the recent slide? With road games remaining with the Bruins, Sabres, Islanders and …

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Kane misses Thrashers practice

The Thrashers held practice Sunday before departing to New Jersey for Monday’s game with the Devils.

Evander Kane missed the practice. He appeared to injure his shoulder Saturday against the Lightning. He did return to the ice afterward, but did not skate Sunday. Coach John Anderson said he was checked out by doctors, was listed as day-to-day and will make the next leg of the road trip.

Tobias Enstrom will be playing in his first Olympics. He found out he made the Swedish team on Sunday – by text message from Johan Hedberg. Enstrom joins Ilya Kovalchuk and Max Afinogenov who were named to the Russian Olympic team Christmas Day.

Look for Boris Valabik to keep playing. I talked to Anderson about him this morning. He likes what he is seeing as Valabik continues to get in condition.

Chris Chelios signed another Professional Tryout Contract with AHL Chicago. He has appeared in 22 games and is second on the team with a plus-nine rating.

Thrashers prospects – and both second-round …

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Keep talking about the Thrashers through the holiday

As the Thrashers are in Boston for tonight’s game, I thought I would share some an item from Ron Hainsey that I had leftover from the shots-on-goal story I did this week.

I asked Hainsey about why the team has been so successful in third periods. The Thrashers lead the league in third-period goals as we know.

So … if they play that way in the final period, thus limiting the opponent’s shots on goal, why can’t it be done all game.

Here is part of his answer about the Thrashers playing from behind:

“Our forwards skill level, and our defense too, if the other team backs up, which happens in this league when you have a lead, we get more time in the offensive zone,” Hainsey said. “Our skill level is just as good as anybody. It’s in the top five in the league forward-wise. If we get more time in the offensive zone, our guys are just that dangerous.

“That’s why we’ve been able to get into it late, because our guys are too good, especially the forwards and the D jumping up, …

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Lehtonen faces a few shots

Your morning report from Thrashers practice Tuesday before the team leaves for Boston and I get two days off for the holiday.

Kari Lehtonen, in full pads, was on the ice before practice. He spent some time skating and a lot of time stretching. He took a few shots from Jim Slater or Boris Valabik as players reported to the ice. He left just before practice started and signed autographs for fans in attendance.

Nik Antropov is not taking part in the skate so the practice lines looks like this:

Blue: Kovalchuk-Slater-Afinogenov

Orange: Kozlov-Peverley-Little

Gray:  Kane-White-Armstrong

Red: Boulton-Reasoner-Slater

I will check back after practice and interviews with updates.

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Waddell: Contract with Kovalchuk have hit a “snag”

Contract negotiations between Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrashers have hit a “snag” general manager Don Waddell said Monday.

“Our position is different than his position right now,” Waddell told the Journal-Constitution. “Their position is fixed years with money and we have a different side of that. That’s what we have to work through. We’ve gotten through every thing else, now we have to make it through that.”

Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, met with Waddell over the weekend and left Atlanta Sunday. Waddell said he remained optimistic that a new deal would get done.

Kovalchuk, who is scheduled to become a free agent following the season, reiterated Monday that he would like to remain with the team.

Kovlachuk was asked about the possibility of being sent to another team at the trade deadline should a new deal not be completed.

“It’s a business,” Kovalchuk said. “I think every player goes through that. It’s the first time for me. It’s [management’s] decision, but I …

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Kovalchuk contract talks continue, Hedberg to start in goal

Just back from the morning skate for tonight’s game against Montreal. Didn’t the Thrashers just play them?

Why yes, this is the Thrashers’ fourth and final game against the Canadiens, who were just in town nine days ago. The Thrashers played two games in Montreal in the span of 14 days and the end of October, beginning of November.

There is no new update on the Ilya Kovalchuk contract talks. I have talked to both sides in the past week. Kovalchuk’s agent was in town on Saturday and talks continue. Kovalchuk stated again on Monday morning that he would like to stay with the same team his whole career. However, he understands that hockey is a business.

It is my understanding that there is no truth to the recent trade rumors, including a trade to Vancouver. I will continue to chase the story and provide updates when relevant.

One piece of bad news for the Thrashers is Andrei Markov is back in the Canadiens lineup. After missing more than two months with a leg injury, Markov …

Continue reading Kovalchuk contract talks continue, Hedberg to start in goal »

The lines, they are a changing

Reporting in from Thrashers practice Sunday morning. Every one is here and skating after Saturday’s loss to the Devils.

It looks like the old lines are back:

Blue: Kovalchuk-Antropov-Afinogenov

Gray: Kozlov-Peverley-Little

Orange: Kane-White-Armstrong

Red: Boulton-Reasoner/Slater-Thorburn

I’ve now seen it. As coach John Anderson said Saturday morning, goalie Kari Lehtonen has begun skating. He was on the ice early before the start of practice.

Couple of stats for you to consider after last night’s game:

*The Thrashers are last in the NHL in shots against/game with an average of 34.9 (Hopefully that will be the subject of today’s/tomorrow’s story). They are 23rd in goals allowed/game at 3.00.

*The Thrashers are second in the NHL in goals/game at 3.21. Yet, they are 25th in shots/game at 28.3.

As coach John Anderson mentioned Saturday morning, Kari Lehtonen has begun skating as he recovers from two offseason back surgeries. He was on the ice this morning before practice.

I will …

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Thorburn moving up a few lines

Just finished with Thrashers morning skate before tonight’s game against New Jersey.

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal for the Thrashers after his win Thursday against Dallas. “It ain’t rocket physics,” coach John Anderson said of the decision to start Pavelec.

The scratches tonight will be Bryan Little, Anssi Salmela and the injured Mark Popovic.

With Little out of the lineup, the lines looked like this at practice:

Kovalchuk-Antropov-Thorburn

Kozlov-Peverley-Afinogenov

Kane-White-Armstrong

Slater-Reasoner-Boulton

Afinogenov was awarded the Thrashers player of the month for November by the team’s fan club.

I will check back in later.

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Thrashers hold optional skate Friday

Just back from Duluth – can it please stop raining? - as  the Thrashers held an optional skate.

Taking part in practice were: Bryan Little, Todd White, Max Afinogenov, Boris Valabik, Anssi Salmela, Chris Thorburn, Jim Slater, Eric Boulton, Marty Reasoner, Evander Kane, Colby Armstrong, Slava Kozlov, Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec. Nik Antropov skating a little in a warmup  suit before leaving the ice when practice started.

I caught up with Mark Popovic in the locker room. He is wearing a walking boot on his broken foot, similar to the one Ilya Kovalchuk wore. Popovic said he broke the foot in the game against Philadelphia on Nov. 28. He played two games on it, but when the pain would not subside got an x-ray to determine the extent of the injury. He’s hoping to be back by the new year.

Thrashers spent much of the morning breaking down the game film of Thursday’s 6-5 win over Dalls. A good teaching video is what coach John Anderson called it. The coaches also held several …

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