It was not a difficult decision to start Johan Hedberg in goal against the Rangers tonight.
Hedberg, who said he grew up a Rangers fan, is 2-0 against the New Yorkers this season. He had 33 saves in a 5-3 win on Nov. 12 and 46 saves in a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 14.
Coach John Anderson has another reason to start Hedberg.
“I just think he’s been playing pretty good as of late,” Anderson said Thursday morning. “He does have the highest winning percentage of our goalies right now.”
Mired in a nine-game losing streak (0-6-3), both Anderson and Hedberg used the word desperate to describe the Thrashers.
“We are a really desperate team and hopefully we’ll play that way with desperation and control,” Hedberg said before the game. “We’ve got to put a string of wins together to get back on track.”
“We’ve got to take it on a game-by-game basis but there is a desperation around us,” Anderson said. “Teams around us [in the standings] are winning. … Nothing is getting easier and it will be a dogfight right until the end and hopefully we are right in that dogfight.
“Our goaltending has to really help us out a little bit. It was spectacular early on. It’s hard to count on your goaltending to be spectacular but this is the situation we are in. Everyone has to play up to and past their standards.”
Popovic back at practice: Thrashers defenseman Mark Popovic took part in the team’s morning skate, his first practice with the team since breaking his foot in mid-December. Popovic said he felt good after the session.
“I had a smile on my face all day,” Popovic said. “When you take four weeks off, it’s fun to be out there with the guys.”
Popovic said after being cleared by doctors following Thursday’s practice and more conditioning, he could be ready for game action in a week.
Popovic, along with Boris Valabik and Nik Antropov (hip) are the scratches.