Archive for January, 2010

Hedberg in, Kozlov out – again

Just back from morning skate and a lunch. No more snow here in Nashville, but it’s cold, really cold. Safe travels to those from Atlanta on their way to the game.

As I first posted on Twitter from the rink, Johan Hedberg will get the start in goal. It’s his fourth straight. His stats during his recent stretch speak for themselves. In this past four games he has allowed six goals (1.5 GAA) and stopped 116-of122 shots (.950).

“He has been playing very well and you might as well play your hot hand, right?” Thrashers coach John Anderson said.

The Thrashers will go with the same lineup tonight against Predators, which means Slava Kozlov is scratched for the fourth straight game.

“I spoke to him yesterday,” Anderson said. “He wants to play like anybody else. He can understand the situation a bit. He will eventually get back in the lineup at some point. He’s working really hard in practice. He hasn’t said a word. He’s a consummate professional. It’s very hard for me to tell him he’s …

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Name that line

As I sit in a hotel room in Nashville waiting for today’s practice later this afternoon (2 p.m. Eastern time), I will pose a question for the story I’m working on for today/tomorrow.

The Colby Armstrong-Jim Slater-Evander Kane line has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the past five games since being combined. Got a name for the line? The working title is the ASK line, but certainly we can do better than that. Let me know what you think.

I asked coach John Anderson at yesterday’s morning skate if the play of Slater is one of the reasons he’s had to sit players such as Todd White and Slava Kozvlov. Slater has played the past 15 games after sitting 21 of the first 38 games. Here is his answer:

“No question he has really upped his game. Not only is he playing great defensively, but he has been scoring goals. Right now, he’s one of the top faceoff men in the league. When you have all those things going for you, it’s hard to keep him out of the lineup.”

Some other …

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Hedberg in, Kozlov out

Just back from morning skate and a rather long lunch with some former colleagues in Philadelphia.

I sent out on twitter that Slava Kozlov will be scratched for the third straight game. He was working on the ice long after other players had left this morning. Mark Popovic will be the other scratch. The defensive pairing of Boris Valabik and Anssi Salmela are a combined plus-1 in the five games since Christoph Schubert was injured.

I asked coach John Anderson this morning  if the play of Jim Slater has had an impact of the recent scratches of Kozlov and Todd White. Anderson quickly praised Slater’s play and also pointed out that he leads the NHL in faceoff percentage at 64.8.

Johan Hedberg is back in goal, making his third straight start. He’ll face Ray Emery. Hedberg has allowed just one goal in each of his last four starts, including the team’s last two games.

As I post this blog from the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton (note to management, I’m not staying here), Michael Vick just …

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Goaltending decison coming soon

My apologies for not putting up a blog yesterday. I got to the office after morning skate and got caught up in a bunch of little things and totally forgot. I didn’t realize it until I was driving home after the game.

Enough excuses.

I did get some time with Don Waddell before the game, talking about a variety of issues with colleague Jeff Schultz. He’s not talking about the Ilya Kovalchuk situation in an effort to stop rumors and keep the negotiations betwen himself and Kovalchuk’s agent.

One of the issues I did raise was the pending move concerning the goaltending. With Kari Lehtonen due back from AHL Chicago next week (he starts again tonight) the Thrashers will be back to three. Does this sound familiar?

Waddell said the team will not carry three goaltenders. It’s too many, he said, to get everyone enough practice time. So expect a move, preferably a trade, Waddell said. One of the three – Lehtonen, Johan Hedberg or Ondrej Pavelec will be on the block.

Zach Bogosian only …

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More practice for the power play

Monday’s Thrashers practice was a little bit back to basics … and a lot more power play.

The practice began with passing drills and skating drills. But ultimately, staring at a power play that is 6 for it’s last 73, the power play was worked on.

The personnel was switched up slightly.

Unit 1: Kovalchuk, Enstrom, Little, White/Kozlov, Antropov

Unit 2: Kubina, Bogosian, Afinogenov, Armstrong, Peverley

“We switched it up a little today,” coach John Anderson said. “I thought it was much better. We ran a competition today, if you got a shot on net it was worth a half point and if you scored it was a point. … At least I could see some excitement and noise out there.”

Here were the line combinations:

Kovalchuk-Antropov-Little

White-Peverley-Afinogenov

Kane-Slater-Armstrong

Boulton-Reasoner-Kozlov

Chris Thorburn missed practice for what Anderson called a family situation that required him being out of town. He is expected back for tomorrow’s game against Anaheim.

I talked with …

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Kozlov’s streak ends at 251 games

Thrashers veteran Slava Kozlov will be scratched from tonight’s game at Tampa Bay. He hold the franchise record for consecutive games played at 251, which will end tonight.

“I hate to be the grim reaper,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “I have to do what I think is best for the team at the time. Nothing is set in stone. Sometimes it helps players, it helps them get a little more motivated. Certainly I don’t like to do it, but I have to do what I think is best for the hockey team at that certain time.”

Kozlov has eight goals and 15 assists this season, off from his pace of 26 goals and 50 assists of last season. He is a minus-14 this season.

“I hope not well,” Anderson said when asked how Kozlov took the news. ” I don’t want him to be comfortable with it. It’s not like it’s his first day at the fair. He knows his numbers. Again, I hate to do it. It’s not like it’s a surprise. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. I want him to come back with more determination that ever …

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Power play gets a workout

Your Friday report from practice before leaving for Tampa Bay for Saturday’s game.

As expected, special teams are the order of the day. Most of the practice was devoted to the power play.

Despite saying he might change the power-play personnel,  the players remained the same during practice.

Unit 1: Kovalchuk, Peverley, Afinogenov, Enstrom, Hainsey

Unit 2: Little, White, Kozlov, Kubina, Bogosian

Nik Antropov missed the practice.

Here are the line combinations after special teams practice:

Blue: Kovalchuk-White-Little

Gray: Kozlov-Peverley-Afinogenov

Orange: Kane-Slater-Armstrong

Red: Boulton-Reasoner-Thorburn

As I found out after last night’s game, defenseman Christoph Schubert was put on injured reserve. He missed three games with a lower-body injury. He was placed on IR on Wednesday, the Thrashers off dayWith Mark Popovic all but ready to return, I’m not sure if there will be a call-up. Stay tuned for news on that.

Hoping to find out today when Kari Lehtonen will begin …

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Schubert to miss third straight game

Your report from the Thrashers morning skate before tonight’s game against Carolina.

Christoph Schubert will be out again. Coach John Anderson would provide no further details. Schubert will miss his third game with a lower-body injury suffered Saturday against Carolina.

Same lineup tonight, meaning Todd White and Mark Popovic are the scratches.

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal.

In a freak accident, assistant coach Steve Weeks was taken to the hospital to get stitches in the back of his head. He was talking along the boards when he stepped on a puck, fell and hit his head on the ice. He was a bit groggy but left the ice on his own. I will check back to make sure all is OK and he attends tonight’s game.

Let me get this posted and I will update later with a few items I gathered from the locker room.

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Exelby returns to Atlanta

Garnet Exelby was back in Atlanta Tuesday – if only for the day.

The former Thrashers defenseman made his first appearance at Philips Arena as an opposing player after being traded to Toronto in the offseason as part of the Pavel Kubina deal.

“It’s great to be back,” Exelby said before the Maple Leafs played the Thrashers. “It’s a little strange seeing the arena and the rink from a different side. I had no idea how to get in the building as a visitor. I came in [several hours early] one of the ways I knew from when I was a player here. I’ve never been in this dressing room before. Hopefully, I won’t [line] change on the wrong bench.”

Exelby said he was anxious to play and get the game over.

“Eventually, you are going to play a game against a former teammate, but to have everyone be your old team is very different,” Exelby said. “You almost know the other team as well as you know the team you are playing on right now. It’s an interesting …

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Schubert out again

A quick blog from Tuesday’s optional morning skate.

Coach John Anderson said that defenseman Christoph Schubert is definitely out for tonight’s game against Toronto. He said there are several other ‘game-time’ decisions. I asked if Todd White was such a case and Anderson said yes. White declined to get specific for the reason he has missed that past three games other than to say he looks forward to returning to the lineup. Anderson has previously indicated that White is healthy enough to play, but is riding the current line combinations.

Schubert has what the team describes as a lower-body injury.

Ondrej Pavelec gets the start in goal tonight.

Anderson also said that Kari Lehtonen had “reached a wall” with the amount of conditioning can do with the Thrashers. Not enough work to split between three goaltenders. Anderson said a decision, most likely a conditioning stint at AHL Chicago, is coming “very soon.”

Wanted to speak to Garnet Exelby, in town with the Maple Leafs, but …

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