Archive for December, 2009

Waddell calls report of Kovalchuk impasse “false”

Thrashers general manager Don Waddell claimed a report that negotiations with star player Ilya Kovalchuk were at an impasse is “certainly false.”

“[Kovalchuk’s agent] Jay [Grossman] is actually coming in here [Saturday] and we’ll meet again,” Waddell said Thursday. “We will continue our talks. They have been really positive. I have not seen a sign yet that we aren’t going to be able to get this deal done.”

A report out of Kovalchuk’s native Russia said that contract talks have stalled after the team balked at a 10-year, $11.5 million per year deal. The report also stated that Waddell is considering trade options and that Vancouver and Los Angeles are interested.

“We like our hockey team,” Waddell said. “At this point I can honestly say that I haven’t talked to one team about a trade. Why even start that because our goal is to get this player signed.”

Waddell said he thought the next month of negotiations would be critical.

“We can’t be talking about this in February,” he …

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Moose does it again in a shootout

As you may know I’m working on an Art of the Shootout story which is scheduled to appear later in the month. I still have to talk to Johan Hedberg again before I write it, but after Monday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Rangers I had to share a little bit of what I have so far.

His stop of Marian Gaborik on the first shootout attempt brought me back to something Hedberg said when I first talked to him for the shootout story. Did you see how far Hedberg came out of the net as Gaborik rushed in?

“I want to come out and take away his space,” Hedberg told me of his shootout strategy. “I don’t want to have too big a gap between the shooter and myself because then they have too much room to move around. Ideally, he can make one move sideways and then he doesn’t have any more room to move around in. Usually my guiding point is if he’s at the hashmarks, I want to be on top of my crease. No further in or out at that time. If I’m at the top of my crease when he’s at the hashmarks, I know I …

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Popovic out 3-4 weeks with broken foot

Just back from Sunday’s practice. It was an optional skate today and 12 players took the ice.

Here is the one piece of news. Coach John Anderson confirmed that defenseman Mark Popovic has a broken foot and will miss 3-4 weeks. He has not been put on injured reserve as of yet, but Anderson said that move would probably  happen soon.

Here’s who was at practice: Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov, Chris Thorburn, Eric Boulton, Colby Armstrong, Bryan Little, Jim Slater, Evander Kane, Boris Valabik, Tobias Enstrom, Anssi Salmela and Ondrej Pavelec.

One error in my story from Saturday’s game against Montreal. I forgot to add a point to the Canadiens total for the OT loss. The Thrashers are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a two-point lead over the Canadiens.

Continue reading Popovic out 3-4 weeks with broken foot »

Saturday’s morning skate report

A couple of notes from Saturday’s morning skate as the Thrashers prepare to play Montreal tonight.

Looks like Johan Hedberg will start in goal. I’ll know for sure after practice and will update.

Mark Popovic is only player not practicing. I assume it’s still his foot, but will check.

New lines were used at the beginning of practice:

Kovalchuk-Antropov-Little

Kozlov-Peverley-Afinogenov

Kane-White-Armstrong

Boulton-Reasoner-Thorburn

Slater watched for the short time line combos were used.

I’ll let you know if there is anything else to report after the skate and interviews.

Continue reading Saturday’s morning skate report »

A tour of the Thrashers’ practice facility

Here is your chance to go behind the red door.

Those who attend Thrashers’ practices at the IceForum in Duluth know this door well. It’s what separates the rest of the Thrashers’ facility from the practice rink. Here is your chance to go the places off-limits to most – even me. Fans have access to the players coming and going from the rink, but once they get behind this door the mystery begins.

Armed with only a camera, I gained behind-the-scenes access while the Thrashers were in Canada. While Jim wrestles the alligator (lame Wild Kingdom reference), come with me as I unveil some of the mystery.

The red door that serves as the barrier.

The red door that serves as the barrier.

Consider yourself warned!

Consider yourself warned!

Just inside the door is a big Thrashers logo. Makes a good place for TV interviews. Here's Colby Armstrong getting grilled. This is where I usually interview coach Anderson.

Just inside the door is a big Thrashers logo on the wall. Makes a good place for TV interviews. Here's Colby Armstrong getting grilled. This is where I usually interview coach John Anderson.

This hallway runs from the door to the locker room. The player's sticks line one side.

This hallway runs from the door to the locker room. The player's sticks line one side.

Near the end of the hallway is the area Thrashers players use to work on their sticks. How big a curve could Kovy put on his stick with that blow torch?

Near the end of the hallway is the area …

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Proof the Thrashers play better late in games

Sorry for the lack of a blog Tuesday folks. I had a social media training session to attend and had to finish the Nik Antropov feature story.

I have been on Twitter for some time -ajcthrashers.  There is also a Thrashers fan page on Facebook now – ajc thrashers. Any updates that I post on Twitter will automatically update the Facebook page. Of course, I will still be updating the blog as a first priority. I’ll put minor news in the comments field and, if big enough, I will update the blog post itself. I can also update Twitter and Facebook from my cell phone now – which means if I get news while driving and away from the laptop, I can post it quicker.

I told you I’m being dragged into the next century!

I thought there was some interesting stuff in the Antropov feature. Seems people have been giving him “crap” all his career to shoot more.

Let me know if you have suggestions  on the next profile.

Came across an interesting stat when doing the preview for Thursday’s game in …

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Esposito to have surgery Tuesday

Just back from a quick trip to a near empty Duluth IceForum. Did an interview with Angelo Esposito for a story later today (online)/tomorrow (newspaper).

He was in good spirits. He did a workout and will have surgery tomorrow on his re-torn ACL.

Sounds like it was a freak accident. He was going to the net and got his skate stuck and his knee just buckled. He thought it was just a sprain until three days later when an MRI revealed the tear.

“I’ve been talking to friends and family,” Esposito said. “That’s what helps me move forward in this. It took me a few days there and now I’m feeling good. I came here and started working on my knee to make sure I get it strong before surgery and then I will do whatever it takes after surgery to get it even stronger.”

Tough break for the 20 year old. He intends to have the surgery, rehab and get back on with his career.

Thrashers are in Toronto tonight. Here are a couple quotes from Garnet Exelby about the possibility of facing his old team …

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Kovalchuk, Kubina under the weather, miss practice

Here is your Friday practice update:

* Ilya Kovlachuk and Pavel Kubina missed practice. According to coach John Anderson they were ill. He said they were not feeling well for Thursday night’s loss to the Islanders. However, he said both would make the trip to Florida following practice.

*I asked Anderson about his decision to play his top line against the Islanders top line for much of the game. As it turned out Kovalchuk, Nik Antropov and Max Afinogenov were a combined minus-7. Meanwhile, the Islanders top line had all four goals, including Matt Moulson’s hat trick.

“On occassion I’ve done that,” Anderson said. “I thought we were a little bigger and faster on the top line, but it turns out I was wrong. Sometimes it works, sometimes it slaps you right in the face.”

*Anderson, while pleased with his team’s overall performance in the stretch of games since the first loss to the Islanders, wanted to see his team to the little extra things that turn a B performance into an A …

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Welch clears waivers, Pavelec in goal

Back from morning skate and a quick lunch – Rosa’s Pizza on Broad Street. I love that place.

Here’s the news of the day:

Noah Welch has cleared waivers and team will assign him to AHL Chicago. I spoke with him yesterday. He would have liked a chance to begin practicing with the Thrashers but understood the decision to start working his way back from offseason knee surgery in Chicago.

Ondrej Pavelec will be in goal tonight vs. the Islanders. Without Ilya Kovalchuk, the Thrashers lost 6-3 on the island earlier this season. Thrashers coach John Anderson is looking to avenge the loss. This is what he said following the morning skate:  “We had meetings on top of meetings after that game. Give the Islanders some credit, they played very well in that game. They were like rats on cheese with that puck. We couldn’t get near it. … It was a little bit of a reckoning that we just can’t throw our sticks and skates on the ice and expect to win hockey games.”

Angelo Esposito was at the arena …

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Thrashers put Noah Welch on waivers

Sorry folks another laptop malfunction at Thrashers practice. We are home and working now.

A couple of notes from practice. Nik Antropov and Boris Valabik missed the skate. Antropov was given a maintence day. He was at the rink working out and I spoke to him at length for an upcoming feature. Valabik had a minor procedure following his ankle surgery. He is not expected to miss any additional time.

Defenseman Noah Welch was put on waivers today after passing his physical yesterday, according to GM Don Waddell. If he clears waivers, he will be sent to Chicago to begin practicing with the Wolves as part of his return from offseason knee surgery.

Coach John Anderson would not say who will start in goal tomorrow against the Islanders. A decision was to be made later today.  He did say avenging the 6-3 loss to New York earlier this season is on his mind.

Several of the Thrashers skated in practice with transponder-like boxes taped to their helmet. They were for a computer program …

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