Archive for January, 2010

Hedberg has Rangers’ number

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 …

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Update: Antropov out for Thursday’s game

UPDATE: Nik Antropov has already been ruled out of Thursday’s game against the Rangers, according to coach John Anderson.

Antropov, a late scratch for Tuesday’s game against the Penguins, did not practice on Wednesday.

The top-line forward has a hip injury. Anderson said Antropov would not play against the Rangers and is probable for Saturday’s game against the Capitals.

Antropov watched the first few minutes of Thrashers practice in a sweat suit but then left the practice rink area.

The rest of your Wednesday morning Thrashers practice report revolves around the continued rehab of Kari Lehtonen and Mark Popovic.

I arrived at practice 45 minutes early to find strength and conditioning coach Ray Bear finishing up a workout with the two. They were quite exhausted by the end. Popovic reports that he should be cleared to return to practice on Thursday. He said his foot feels great but the real test will come at a practice when he is pushing and shoving.

Lehtonen returned to the …

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The long road stretch is almost over

With tonight’s game in Pittsburgh, the Thrashers end a month-long stretch where they played 13-of-17 games on the road.

When the run – from Dec. 5 to Jan. 5 – began, I talked to Ron Hainsey about the team’s expectations. He said if the team could finish at .500 for the trip they would be in good shape.

They did not.

Going into tonight’s game they are 4-9-3, including an eight-game losing streak. Two desperate teams will play tonight as the Penguins have lost five straight and six of seven.

The Thrashers stand at 18-17-6 (42 points) and are tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference – three points out of the eighth spot.

Here are what some of the Thrashers said about the team’s position after Monday’s practice:

Hainsey: “I think we have to be disappointed at where we are right now because if we got a few wins out of that stretch we would be comfortably in a playoff spot  now. It wouldn’t have taken us much to be comfortably in that six or seventh spot. It’s been a disappointing …

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Lehtonen getting closer to return

Goaltender Kari Lehtonen is getting close to a return, according to Thrashers coach John Anderson.

Lehtonen has returned to the ice after two back surgeries. He has been out all season but his practice schedule has picked up in the last week.

“He’s been doing a lot, actually,” Anderson said Monday. “We took him on the [recent] road [trip] and practiced him pretty hard. He’s getting closer. It’s a matter of conditioning.  I hate to give a time frame, but 2-3 weeks I don’t think is out of the realm.”

Lehtonen worked with assistant coach Steve Weeks following Monday’s practice.

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Popovic back on the ice

Your Monday Thrashers practice report begins with a little news. Defenseman Mark Popovic is on the ice skating a half hour before the start of the practice. I doubt this is his first time on the ice since breaking his foot, but I shall find out. He looks very good and doesn’t appear hampered by the injury at all.

Goaltenders Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec are out early working with Steve Weeks. After some warmup, Popovic is taking some shots at them. Popovic left before the start of practice.

Practice is being delayed as Jim Slater shattered a pane of glass behind one of the goals with a warmup shot.

Line combinations:

Blue: Kovalchuk-Antropov-Afinogenov

Gray: Kozlov-White-Little

Orange: Kane-Peverley-Armstrong

Red: Boulton-Slater-Reasoner-Thorburn

All the defensemen are also present.

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Hainsey, Bogosian not on Olympic team

The Thrashers will not have a representative on the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.

Neither defensemen Ron Hainsey nor Zach Bogosian made the roster that will compete in the 2010 Games in Vancouver in February. The team was announced Friday during the NHL’s Winter Classic in Boston.

Five Thrashers players have been named to international team rosters – Ilya Kovalchuk and Max Afinogenov (Russia), Pavel Kubina and Ondrej Pavelec (Czech Republic) and Tobias Enstrom (Sweden).

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